The Corner

New York’s Vote Was A Microcosm of America in 2016

The presidential general election was mostly not contested here in New York, after the home state of Donald Trump and sometime home state of Hillary Clinton proved to be a crucial momentum-breaker in the GOP primaries, as Trump won his very first majority vote (outside the Northern Marianas Islands) and reduced Ted Cruz to running for a contested convention.

But based on the Election Night count reported by the state Board of Elections, the geographic breakdown of the Trump/Clinton vote in New York was a microcosm of the country. New York’s 62 counties divide neatly into 16 large counties (in which 100,000 or more votes were cast) and 46 small ones. The largest county is Kings County (Brooklyn), with 1.4 million registered voters and over 750,000 votes cast; the smallest is Hamilton County, contained entirely within Adirondack State Park, where just 2,756 of the county’s 4,202 voters cast ballots, 65% of them for Trump (Yates and Schuyler Counties were the only other two New York counties with fewer than 10,000 votes cast – Trump won Yates by 21 points, Schuyler by 24). And the two groups divide neatly: Trump won 41 of the 46 small counties, while Hillary won 11 of the 16 large counties:

Brooklyn, the headquarters of the Hillary campaign, was also its political base – combined with Manhattan, she rolled up a 917,979 vote margin over Trump just from two counties. In fact, Hillary’s margin of victory outside New York City was just 760 votes out of 4.6 million cast.  She carried four of the five boroughs (the exception being Richmond County – Staten Island – the tribal heart of the NYPD), and outside those four boroughs, she lost the rest of the state. But the city accounted for 35% of the state’s votes, and those four boroughs 32.8%, and she won 80.9% of the vote to Trump’s 15.6%. She beat Trump by 53 points in Queens, the county he grew up in.

The suburban areas around the city were more hotly contested. Trump won Suffolk County (the east end of Long Island) 52-44, enough to win the combined Long Island vote of Nassau and Suffolk, the first Republican to do so since the 1980s. In the Hudson Valley suburbs north of the city, Hillary easily won Westchester and narrowly won Rockland, while Trump won the next two large counties up, Orange and Dutchess; Hillary’s dominance of Westchester gave her a 55-40 win across those four counties, and 50-45 when you combine them with the Island (Putnam County, a smaller county sandwiched between Westchester and Dutchess, went Trump 56-39, but given its relatively small size it doesn’t alter those percentages if you include it).

Hillary also did well enough in the upstate cities, winning 52-41 across the counties containing Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. The remaining counties that bucked the large/small county trends were mostly in the area from metro Albany down to Dutchess and Orange: Trump won populous Saratoga County, just north of Albany, while Hillary carried Ulster (just north of Orange on the west side of the Hudson), Columbia County, on the Massachusetts border just north of Dutchess, and Schenectady County, a suburb on the northwest side of Albany. Her only other two counties were Clinton County (no relation – the northeast corner of the state bordering Canada and Vermont, and closer to Montreal than Albany) and Tompkins County, which contains Cornell and Ithaca College, between them containing about 30,000 college students (the county only has 54,661 registered voters). Hillary’s weakest upstate showing was in Erie County, a lone island of very light blue in the heart of a ring of counties where Trump collectively won around two-thirds of the vote. South of Buffalo is the upper end of the Appalchians, a region Trump dominated all the way down into the Ozarks. (You can check out a clickable map of the state here).

Overall, while losing most of the state’s large counties, Trump won the other 46 counties by an aggregate 15-point margin. And turnout in those counties was much higher – around 67% of registered voters, compared to 56% in New York City and barely over half in the Bronx. Suffolk County, with 150,000 fewer registered voters than Queens, nonetheless cast more votes. And that’s despite the high density of polling places in New York City, where most voters have a place to vote within walking distance. The upstate counties also featured a higher third-party vote, which was almost nonexistent in New York City.

On the whole, Trump did better in New York than Mitt Romney had, owing to a variety of factors including it being his home state, but not a whole lot better. And Wendy Long, the hapless GOP Senate candidate facing Chuck Schumer in her second bid for the Senate, got crushed far worse than Trump – Long won only seven counties, each of which cast fewer than 40,000 ballots. While the geographic reach of the Trump vote looks impressive on a map, the parts of the state he dominated are outnumbered and dying, and with them the competitiveness of Republicans in New York for the foreseeable future.


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