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FLORIDA’S 2016 VOTE VS. 2020: THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME?

December 7, 2020

After every election, many political pundits conduct the inevitable election autopsy. For winners, it is more about taking credit for the win. For the losers, its not to take the blame at all. This post is neither. I’m just curious how Florida vote changed since 2016.

To understand Florida you need to look to the individual counties and not the state as a whole. That’s because Florida is several states on one narrow peninsula. The people living in Wakulla have as much in common with Broward voters as New Yorkers have with Birmingham, Alabama voters.

So to analyze Florida you need to look at each county and see if the state shifted to the right since Trump’s victory in 2016. Specifically, did all or only a few counties turned a brighter shade of red.

To do this we have to make sure we are not mixing apples with watermelons. The most obvious way is to compare each county’s total vote for either Trump or Clinton (2016) with the 2020 county vote for either Trump and Biden.

Although that seems sound, it would not be accurate because of each county’s population and registration changes during the past four years. More voters equals more votes. In Florida, the population changes each hour let alone in a four year period. In addition, some counties grow exponentially and others don’t change at all.

The solution is to calculate each candidate’s county percent of the two party vote. In other words, dropping the third party candidates from the analysis completely and comparting those percentages to the previous election. Using the two-party percentages acts as a control variable that is independent of the total vote.

On Florida’s 2020 ballot for example, there were five other candidates in addition to Trump and Biden. Although they didn’t accumulate a significant number of votes, combined they still walked away with over 100,000 votes.

Let’s start with how Donald Trump’s percentage of the vote change from 2016 to 2020, as shown in Table 1 below.

COUNTYTRUMP.2016 %TRUMP.2020 %
Alachua36.435.7
Baker       81.584.7
Bay         71.172.1
Bradford    73.775.8
Brevard     57.857.6
Broward     31.435
Calhoun     76.680.8
Charlotte   62.562.9
Citrus      68.370.7
Clay        70.467.9
Collier     61.762.4
Columbia    7172.2
DeSoto      62.765.7
Dixie       80.882.7
Duval       48.947.4
Escambia    58.356.7
Flagler     58.960.2
Franklin    68.668.3
Gadsden     30.431.4
Gilchrist   80.181.5
Glades      68.872.8
Gulf        73.174.9
Hamilton    63.165.4
Hardee      69.172.2
Hendry      55.761.1
Hernando    62.964.6
Highlands   64.766.8
Hillsborough44.745.9
Holmes      87.989.1
Indian River60.860.4
Jackson     67.869.1
Jefferson   51.453
Lafayette   82.885.5
Lake        6059.5
Lee         58.759.2
Leon        35.435.3
Levy        7172.4
Liberty     77.279.9
Madison     5759.4
Manatee     5757.6
Marion      61.762.5
Martin      6261.9
Miami-Dade  34.146.1
Monroe      51.653.5
Nassau      73.572.4
Okaloosa    71.368.6
Okeechobee  68.571.9
Orange      35.437.9
Osceola     35.942.6
Palm Beach  41.143.3
Pasco       58.959.5
Pinellas    48.649.3
Polk        55.456.7
Putnam      66.970.2
Santa Rosa  74.572.4
Sarasota    54.354.8
Seminole??  48.748.1
St. Johns?? 6562.8
St. Lucie   49.950.4
Sumter      68.868.1
Suwannee    76.477.9
Taylor      74.676.5
Union       80.282.2
Volusia     54.856.5
Wakulla     68.569.9
Walton      76.675.4
Washington  77.480.8
MEAN %62.0163.40
TABLE 1 COUNTY TRUMP/BIDEN PERCENT VOTE

If you look closely, you will notice that there is very little change from the 2016 election. For all 67 counties, the average difference was only 1.39%! In 2016, Trump spent in Florida over $10 million for an increase of less 2%. Of course, he did win the state.

How similar the two time periods are graphically displayed in Chart 1 below, where the blue line shows the Trump 2016 percent and the red line 2020. In many parts the lines merge into one line showing that the percentages are identical.

Now let’s look at the Clinton/Biden Florida county differences, as shown in Table 2 below.

CLINT.% 2016BIDEN.% 2020
Alachua     5962.9
Baker       16.714.6
Bay         24.927.5
Bradford    24.223.2
Brevard     3841.2
Broward     66.564.6
Calhoun     20.418.7
Charlotte   34.736.3
Citrus      28.629.3
Clay        26.130.8
Collier     35.837.4
Columbia    26.527.2
DeSoto      3533.6
Dixie       17.616.7
Duval       47.551.2
Escambia    37.741.6
Flagler     38.339.3
Franklin    2930.9
Gadsden     67.967.9
Gilchrist   17.317.6
Glades      29.226.7
Gulf        23.624.3
Hamilton    34.933.7
Hardee      28.334
Hendry      41.538.1
Hernando    33.938.4
Highlands   32.734.8
Hillsborough51.552.9
Holmes      1010.2
Indian River36.338.8
Jackson     30.439.1
Jefferson   46.346.1
Lafayette   15.313.9
Lake        36.939.5
Lee         38.340
Leon        60.563.5
Levy        26.326.8
Liberty     19.819.5
Madison     41.539.9
Manatee     39.841.5
Marion      35.536.6
Martin      35.237.4
Miami-Dade  63.753.4
Monroe      44.746
Nassau      23.326.5
Okaloosa    23.629.4
Okeechobee  2927.5
Orange      59.861.1
Osceola     6156.4
Palm Beach  56.656.1
Pasco       37.439.4
Pinellas    47.549.5
Polk        41.342.3
Putnam      30.528.9
Santa Rosa  2125.8
Sarasota    42.744.4
Seminole??  47.150.8
St. Johns?? 31.636.1
St. Lucie   47.548.9
Sumter      29.531.7
Suwannee    21.221.3
Taylor      23.222.7
Union       17.816.9
Volusia     41.842.9
Wakulla     28.329.1
Walton      20.423.7
Washington  20.319.2
MEAN %35.0735.7
Table 2

Here I show the Clinton parentage results for 2016 when Hilary Clinton opposed Donald Trump in Florida. Alongside are the Biden percentages for each county in 2020. The average percentage difference between the two Democrats was only 0.63%. Biden’s campaign, after spending over $100 million, he increased Clinton’s percentage by less than one percent.

In a post a few months ago, I showed how more campaign money doesn’t increase the odds of victory in Presidential elections. http://thepoliticsdr.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=220&action=edit

This hypothesis is antithetical to campaign consultants. It all boils down to how you spend the money that matters. For Biden, his last minute bid to defeat Trump in Florida failed. More importantly, his increase over Clinton’s vote was still less than one percent.

In the end, however, this analysis demonstrates that Florida hasn’t yet turned a deeper shade of purple yet. In fact, it hasn’t significantly changed at all in four years and continues its valid claim to the title of the “swingiest state in the Union.” Be safe…

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