Over the past few decades, Republicans and Democrats have become more and more sharply divided – not just ideologically, but also geographically. Democrats tend to do best in the nation’s urban areas, while Republicans find their strongest support in more rural areas. Now, a new Pew Research Center analysis of county-level presidential-voting data quantifies just how dominant Democrats are in big cities – and analysts say this dominance will present a tough challenge to Donald Trump this November. […]
The last time a GOP presidential candidate won more than a third of the 100 largest counties was 1988, when George H.W. Bush took 57 of them.
The disparity also is reflected in the parties’ share of the big-county vote. As recently as 1988, they were essentially even: Bush took 49.7% of the total vote in the 100 largest counties, while Michael Dukakis took 49.2%. But the Republican vote share fell steeply in 1992 and never really recovered: Since then, George W. Bush was the only GOP presidential candidate to receive more than 40% of the vote in the 100 largest counties (in 2004). Meanwhile, Democrats’ vote share in those counties has grown steadily, exceeding 60% in Obama’s two races.
This wasn’t always the case. Up to the 1990s, in fact, urban America was competitive territory for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates: Ronald Reagan carried solid majorities of the 100 largest counties in both 1980 and 1984. In 2012, by contrast, Mitt Romney won only four counties with populations greater than 1 million: Maricopa County, Arizona; Orange County, California; Tarrant County, Texas; and Salt Lake County, Utah.