There is a county in Michigan called Wayne County. It holds Detroit. It has consistently given Democrats majorities of its vote since 1932.

Why has this county been voting Democrat for so long? Was it the union support? Was it that Detroit (or Wayne County) came up with the concept of being strong partisans on a mass scale before anyone else?

I think it is ideological. But that doesn't make much sense because ideology and party weren't so linked until the 80s or 90s or so. I say so because from 1896 to 1928, Republicans won the county, or at least got more votes than the Democrat. The wins from 1904 to 1924 were huge. This was following the explosion of people moving there for jobs in the then new automobile industry.

Why did Wayne County support Democrats for so long, even during Republican landslides like 1972?

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    Before unions were busted, they were heavily Democrat-supporting, and Detroit auto-workers were heavily unionized Nov 23, 2020 at 2:20
  • That is true. My dad is a Democrat union member. Nov 23, 2020 at 11:23
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    @AzorAhai-him- I'm not sure what you mean about "before unions were busted." Unions are still heavily Democrat-supporting and Detroit auto workers are still heavily unionized. Of course, as a result, there aren't nearly as many of them now, but those two statements remain true.
    – reirab
    Nov 23, 2020 at 23:42
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    Live 45 minutes away from wayne county. Its very left leaning. Its equivalent to a philly or new york city.
    – JonH
    Nov 24, 2020 at 23:27
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    Same reason as Atlanta, Chicago, and insert-Southern-or-Midwestern-large-city-in-a-red-state-here. Most of the US are islands of urban blue in a sea of rural red. Nov 25, 2020 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


Detroit was (and still is) one of the strongest heavy industry and port cities in the US: shipping, steel works, auto industries, etc. Because of that, Detroit also has some of the strongest union affiliations of any US city. Industrial unions have leaned Democrat since FDR and the New Deal in the 1930s. Combine union activity and the heavy African American presence in the city, and it would be shocking to see conservatives gain traction in Detroit.

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    In fact, no statewide Republican earned more than 7% of the Detroit vote since 2008. Nov 23, 2020 at 11:25

Detroit is 79% African-American; "of all U.S. cities with 100,000 or more people, Detroit had the second-highest percentage of black people".

Since the LBJ-induced realignment of the two parties in the 1960s, African-Americans have overwhelmingly tended to vote Democrat.

In 2020 for example:

According to exit polls, Trump claimed about 18 percent of the vote among Black men and 8 percent among Black women, increases over his performance among both groups in 2016. But Biden held 87 percent of the Black vote, performing better among Black voters than any other demographic group.

For some (more) historical comparison/context:

On Election night 1968, the payoff from Nixon’s strategy became clear. Just four years after Barry Goldwater only got 6 percent of the black vote—and with only 3 percent of black voters identifying as Republican in 1968, the lowest total since 1936—Nixon received 15 percent of their votes. For perspective, Mitt Romney earned only 6 percent, and John McCain, 4 percent.

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    Actually, Black people (well, those who were actually allowed to vote) have voted Democrat since FDR.
    – dan04
    Nov 23, 2020 at 2:20
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    @dan04: true, but somewhat more moderately than after Goldwater, when their Republican voting percentage sank to one digit... (Also party identification, from your link suggests that presidential elections were even more of an outlier). Nov 23, 2020 at 2:30
  • It sunk to one digit again from 2008-2016. But, it went up 2 percentage points from the last every presidential election since 2012, likely including 2020. Nov 23, 2020 at 11:28
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    This addresses half the question - why it has been blue since the Civil Rights Act, but not why it was blue before
    – Gramatik
    Nov 23, 2020 at 15:20

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