A lot has been made of the former president Donald Trump's narrow upset wins in three Rust Belt states which won him the presidency. This was part of a long term trend that continued into 2020, as I describe below.

Trend 2004-2020 president (trend is shift adjusted for average):

Trend 2004-2020 president, from map.jacksonjude.com

You can see all but one Southwestern state move towards Democrats relative to the nation. (Nevada narrowly did not.) You can also see parts of the Southeast and Northeast trending blue too. (I don't think including DC is fair because of how heavily Democratic it is, but it still barely trended blue!)

This trend continued albeit at a slower rate in 2020 with Ohio and Wisconsin trending towards Republicans vs 2016, and Texas, Arizona, and Georgia trending towards Democrats.

Because we adjusted for national popular vote shift, the number of people living in a state trending towards Democrats is about the same as the number living in a state trending towards Republicans.

What is causing this long term trend that has been present since at least 2016? (I know there are other areas trending this way, I just couldn't fit them in the question.)

  • 4
    Two Presidential elections don't make a long-term trend :-) They had more to do with personality than party politics. In 2016, Clinton was widely disliked (and a woman), while Trump was still somewhat unknown. In 2020, Trump was widely disliked and regarded as incompetent for his handling of the COVID situation, while Biden was a fairly neutral "Mr. Nice Guy". Biden didn't carry nearly as many Congressional & Senate elections as expected. OTOH, Trump's post-election tantrums arguably gave the two Georgia Senate seats to the Democrats.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 18:06
  • I'm guessing a big part of the answer is immigration into those southwestern states. Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 4:46
  • What is this map showing? It says 270 to win which would imply the electoral college, but it's wrong. Right away it shows the wrong number of electoral votes for Texas, and it did not go for Biden.
    – RWW
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


One contributing pattern that was particularly emphasized in the industrial centers around the great lakes, was reduced Dem turnout due to a series of disappointments in economic policy. Author Thomas Frank in particular has focused heavily on this dynamic.

This included

  • US manufacturing job losses (in the face of growing overall North American manufacturing employment), which became noticable shortly after NAFTA went into effect
  • lackluster or ineffective efforts by the post-Bill-Clinton Democratic party to defend organized labor
  • the response to the 2008 financial-and-mortgage crisis, seen as having too much emphasis on large banks and not enough on middle-class individuals who lost their homes in large numbers.

In the case of NAFTA in particular, opposition to it comes from many angles. For some voters it is rooted in xenophobia or nationalism. But for a large number, it is more simply a "kitchen table" issue, because it affects employment and pay. Into the latter category fits the the segment Frank focuses on: middle-class, non-college educated, formerly unionized (i.e. strongly Democrat leaning, historically).

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