Over the last decade or so, the electoral college map has become increasingly fixed. States are less likely to flip their support from a Democratic candidate to a Republican one, or vice versa, from election to election. However, with the changing composition in the bases of support for the 2016 election candidates–from how minority groups are allocating their vote to the educational divide that has defined much of the support behind Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump–it’s worth looking what might be developing in terms of each state’s voting pattern. The below map gives a current sense of these changes relative to the 2012 election.
In this map, each state’s hue is based on the difference between Clinton’s current polling margin and Barack Obama’s margin in 2012. Both margins come from Democratic Party vote share minus Republican Party vote share. The colors range from blue, which represents where Clinton most overperforms Obama’s 2012 result, to red, where she most underperforms his margin.
Utah is excluded (colored in grey) because of how the candidacy of Evan McMullin has complicated things. Subtracting Trump’s vote share in polls–currently at 36 percent–from Clinton’s vote share–26 percent–would lead to the misleading conclusion that Clinton has drastically improved on Obama’s performance in the state of Utah (and thus the most blue color on the map). In reality, she has currently culled just one more percentage point than Obama in 2012, who gained 25 percent of the vote in Utah. Margins work as a good indicator of strength when there isn’t a formidable third party presence, such as with McMullin, who’s currently at 22 percent in Utah, and when there isn’t a comparison between years where only one sees this type of third party success.
Clinton is currently beating Obama’s state margins most in Idaho (+12), Oklahoma (+11), Kansas (+10), and Texas (+10). That’s a bit misleading, however, since it has more to do with Trump underperforming Mitt Romney’s 2012 support in those states. But there are some noteworthy results here in that her strength relative to 2012 in Texas and Arizona comports with the notion of possibly rising Hispanic shares of state electorates and support for Democratic candidates. She also seems to be consolidating support well in certain parts of the South, such as in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
On the other end, Clinton is currently most underperforming Obama’s 2012 margin in Hawaii (-18), Rhode Island (-16), Iowa (-9), and Vermont (-8). For a lot of these states, Clinton is failing to reach Obama’s level of support (rather than Trump gathering more support than Romney in 2012). Interestingly, among the top four here, three are states she lost in the Democratic Primary. Her four best states listed above–and thus Trump’s four worst states relative to Romney’s 2012 margin–also all represent states lost by Trump in the Republican Party. Perhaps there are lingering effects in certain states of a hotly contested primary season for both parties. Notably, the sets of ID/OK/KS/TX and HI/RI/IA/VT represent strongholds for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively, in the last few elections. That these now mark where the greatest change is occurring suggests the lack of the usual strong acceptance of party nominees across all states (and partisans).
These potential changes of course become a lot clearer and more concrete in a matter of days. There remains a sizable non-major party vote in most if not all states, and that could be contributing to some of the more surprising processes at work. Democrats and Republicans could come home to their parties in larger numbers in the days to come, as we should expect given the high levels of partisanship in the U.S. Nevertheless, the map here should provide some sense of where any electoral college changes could materialize.