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Was the 2016 United States’ presidential contest a deviating election? Continuity and change in the electoral map – or ‘Plus ça change, plus ç’est la mème géographie'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-388
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Issue number4
Early online date30 Jul 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Jun 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2017
DatePublished (current) - Oct 2017


Several commentators before and after the 2016 US presidential election claimed that it involved a ‘redrawing of the country’s electoral map’, which in the context of the Key/Pomper classification of elections suggested that it was a deviating election, and potentially a critical election heralding a realignment. Analysis of the geography of the result of the 2016 contest, however, indicates considerable continuity at the county scale: the main trend was an increase in the spatial polarisation of the US electorate. Trump not only performed best in 2016 in those counties where Republican party candidates had done well at the previous nine elections, he also increased the Republican share of the votes cast in many of them relative to his performance in counties where the Democratic party candidates were strong then. The main deviations from this trend were in counties with large Black and/or Hispanic populations and those with relatively large numbers of well-qualified, well-paid adults. It was not a potential critical election, therefore, but a continuation of a sequence now nearly four decades old.

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