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Population and voting trends: 2004 and 2008 Presidential election

Taking a look at the voting trends in the fastest growing counties made me want to know more about this, so I broke out the spreadsheets and took a look. I’ll present the results in a three-part series, starting today with a comparison of the 2004 and 2008 Presidential election. Basically, I took the county by county canvass report for the two elections from the Secretary of State webpage, loaded them into a spreadsheet, and went to town on it. Here’s what I learned:

– At a macro level, there were 7,359,621 votes cast in the 2004 Presidential election in Texas, and 8,007,961 votes cast in 2008, for an increase of 648,340. Note that in all cases all I’m considering is the sum of the Republican and Democratic votes – third parties and write-ins are not counted. Bush/Cheney got 4,526,917 votes, while McCain/Palin got 4,479,328, for a decline of 47,589. Kerry/Edwards received 2,832,704 votes and Obama/Biden received 3,528,633, for an increase of 695,929.

– For each county, I compared the total number of votes cast for each party, and the difference between the Democratic and Republican totals. The spreadsheet is sorted by the difference in the Democratic performance from 2004 to 2008, so a negative number means that the Republicans did better in terms of vote total than Democrats did, while a positive number means that Democrats gained ground.

There were a total of 107 counties in which Democrats did worse in 2008 than in 2004. A total of 1,394,368 votes were cast in those counties. They broke down as follows:

– 60 counties in which Republicans gained votes from 2004 to 2008 and Democrats lost them, for a net of 633,754 total 2008 votes.

– 24 counties in which both parties gained votes but the GOP gained more, for 583,941 votes total.

– 21 counties in which both parties lost votes but Dems lost more, for 174,956 votes total.

– Comanche County, which had the same GOP total but 97 fewer Democratic votes. It was 3813 to 1431 in 2004, and 3813 to 1334 in 2008.

– And finally, Loving County, which had the same Dem total, but 2 more GOP votes. It was 65 to 12 in 2004, and 67 to 12 in 2008.

Some highlights from each group, starting with the first. Here are the six counties in which the Republican gains plus the Democratic losses were the greatest:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Orange 20,292 21,509 1,217 11,476 7,646 -3,830 -5,047 Bowie 21,791 24,162 2,371 11,880 10,815 -1,065 -3,436 Hardin 15,030 16,603 1,573 5,608 3,939 -1,669 -3,242 Galveston 61,290 62,258 968 43,919 41,805 -2,114 -3,082 Cass 7,383 8,279 896 4,630 3,490 -1,140 -2,036 Jasper 8,347 9,022 675 4,471 3,658 -813 -1,488

These are not fast-growing counties. In fact, three of them – Orange, Cass, and Jasper – lost population this decade, according to the Census population estimates. Galveston County has actually grown by more than ten percent for the decade, with no reported drop in population in 2008 or 2009. Much of that growth is at the north end, in Republican territory like Friendswood and League City. And of course, we know what was going on, especially in the more Democratic-friendly south end of the county, in late 2008.

Next, the counties in which everyone lost ground:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Polk 13,778 13,771 -47 6,964 6,230 -734 -687 Jefferson 44,423 42,905 -1,518 47,066 44,888 -2,178 -660 Milam 5,291 5,217 -74 3,445 3,044 -401 -327 Eastland 5,249 5,165 -84 1,582 1,271 -311 -227

You get into some mighty small counties after that. Jefferson County’s population has declined by about three percent over the decade, though it’s ticked up a bit since a big drop from 2005 to 2006. Milam and Eastland have basically stayed the same, but Polk County actually grew by more than ten percent. I have no idea why its turnout dropped as much as it did given that.

Finally, some of the growers:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net ================================================================== Montgomery 104,654 119,884 15,230 28,628 36,703 8,075 -7,155 Parker 31,795 36,974 5,179 8,966 10,502 1,536 -3,643 Johnson 34,818 36,685 1,867 12,325 12,912 587 -1,280 Chambers 8,618 9,988 1,370 2,953 3,188 235 -1,135 Erath 9,506 10,768 1,262 2,710 3,128 418 -844 Hood 16,280 17,299 1,019 4,865 5,087 222 -797 Angelina 18,932 19,569 637 9,302 9,379 77 -560 Comal 31,574 35,233 3,659 9,153 12,384 3,231 -428 Kaufman 21,304 23,735 2,431 8,947 11,161 2,214 -217

Montgomery and Kaufman, you know about. Comal probably just missed being on that fastest-growing list, as its population grew by about 50% between 2000 and 2009. Angelina and Erath grew modestly, less than ten percent each; Chambers grew by a bit less than 20%, mostly in the last two or three years; the others all grew by 25% or more.

How about the flip side? There were 23 counties in which both parties lost ground, but the Republicans lost more, so the Democrats had a net gain. Most of these were tiny, with the five largest as follows:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Loss Dem Net =============================================================== Gray 7,260 6,924 -336 1,289 1,153 -136 200 Hutchinson 7,480 7,029 -451 2,663 2,545 -118 333 Bee 5,428 4,471 -957 4,045 3,645 -400 557 Jim Wells 5,817 4,841 -976 6,824 6,706 -118 858 Atascosa 7,635 5,462 -2,173 4,421 4,415 -6 2,167

Other than Atascosa, which actually grew by about 15% during the decade but apparently replaced a bunch of Republicans with even more non-voters, there not really much to be said about this group. There were 34 counties in which both parties received more votes, but the Democrats increased by more than the GOP. Those 34 counties accounted for 1,615,855 votes, or more than all 107 in which the Dems lost ground. Some highlights:

County Bush McCain Gain Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net ================================================================== Collin 174,435 184,897 10,462 68,935 109,047 40,112 29,650 Denton 140,891 149,935 9,044 59,346 91,160 31,814 22,770 Fort Bend 93,625 103,206 9,581 68,722 98,368 29,646 20,065 Williamson 83,284 88,323 5,039 43,117 67,691 24,574 19,535 Hays 27,021 29,638 2,617 20,110 28,431 8,321 5,704 Brazoria 63,662 67,515 3,853 28,904 36,480 7,576 3,723 Guadalupe 28,208 30,869 2,661 10,290 16,156 5,866 3,205 Smith 53,392 55,187 1,795 19,970 23,726 3,756 1,961 Bastrop 13,290 13,817 527 9,794 11,687 1,893 1,366 Kerr 16,538 16,752 214 4,557 5,570 1,013 799

There’s the rest of the fastest growers, plus a few others that are no slouches – Guadalupe, which abuts Comal, grew by 30%; Brazoria and Bastrop by 25%, Smith by more than 15%, and Kerr by more than 10%. Together, these ten counties by themselves shaved 108,878 votes off the Democrats’ deficit.

You may have noticed that some of the big counties have been absent in this discussion. Well, here the are now:

County Bush McCain Loss Kerry Obama Gain Dem Net =================================================================== Harris 584,723 571,883 -12,840 475,865 590,982 115,117 127,957 Dallas 346,246 310,000 -36,246 336,641 422,989 86,348 122,594 Bexar 260,698 246,275 -14,423 210,976 275,527 64,551 78,974 Tarrant 349,462 348,420 -1,042 207,286 274,880 67,594 68,636 Travis 147,885 139,981 -10,904 197,235 254,017 56,782 67,686 Hidalgo 50,931 39,668 -11,263 62,369 90,261 27,892 39,155 El Paso 73,261 61,783 -11,478 95,142 122,021 26,879 38,357 Cameron 34,801 26,671 -8,130 33,998 48,480 14,482 22,612 Bell 52,135 49,242 -2,893 27,165 40,413 13,248 16,141 Webb 17,753 13,119 -4,634 23,654 33,452 9,798 14,432 Lubbock 70,135 66,304 -3,831 22,472 30,486 8,014 11,845 Nueces 59,359 52,391 -6,968 44,439 47,912 3,473 10,441

Sometimes I think people don’t fully appreciate what happened in Harris County in 2008. Because the Democrats didn’t quite win all of the countywide races, some people consider the effort that year to have failed. All I can say is that I look at the numbers, I see the magnitude of the swing in four years, and I’m just amazed. Dallas is technically more amazing, since their swing was nearly the same size but was done with far fewer voters, but since they had their blue breakthrough in 2006, it too gets a bit lost in the shuffle. Bexar and Cameron, along with Harris and Dallas, flipped from red to blue, while Tarrant, Bell, and Nueces became officially purple. The only deep red county up there is Lubbock, and even it moved in the right direction.

I bring all of this up for two reasons. One is because even though I’ve covered some of this ground before, I feel like it needs to be repeated every now and again, as a reminder. Texas is a very different place than it was as recently as six years ago. That hasn’t shown up in the statewide elections yet, but the shift from one cycle to the next is unmistakable. And two, as a delayed response to Paul Burka, who recently wrote that “National Democrats have done a good job of spinning the myth that Democrats are resurgent in Texas. In fact, the D’s success has been limited to one area, the Texas House of Representatives.” I pointed out in the comments that this completely overlooked the gains that Democrats had made in county elections in places like Dallas and Harris, but it’s more than that. Democrats were in a huge hole after 2004, and it’s hard to overstate how far they came in just four years. If 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, Texas will be a tossup state. Obviously, a lot has to happen between now and then, but the point is that a lot has already happened. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Next up, a look at judicial races from 2004 to 2008, and a similar comparison for 2002 to 2006.

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8 Comments

  1. Erik Vidor says:

    Excellent post Kuff. Burka gets on my nerves (most of the time).

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