Election 2016: Voter Trends in Battleground States That Helped Trump Win

Digging into demographic trends in four key states: PA, WI, FL, and NC.

ByABC News
November 9, 2016, 12:47 PM

— -- Donald Trump's stunning victory last night, despite the majority of pollsters predicting a Clinton win, has many voters wondering how he pulled it off.

A look at four key states –- Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina –- highlights trends that helped trump clinch 278 electoral votes (and counting).


In these states, Trump generally performed well among men.

The brash billionaire outperformed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among male voters in Pennsylvania, garnering 57 percent of the male vote to Romney’s 51 percent. In Wisconsin, he earned 54 percent of the male vote to Romney’s 51 percent. And, in North Carolina, he collected 56 percent to Romney’s 54 percent.

Though he fared slightly worse among men in Florida than the former Massachusetts governor in 2012, he still did well.


Women were a slightly different story.

Across the country, many women cried foul over the filthy language in the Access Hollywood tape, his feud with former Miss Universe, turned Clinton surrogate Alicia Machado, his comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and his numerous jabs against women on Twitter.

Yet, scandals notwithstanding, Trump actually outperformed Romney among women in Wisconsin, picking up 44 percent of the female vote to Romney’s 42 percent. Among married women, he took 50 percent to Romney's 45 percent. In 2012, married women split evenly in Wisconsin between Obama and Romney.

Trump won 47 percent of women in Florida, compared to Romney’s 46 percent.


In general, Trump outperformed Romney among voters in the lowest income bracket, earning less than $50,000 a year.

In Florida, he picked up 42 percent of lower income voters, to Romney’s 40 percent; in Pennsylvania, he got 42 percent to Romney’s 31 percent and in Wisconsin, he saw returns of 45 percent to Romney’s 35 percent.

In North Carolina, however, it was just the opposite -- higher-income voters broke for Trump. He outperformed Romney in the highest income bracket ($100,000+), garnering 60 percent to Romney’s 55 percent. But, he fared worse than Romney among lower income voters in the state.

Trump gained a big boost from rural voters, reinforcing the notion that he appealed to the most conservative parts of America, resentful of urban wealth. In Pennsylvania, Trump vastly improved over Romney's 59 percent of the rural vote, seizing 71 percent. In Wisconsin, he took in 63 percent of rural votes, again, well above Romney's 53 percent.

But in Florida and North Carolina, he lost one and two percentage points among rural voters, respectively. Even though some rural, deep-red counties in those states buoyed Trump, the exit polls reported drops in the total share of rural votes in both states.


Slightly lower Democratic turnout seems to have been the main constant in these four states. The Democratic share of the vote, according to exit polls, was a few percentage points lower in 2012 in three of them.

In Wisconsin, the share of votes cast by registered Democrats on election day shrank from 37 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2016. In Pennsylvania, it shrank from 45 percent to 42 percent; in North Carolina, from 39 percent to 36 percent.

Only in Florida did it grow, from 35 percent to 36 percent.


The anticipated wave of Latino opposition to Trump never materialized, nationally. In fact, he did better than Romney among Latinos.

This year, Latinos accounted for 11 percent of the voting public, up from 10 percent in 2012. Trump took 29 percent of those Latino votes, making good on his long-held prediction of topping Romney, who took 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012.


Looking at key counties in battleground states, Trump's improvements and deficits were a mixed bag. Clinton hit many of her putative targets in counties with big Democratic vote totals, while Trump enjoyed a modest uptick in deeper-red counties elsewhere. Clinton lost one big county --Pinellas, County, Florida -- that voted for Obama, but the red and blue of county maps didn't change much.

In North Carolina, Clinton hit or approximated Obama-2012 vote shares in the Democratic counties of Wake (Raleigh), Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Durham, and Buncombe (Asheville, which supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary) and even saw higher turnouts. But a rising tide in the GOP-leaning counties overtook her.

In Florida, Clinton got the Democratic votes she needed in Miami-Dade County, but she lost the important county of Pinellas (Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg), which flipped narrowly to Trump after giving Obama a 5.5 percentage point margin of victory in 2012. Meanwhile, turnout increases in GOP counties like Nassau (Jacksonville area) kept pace with the increase in Miami.

In Wisconsin, Clinton was just one percentage point off Obama's 2012 share in Milwaukee, 66.4 percent to his 67.5 percent, but turnout dropped in Milwaukee by about 58,000 votes, which cost her a lot. She matched Obama's vote share and turnout in Dane County (Madison), but lost a handful of counties in the southwest part of the state.

In Pennsylvania, Clinton actually got more votes in Philadelphia than Obama did in 2012 and picked up Centre County. But, again, the rest of the state voted GOP.

It's difficult to construct a coherent story about why Trump won, geographically and demographically. His messages about economic fatigue and a "rigged" system, aimed at lower-income white voters, worked in some places. But elsewhere, he did better among the middle class and wealthy. Tides of opposition from Latinos and women never came in. Increased rural support lifted Trump in the toss-up states.

But, on the whole, Trump didn't change the GOP coalition from 2012 much. The Republican National Committee and his campaign appear to have done a better job than the Democrats at motivating voters to turn out this time around.

ABC News' Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

Related Topics