Now that I’ve laid the foundation for understanding what my slant categories mean, I’m going to apply the same scale to the counties in every swing state and we’re going to focus on the swing counties and those that best represent the overall vote of the state from election to election. I’m also going to provide some demographic data lifted from post-election analysis and exit polling of the 2008 and 2004 elections to help focus our attention on the core reasons that state votes changed and give us an idea where to look in any given state as the results come in on election night. Along the way, I’ll add census bureau demographics and official county-level voting data for the last three elections. We begin in Nevada – the awkward home of cattle ranchers, capitalists, commodity speculators, a healthy class of Mormons and a booming population of libertarians and licentious social liberals. From the quasi-liberal bastion of Las Vegas to the decaying boom towns outside of Reno to the desert way stations of Elko and Carson City, the state is diverse and deeply conflicted.
This is what it looks like, county by county – with liberal counties in blue, conservative counties in red, swing counties in grey and deeper colors representing deeper slant. The first image is Nevada, averaged from 2000-2012 – the county marked with a gold star (Washoe County – home of Reno) best represents at the county level the outcome for the entire state. An interesting find, considering that, within Washoe County is every type of Nevada landscape – majestic mountains and scorching deserts, glittering casinos lined with prostitutes and bookies and crumbling gold-rush boom towns whose mines have long since closed. Native American reservations and Hispanic barrios. The state is 16% Latino, 9% African American and 1% Native – as is Washoe County. The state’s two main exports are entertainment/tourism and precious metals, though the latter is struggling these days – the same can be said of Washoe County.
- *crickets* – yep…that’s all.
- Clarke (Las Vegas)
- nada mas!
- Carson City (immediately below Washoe county on the map)
- Douglass (Elko)
- Las Vegas suburbs, Reno suburbs
Clarke County (the bottom county highlighted in democrat-leaning blue) contains Las Vegas, has traditionally voted roughly 53-47 for democrats and accounts for 65-70% of the state’s vote. Nevada has never been carried for the Republicans when Clarke County gave more than 8 points of cushion to the Democrat – they gave Obama 17 points. But it’s Washoe County that tends to mirror the final margin of victory the best (as demonstrated by calculating the root mean square error between the county and state slant for the three elections).
Several things conspire to hurt the GOP going forward in Nevada. For one thing, the state as a whole and Washoe County in particular are becoming increasingly diverse, with a larger share of Hispanics and African Americans moving here from the sinking ship to the west. As well, the tension between the laissez faire capitalists who founded Las Vegas and traditional conservatives, who believe social values to be just as important to a civil society as capitalism and individual liberty has grown into an all-out cold war. You can see this by the ever-increasing share of Clarke County conservative votes shifting toward the (usually irrelevant) libertarian party candidate of the season. But, before we conservatives punt the state based on 2008 electoral models, let’s take a look at the trends, by overall county slant grouping:
- 2000 – 28.1 (11.3% of state vote)
- 2004 – 29.2 (10.0% of state vote)
- 2008 – 36.8 (9.3% of state vote)
- 2000 – 40.0 (5.8% of state vote)
- 2004 – 41.0 (5.0% of state vote)
- 2008 – 47.4 (4.7% of state vote)
- 2000 – 45.0 (20.1% of state vote)
- 2004 – 47.8 (19.2% of state vote)
- 2008 – 56.5 (18.6% of state vote)
- 2000 – 53.4 (62.8% of state vote)
- 2004 – 52.5 (65.7% of state vote)
- 2008 – 59.7 (67.2% of state vote)
- Voter turnout increased by 13% statewide, and new-voter turnout increased 25%.
- Young voters increased by 32% between 2004 and 2008, while elderly voters stayed roughly stable (increasing by only 4%)
- Hispanic turnout increased by a whopping 80% statewide, especially in Clarke and Washoe counties and African American turnout increased by 60%, largely in Clarke county. This resulted in Hispanics making up 16% of the electorate in 2008 and blacks accounting for 10% as compared to normal rates of 10% and 8% respectively.
- Hispanics that do vote traditionally give the democrats roughly 30 points (65-35 margins are common), but in 2008, Hispanics gave Obama 49 points in Nevada (!)