Daniel A. Smith, Seth C. McKee, and M. V. “Trey” Hood III, “Election Daze: Voting Modes and Voter Preferences in the 2016 Presidential Election,” Florida Political Chronicle 25:2 (2018), 123-141.
ABSTRACT: To say that the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election was a surprise to many political experts would easily qualify as an understatement for the ages. Nonetheless, in defense of the political handicappers, there is notable evidence that the dynamics of voter choice in the days leading up to the last day of voting were differentiable from preferences registered on Election Day. That is, in some states it would seem that Hillary Clinton (Democrat) was advantaged by early voting and Donald Trump (Republican) was favored by voters who came to the polls on Election Day. This paper draws on aggregate- and individual-level data from Florida to examine voting across racial/ethnic groups, distinguishing between votes cast on Election Day with those cast early in-person and by mail in the 2016 Presidential Election. The paper also compares variation across modes of voting in 2016 with 2012 county-level Presidential Election returns. By leveraging original datasets that merge the modes of voting for different groups with aggregate presidential results, as well as using 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) individual-level data, we are able to determine the extent to which the story of Trump’s historic Presidential victory hinged on the support he garnered from voters who showed up on the final day of voting.
I merged information about the birthplace of the 13m registered voters in Florida with precinct results in the 2016 General Election. The following figure reveals the two party vote for Trump and Clinton in those Florida precincts that had at least 100 Puerto Rican-born registered voters who voted in the 2016 General Election. Each of the precincts’ voters were at least 50% Hispanic, and at least 1/5 of those Hispanics who voted were Puerto Rican-born. In other words, these are about as Puerto Rican of precincts in Florida as it gets.
For example, in these majority-Hispanic voter precincts, in which, say (on the X-Axis), 30% of Hispanics who voted were Puerto Rican-born (and that have at least 100 PR-born voters), Trump won only 30% of the vote, on average. He did very poorly in all of the predominantly Puerto Rican precincts.
Does this mean that Republicans are in trouble in FL if the exodus from PR to the mainland happens? Puerto Ricans, certainly compared with other Hispanic groups in Florida, have weak voter turnout. Of the more than 180k PR-born voters in my database, only 112k of them voted in 2016 (62%). That’s much lower turnout rate than, say, Cuban-born voters in FL. In 2016, 242k of the 325k Cuban-born naturalized citizens in my database turned out; that’s roughly 75% turnout.
The following analysis comes from an extensive database my team and I have put together. It combines individual-level information of Florida voters (including where they were born) with precinct-level results.
The following graph plots precinct-level results. The size of the precincts are scaled to the total votes cast in a precinct in the 2016 General Election. The Y-Axis is vote two-party share for Trump and Clinton. The X-Axis is the proportion of Hispanic voters in the precinct who are Cuban-born. Each precinct has at least 100 Cuban-born voters and at least 50% of voters were Hispanic.
As the LOWESS curves reveal, as the share of voters who are Cuban-born Hispanics increases, Trump’s share of the two-party vote steadily increases, intersecting with Clinton’s share of the vote around 42 percent of Cuban-born Hispanics, but then peaking at roughly 55 percent of the vote when the proportion of Cuban-born Hispanic voters reaches roughly 50 percent.
Although Trump won more than 60 percent of the two-party vote in a handful of these majority Hispanic precincts with a prevalence of Cuban-born voters, in Miami-Dade Precinct 335 (Hialeah), where 60 percent of the Hispanics who cast ballots were Cuban-born, Trump won less than 45 percent of the two-party vote.
Still trying to figure out how to best visualize Trump’s overwhelming victory on Election Day in Florida. The following panel of figures draw on precinct-level data that our Election Sciences team at UF has helped me collect. The data presented here show only the precincts in the state in which white voters made up at least 75% of the votes cast for each method of voting (Election Day, Early In-Person, and Vote-by-Mail), and that had at least 100 ballots cast for each method. In other words, these are heavily white precincts where whites cast at least 75% of all ballots cast for each method of voting.
Running along the X-Axis is the proportion of the overall vote that Trump won (so, from 0% to 100%). The height of each vertical bar (there are a total of 60 bars) constitutes the fraction of the total votes Trump received — that is, add them all up and they equal 100% of Trump’s total votes by each method). The red vertical line in each panel is set at .5, or precincts in which Trump won 50% of the total votes cast.
As should be clear, Trump crushed it Election Days in these predominantly white precincts. The peak of the very tight normal distribution curve for Election Day voters in precincts where three-fourths of the votes cast were by white voters is greater than 65%. Trump did not do nearly as well (relatively speaking) among vote-by-mail voters in predominantly white precincts; he fared better with predominantly white precincts whose voters cast early in-person ballots.
Stay tuned for similar graphs with Trump’s support among predominantly Hispanic precincts, broken down by method of vote.