SE PA presidential vote trends, 1988-2012

Here’s an interesting map from “Democrats are from cities, Republicans are from exurbs” by David Jarman, Daily Kos, 2/9/14:










The map shows net change in the number of votes for Democratic and Republican candidates for president in 2012 compared to 1988. It does not show voter registration; so Independents and party-crossing presidential voters are attributed to the party whose candidate they voted for. And it does not take the relative strength of D and R candidates into account: no doubt, Dukakis and Romney would have done better had they been more appealing candidates.

And we know presidential years aren’t typical years. Some blue areas on the map could be white or red in off-year elections. It would be instructive to compare this year’s future results to prior gubernatorial election years. But then, you’d have to add that if the Dem gubernatorial candidate gains over the 2010 candidate, which seems highly likely given the R incumbent’s tanking in the polls, that the D gains could come only from the nature of the candidates, not the voters. Corbett isn’t popular even among R’s.

Still, the map does bear some relation to registration shifts over the past generation. The map shows Chester County as blue, and indeed D’s have closed the registration gap here, though R’s remain in the plurality (not the majority: D’s and I’s outnumber R’s here).

Note the PA trend from the map: relative R gains in the West, relative Dem gains in the East, mixed in the middle. SE Pennsylvania is taking part in Dem growth along the East Coast Metropolitan Corridor, from New England to the Washington DC area.

We can dig out the exact figures in the underlying table “88-12 Net Change” at for southeastern PA:

Pres D:R change 1988:2012

If we were advising the R’s, we would certainly worry about the deficit of 634,000+ votes over those 24 years. We’d advise them to concentrate as many D votes as they can into Philadelphia (that’s the “packing” part of gerrymandering) and adjoining areas and dilute the D vote as much as possible in the rest of the Southeast (known as “cracking”). This is why the US Congress, state House and Senate have only one D representing any part of Chester County (Andy Dinniman, PA Senate 19). A year from now, things could look very different.

The inability to gerrymander the whole state is why Obama won PA in 2012 and why the PA attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer are D’s.

You can plainly see a pattern in the table: the closer to Philadelphia, the more the D’s gained: 250,000+ in Philadelphia, 100,000+ in MontCo and DelCo, just short of 50,000 in Bucks and Chester, and not so much in Berks and Lancaster.

These counties grew a lot in population, because even with the big D gain in Obama over Dukakis, the R count grew too, though much less, except in Philadelphia and DelCo.

What do we learn about the 2014 election (governor, lieutenant governor, state House, 1/3 of state Senate)? The D’s really need to turn out voters en masse in those 6 counties, but the R’s would want to play it cool and just speak to voters already in their camp. That’s what the R’s usually do in Chester County. The D’s will want to cause a lot of excitement and get people to the polls, in a replay of 2008, when D’s won 3 PA House seats from Chester County.

So D’s want 2014 to be 2008 and R’s want it to be 2010. With a governor widely seen as anti-education, anti-environment, pro-fracking, and bedeviled by the “just close your eyes” and “sibling marriage” flaps at the top of the R ticket, I like the D’s chances.

We’ll need to look at party registration too. Another day!


About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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5 Responses to SE PA presidential vote trends, 1988-2012

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