Them Changes: The Counties That Switched Parties in 2008
Map: Tim Murphy, for the Daily Yonder
The map above shows the counties that flipped on November 4. They are the places where a majority of voters supported one party for president in 2004 but a different party in this election.
There are 375 counties that switched allegiance between the last race for president and this one. Of those, 44 counties supported Democrat John Kerry in 2004 but Republican John McCain this year.
There are 331 counties that flipped in the other direction, that voted for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama this year.
The Yonder has a full listing of these counties. For the 113 urban counties that switched — including Hiilsboro Co., Florida (Tampa) and Fayette Co., Kentucky (Lexington) — go here.
For the 213 rural counties (including Alamosa Co., Colorado, and Audubon Co., Iowa), go here.
For the 49 exurban counties (including Oconto Co., Wisconsin, and King and Queen Co., Virginia), go here.
There are 3,113 counties nationally: county majorities in most the U.S. voted for the same party in both the '04 and '08 elections. (For the record, 538 counties, most of them urban, voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections. There were 2,203 counties, most of them exurban and rural, that supported the Republican candidates in these two contests.)
(Alaska is not included in this analysis since it does not collect votes by county.)
The map tells one obvious story about last week's election: The Midwest shifted significantly. Nearly half of the counties that flipped this year were located in Midwestern states. And only one of the changing Midwestern counties switched its vote to Republican. Wisconsin shows a particularly strong shift of counties.
The vast majority of counties that switched from voting Democratic in 2004 to Republican this year were in the South.
One feature that is not apparent from the maps is the dramatic economic difference between the group of counties switching Democratic and those flipping Republican. Statistician Robert Cushing has used data issued yearly by the Internal Revenue Service on county incomes to calculate the average incomes of these counties. Cushing used reports for 2003 through 2007.
Counties that changed their majority vote to Democratic this year had average per capita income of $25,587.
Counties flipping Republican had average per capita income of only $18,555.
Average incomes in counties turning from Republican to Democratic were 38 percent higher than average incomes of counties turning from Democratic to Republican.
Every four years, some counties show a different party allelgiance from the previous election. In 2000, more than twice as many counties (856) switched from the way they had voted in 1996. In George W. Bush's first presidential campaign, 854 counties switched from Democratic in 1996 to Republican in 2000. Only two flipped in the other direction.
In the chart found here, you can see all the rural counties that flipped this year. Total votes are given for both Obama and McCain, as well as Obama's percentage of the vote.
Also, in the column "Had Been Unchanged Since," you can see how long each county had been voting for either Democrat or Republican presidential candidates before changing this year. For example, the first county, Marengo in Alabama, voted Republican in 2004 and switched to Democratic this year. Two lines down, Clark County, Arkansas, had voted Democratic in each election since 1976, until it switched to vote Republican this year.