Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

How Suburban Voters Defeated Trump

A decisive switch, both in Wisconsin and nationally.

By - Nov 10th, 2020 02:10 pm
Port Washington is the seat of Ozaukee County. Photo by John Uhrig (CC BY 2.0).

Port Washington is the seat of Ozaukee County. Photo by John Uhrig (CC BY 2.0).

As President Donald Trump and some Republicans cry foul and declare voter fraud, so far with no evidence, their attacks have aimed at cities and minority voters. But the vote totals suggest it was the suburban vote that handed victory to Democrat Joe Biden. 

It’s spooky to compare the election map for Wisconsin in 2016 and 2020. County by county it looks almost exactly the same. Biden flipped just two counties, the tourist areas of Door County and Sauk County, the latter known for Devil’s Lake and Wisconsin Dells. 

Democrats did run up bigger percentages in the urban areas of Dane, La Crosse and Eau Claire counties. Door County’s flip to Biden lost Trump some 3,500 votes. And Trump’s percentage in the key swing area of the Fox Valley went down.

But the key factor was a change in the WOW counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington, traditionally one of the most Republican-leaning areas in the nation. Trump’s margin was down by 5.9% in Waukesha County in 2020 versus 2016, a loss of 15,546 votes. He was down by 6.9% in Ozaukee County, a loss of 4,169 voters. And down by 2.2% in Washington County, a loss of 1,911 votes. 

That’s a total of 21,626 votes lost in an election Biden won by just 20,500. 

But the increase in the margin for Biden in Dane, Eau Claire and La Crosse counties was likely helped partly by suburban voters, as was the bigger margin in Milwaukee County. The switch in suburban voters was the decisive factor in Trump losing Wisconsin.

The story was the same nationally. The New York Times looked at 378 counties in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. “On average, Mr. Biden improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in these 373 suburban counties around the country by about 4.6 percentage points,” the story found. “In Georgia, the shift has been more than eight points. In Michigan and Wisconsin, it was about three points.”

“Nationally, these suburban counties were the places where vote margins changed the most from 2016. Mr. Trump improved his margins in counties outside metropolitan areas, but by less than a point,” the story noted. 

In Colorado, “Suburban Denver voters supercharged” Biden’s win, the Denver Post reported.  In suburban Arapahoe, Adams, Broomfield, Jefferson and Douglas counties, “an average margin for Clinton of 5 percentage points four years ago — on par with the statewide margin — grew to an eye-popping 15.6 percentage,” the story noted. 

In Texas, where Trump won, Biden also made inroads in the suburbs. Biden showed improvement in six changing suburban counties “and won four of them — Williamson, Hays, Fort Bend and Tarrant — compared with just one that Clinton took in 2016,” the Texas Tribune reported.

These votes were key to Biden’s Electoral College victory and his popular vote margin of some five million votes, which is expected to grow to as much as seven million. 

In Wisconsin the suburban shift may also help explain the victory by Democratic challenger Deb Andraca over incumbent Rep. Jim Ott  in a district that included some of Milwaukee County’s North Shore and most of Ozaukee County, and Democratic challenger Sara Rodriguez over Rep. Rob Hutton, whose suburban district is centered in Brookfield, Elm Grove and parts of Wauwatosa and West Allis. 

But this switch by suburbanites probably included many ticket splitters, who across the nation repudiated Trump even as they voted for Republican U.S. Senators. That has left Republicans like Mitch McConnell in the untenable position of suggesting there might be “irregularities” in the vote that both defeated Trump and elected GOP senators. 

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us