Odd voting patterns

The NYT put together an interesting interactive map that shows very detailed vote totals for much of the US, both totals and changes from 2016. I noticed some really odd patterns.

In my own Orange County, Biden won by about 10%, a 5% gain for the Dems compared to 2016. And yet one area of Orange County swung dramatically toward Trump—Little Saigon. Areas of Westminster and Garden Grove with a large Vietnamese-American population moved 30%, 40% even 50% from the Democrats to the Republicans between 2016 and 2020.

In this map, red means trended toward Trump and blue means trended toward the Dems. They are vote changes, not absolute vote totals:

(Ignore the large precincts, they are mostly wilderness.)

Right before the election, Vox did a story discussing increasing support for Trump in the Vietnamese community, and how this was tearing families apart:

For others, it’s a breaking point in family relations, in light of the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. I’ve heard anecdotally, online, and from my own family members that they are worried about “anarchy” and wish for “law and order” to be restored. Misinformation on social media fuels these fears, often playing into anti-Black tropes. Some children have moved out or stopped talking to their parents entirely.

“My frustration toward the older generation of Vietnamese Americans being entitled, hypocritical, racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and every other kind of bigotry under the sun, has more or less boiled over into nothing short of pure disdain,” one user wrote in the Facebook group Asian Americans with Republican Parents Support Group. “It’s gotten to the point where I flat out don’t care about what they think of me or say to me.”

Comments responding to the post agreed, with another user writing, “I’ve given up trying to educate them on the matters. … They’re so far up Trump’s ass, it feels impossible to take them out.”

A common joke among young Viet progressives is that you’re bound to be called a communist, or cộng sản, once you openly express any left-leaning political views. And yet, I find that there is something uniquely cruel about this political divide among a war-torn generation and their children, that beyond the language and cultural barriers that already alienate older Vietnamese Americans, there is now a stark political wedge rooted in hate, misunderstanding, and trauma.

But I expected a 5% or 10% swing vs. 2016, not 40%.

I used to live in Massachusetts, and on the map for that state almost everywhere shifted Democratic between 2016 and 2020, with two exceptions. Hispanic areas in old mill towns swung sharply toward Trump, as did African-American areas in the southern portion of Boston.

Perhaps the weirdest result I noticed was in Kaser, just north of New York City in Rockland County. Consider the following facts, and tell me how you’d expect it to vote:

1. Kaser is the densest city in America, outside of New Jersey. (Dense areas trend strongly Democratic.)

2. It’s extremely poor. Wikipedia reports that 66.4% of residents are below the poverty line, and per capita income is barely over $5000. Bolivia on the Hudson. Poor people tend to vote for the Democrats.

3. It’s overwhelmingly Jewish, a group that votes strongly Democratic.

I don’t know the exact boundaries of the town, but as far as I can tell over 99% of the roughly 3000 Kaser voters opted for Trump, and less than 1% for Biden. To put that 100 to 1 figure in perspective, even supposedly “monolithic” African-American voters are only about 10 to 1 Democratic.

The region around Kaser also went for Trump in 2016, but nowhere near as overwhelmingly as in 2020. So 2020 was not normal. I pity the Kaser resident with a Biden yard sign.

(Someone should investigate! Just kidding.)

And just one mile away are deep blue areas. Rockland County has to be one of the most polarized areas in the US.

The graph below shows just one precinct in Kaser (in absolute terms), but vote totals in nearby areas are just as lopsided.

PS. Mission Viejo (where I live) went from red in 2016 to purple in 2020.



38 Responses to “Odd voting patterns”

  1. Gravatar of Lee Bressler Lee Bressler
    3. February 2021 at 17:31

    Thanks – interesting. Kaser shouldn’t be a big surprise – it’s a Hasidic community (Monsey is the surrounding town), and the Hasidim are overwhelmingly in favor of Trump, especially following the move of the embassy to Jerusalem.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. February 2021 at 17:34

    Yes, but I’m still surprised by margins of more than 100 to 1. You rarely see that, even in areas that strongly favor one candidate.

  3. Gravatar of Goldie Goldie
    3. February 2021 at 17:59

    In Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish communities, people vote as their rabbis instruct then, so 99% Trump is not surprising. Same thing happens in Israel with the Haredi parties.

  4. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    3. February 2021 at 18:05

    I spend a couple of hours a day on the phone every day with my colleagues and friends in Vietnam. To a person (young/old/rich/poor/north/south/communist/ex-Viet Cong) they all love Trump and hate Biden for the simple reason that Trump has taken a tough stance on China and nearly all Vietnamese hate China, see it as a huge threat, and they think Biden is in China’s pocket.

    Has nothing to do with the generation gap or the Vietnam War, or any other gobbledygook published by Vox.

  5. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    3. February 2021 at 18:38

    Did Trump really take a tough stance on China, materially? On net, I don’t think so. China won big under Trump, in terms of gains in regional influence, for example, even if one ignores Trump’s pathetic begging with Xi to help him win re-election after losing the trade war.

  6. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    3. February 2021 at 19:14

    @Michael Sandifer

    “Did Trump really take a tough stance on China.”

    Don’t ask me (I have no interest in discussing faith and religion), but 95 million Vietnamese sure think he did (despite the official propaganda from the VN government about warm fraternal relations with their friendly neighbor to the north.)

  7. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    3. February 2021 at 19:30

    I notice that in San Francisco, my area, the areas with the biggest swings toward Trump are the poorest parts of the city — the Tenderloin, Bay View, Hunters Point, Vis Valley.

    Chinatown and Japantown made double digit moves toward the red, too.

    The wealthiest neighborhoods, Pac Heights and the Marina inched blue.

  8. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    3. February 2021 at 20:55

    I wonder if the affirmative action ballot measure caused more conservative Asians in California to turn out, much as the gay marriage ballot measures helped Bush in 2004. The Vietnamese areas of Houston trended toward Biden.

    In general, Trump’s 2020 campaign was less racist than his 2016 campaign (and many of the alt-right white nationalists who were early Trump boosters didn’t even support Trump in 2020), so it’s not surprising that there was a bit of partial reversion to Bush-era minority support for the GOP. Bush-era racial polarity should probably be considered what would happen in a normal election between two candidates that do not create racial salience either way.

  9. Gravatar of Big Al Big Al
    3. February 2021 at 21:12

    So one theory I heard, with respect to how the hispanic vote in the Rio Grande valley shifted from 2016 to 2020, was that this had a lot to do with the first set of covid checks that went out. There was a reason Trump wanted his name on them. This makes a lot sense to me for poor, minority communities that are not as a rule particularly engaged politically. How bad could this guy be, he gave me free money! Not sure how you might go about proving it one way or the other.

    Someone should have proposed a natural experiment and, say, stiffed a random set of states!

  10. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    3. February 2021 at 21:41

    Racist or no, Trump picked up a lot of support from people of color. It’s not so simple as Trump = racist.

  11. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    3. February 2021 at 22:50

    This is easy to to explain. People from poorly run communist countries are absolutely terrified of the new left. And then see cultural revolution ideology there. A little light racism isn’t something to fear compared to the ideology of the left today. Vietnamese, Cubans, Eastern Europeans love Trump.

    Trumps not religious but theirs nowhere for religious people in the Democratic Party. It’s forced them to vote Trump.

  12. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    4. February 2021 at 06:27

    99%? Wow. Why shouldn’t we investigate? At the very least we can determine if extreme anomalies can happen——or ——how cheating can occur. Even if it went Trump’s way.

  13. Gravatar of Josh D Josh D
    4. February 2021 at 07:07

    A large portion of my family is ultra-Orthodox Jewish, and I noticed a couple of changes between the 2016 and 2020.

    A) Many of their Rabbis sat out the 2016 election and gave their followers free reign to choose whatever they wanted. As another commenter said, this changed following the movement of the embassy and several other explicitly pro-Israel pro-settlement moves.

    B) Conspiratorial thinking, which has always had fertile ground in their community, has flourished aggressively. The entire fundamentalist wing of my family are now anti-vaxxers, despite the fact that one uncle and his wife are both licensed physicians. Several of them, despite the obvious Antisemitism, have even become Q-anoners. Sabbath dinner is filled with talk of stolen elections and reckoning. The same thing has not happened to my modern Orthodox (a more flexible sect) cousins.

  14. Gravatar of Ankh Ankh
    4. February 2021 at 08:53

    The rhetoric of the American left, is eerily similar to the rhetoric of Ho Chi Minh.

    The older American Vietnamese population that spent much of their time in forced reeducation camps before being rescued with American Visas remember very clearly how this utopian crusade ruined their lives. Thus, they have sounded the alarm in their small communities. They have implored their youth to reject the propaganda by CNN and others that call for a race war and a class war.

    This would account for the conservative shift in the Vietnamese communities.

    Although, I do not have any direct evidence I am confident that the shift in the Hispanic community has something to do with the Cuban population. Cubans remember how Castro sought to divide them.

    e.g., Rich against poor. Black against white. The enemy is just the illusion. The real goal is obtaining power.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. February 2021 at 09:41

    dtoh, You said:

    “for the simple reason that Trump has taken a tough stance on China”

    If Trump encouraging Xi to put Muslims into concentration camps is a “tough stand” then I feel sorry for the deluded Vietnamese that you talked to. Biden will be tougher in China than Trump.

    Most Vietnamese Americans voted for Hillary, BTW, so I wouldn’t discount the Vox article.

    Doug, It’s that way everywhere across the country.

    Sean, You said:

    “People from poorly run communist countries are absolutely terrified of the new left. ”

    Maybe, but Biden is not the “new left”, in less you mean things like the $15 minimum wage, which many conservative voters support. (I don’t.)

    Ankh, I frequently compare the new left to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, so I see your point.

  16. Gravatar of Dale Doback Dale Doback
    4. February 2021 at 10:29

    I wonder if Trump’s ‘open up the economy’ rhetoric (not actions) had a significant effect on certain populations more likely to own small businesses and work in affected industries etc. A more general long term trend between the parties has been educational attainment which would be more pronounced in a high turnout year.

  17. Gravatar of Peter Schaeffer Peter Schaeffer
    4. February 2021 at 13:11

    Biden’s day one actions were to embrace CRT (Critical Race Theory) and move towards abolishing women’s sports. That’s pretty radical stuff. Quote from Bari Weiss.

    “The truth is that Joe Biden is a fig leaf”

    “Consider the fact that Hillary Clinton recorded a podcast with Nancy Pelosi this week in which she said of Trump: “I would love to see his phone records to see whether he was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol.” And the speaker of the House responded: “All roads lead to Putin.”

    Really? That’s still the play after four years?

    The group that fell for Russiagate has long owned the culture. Now it’s won the presidency and controls Congress. What will happen?”

    “Will neo-racism be normalized?”

    “On his first day in office, President Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order. That’s not a good sign.”

    Biden made his first priority embracing racism (neo-racism). That’s not a good sign.

  18. Gravatar of Peter Schaeffer Peter Schaeffer
    4. February 2021 at 13:14

    People with actual experience with Marxism tend to find it utterly abhorrent. My “guess” is that Vietnamese immigrants might have more experience with Marxism than college students (or college professors).

  19. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. February 2021 at 13:49

    The reasons given in the VOX article are plausible; they are also presented in a similar way in a Deutsche Welle article.

    The Vox article is once again a bit too biased for my taste though.

    In parts it is also unintentionally funny. In parts the article sounds like:

    “The young Vietnamese Americans who got everything from their parents, who are richer than their parents, the generation who got it all, they are so woke, they really know what racism is, they experience it every day, they have it so hard, and their stupid parents and grandparents, they have no idea what racism and a hard life is. How would they know?”

    Yeah, pretty much sums it up.

  20. Gravatar of Mike Sax Mike Sax
    4. February 2021 at 14:11

    Yes there were some uncanny movements in 2020. In general men of color-AA, Hispanic but as you show it also showed among the Vietnamese-moved towards Trump-though absolute support was still very Dem.

    This was also true even here in NY in the Bronx.

    Paradoxically Trump lost because White people turned against him-even though in absolute terms Trump still won the White vote. More precisely college educated Whites turned against him.

    In general though remember what Trump said: ‘I love the poorly educated’

    He was right as that’s his base. The group with the highest tendency towards supporting Trump has been uneducated men. That tendency is higher among White men but even among minority men the tendency showed.

    I’ve tried to discussing this issue among fellow Dem/progressive types and it can be very controversial-some feel even pointing it out is somehow racist

    My hypothesis is there’s something about Trump’s style that appeals to a certain sense of ‘toxic masculinity’ among men without college-ie they see Trump as how a man’s supposed to act.

    OTOH he totally turns off men with college-they also tend to have Trump Derangement Syndrome as the real divide for those who love and hate Trump are those without college vs those who are.

  21. Gravatar of The Covid election – Econlib The Covid election - Econlib
    4. February 2021 at 15:21

    […] at MoneyIllusion, I did a post discussing some odd election anomalies. Now that I’ve had a chance to look at […]

  22. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    4. February 2021 at 16:24

    Could be a Young Kim effect giving Trump an undeserved boost.

  23. Gravatar of Hfregeau Hfregeau
    5. February 2021 at 05:18

    The reddest part of that area south of Boston (Dorchester Ave, Field’s Corner) is also very Vietnamese.

  24. Gravatar of AnthonyC AnthonyC
    5. February 2021 at 05:48

    This doesn’t help with NY and MA, but it looks like some states don’t report precinct-level absentee or provisional ballots, all of which in 2020 would tend to make those parts of the map skew more republican.

    Also, in 2020, a lot of people, and a set I would expect to skew more democratic, left denser cities, at least temporarily. IDK how many changed their voter registration as a result

  25. Gravatar of mira mira
    5. February 2021 at 07:26

    > I used to live in Massachusetts, and on the map for that state almost everywhere shifted Democratic between 2016 and 2020, with two exceptions. Hispanic areas in old mill towns swung sharply toward Trump

    Most of those towns that swung are Portuguese, not hispanic. (source: my dad and uncles worked in those mills)

    > 3. It’s overwhelmingly Jewish, a group that votes strongly Democratic.

    They’re orthodox, which is a completely different voting pattern, and best as I can tell many orthodox jews hate, hate, hate the lockdown.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. February 2021 at 09:18

    Dale, That makes sense.

    Hfregeau, Interesting.

    Mira, You said:

    “They’re orthodox, which is a completely different voting pattern, and best as I can tell many orthodox jews hate, hate, hate the lockdown.”

    I discuss exactly that point in my new Econlog post.

    And since “Hispanic” is a nonsense term, there’s no harm in including the Portuguese. Call it “Iberian.” (Actually, those towns have both groups.)

  27. Gravatar of sean sean
    5. February 2021 at 09:48

    I agree on Biden not being the “New Left” but his administration is clearly connected to them. His entire career he followed whatever was popular in his voting bloc. In 1990’s it was tough on crime. I don’t view him as an ideologue, but he’s also going to support their positions as part of his coalition.

    Asian votes going to be weird going forward. They don’t fit as one of the BIPOC in the lefts vote. Culturally my guess is Asian culture fits best with traditional dems, but not the new progressives.

  28. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    5. February 2021 at 14:05

    It’s so cute the way commenters describe voters who haven’t gone to college as “uneducated.”

    The Vietnamese-American vote is entirely about the respective stances of the two U.S. parties toward China. Anyone who would dispute this is entirely and 100% ignorant of Vietnamese politics.

    If one wants to fully understand Asian-American views on which party is racist, it would behoove them to consider which party condones blatant discrimination toward Asian-American college applicants and dropped the suit against Yale, and which party is trying to change the admissions policies of selective public high schools in NYC and SFO.

  29. Gravatar of Peter Schaeffer Peter Schaeffer
    5. February 2021 at 20:14

    dtoh, Yuu just don’t understand. Racism is only bad if it is directned against blacks and/or Hispanics. If racism is targeted against whites/Asians then it is good.

  30. Gravatar of Peter Schaeffer Peter Schaeffer
    5. February 2021 at 20:15

    directned -> directed

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. February 2021 at 10:03

    dtoh, You said:

    “The Vietnamese-American vote is entirely about the respective stances of the two U.S. parties toward China. Anyone who would dispute this is entirely and 100% ignorant of Vietnamese politics.”

    But you said almost all the Vietnamese support Trump, which is not even close to being true. So are you well informed on Vietnamese-American politics?

  32. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    6. February 2021 at 12:40

    Almost all Vietnamese do support Trump. I did not say that was true of Vietnamese-Americans.

  33. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. February 2021 at 09:34

    dtoh, You said the Vox article was wrong about the views of Vietnamese Americans, and cited the views of Vietnamese non-Americans. Obviously their views are not the same, not even close.

  34. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    7. February 2021 at 14:01

    If you knew how closely much of the Vietnamese American community is still tied to Vietnam, you would realize that in fact their views are closely shared on many issues especially ones that impact the well being of friends and relatives in Vietnam, where nearly everyone despises China and view it as serious threat. If you understood how strongly the Vietnamese felt about this, we would not be having this discussion.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. February 2021 at 12:05

    dtoh, Again, you said the Vietnamese almost all supported Trump. We know that many Vietnamese Americans voted for Biden.

    So I have no idea what point you are trying to make here.

  36. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    8. February 2021 at 16:30

    You’re being deliberately obtuse again.

    1. Vietnamese geo-political views influence and are often shared by Vietnamese Americans.

    2. The stronger the views, the stronger the influence.

    3. Vietnamese feel very strongly about China and Trump.

    4. It’s seems highly probable (100% certain IMHO) that this is what caused the big shift in Vietnamese American voter patterns.

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. February 2021 at 08:34

    dtoh, So the Vietnamese have radically different view on Trump from the Vietnamese Americans, based on the 60-40 voting pattern vs. the 100% support for Trump among the actual Vietnamese, and you conclude from this that Vietnamese views explain Vietnamese American views? You lost me.

    And you are “100%” sure about this even though the VOX reporter interviews lots of Vietnamese-Americans and finds other reasons like frustration over lockdowns? Okay . . . .

  38. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    10. February 2021 at 19:19

    Read my comments. I was merely responding to your observation that there was a major shift in Vietnamese American voting patterns between 2016 and 2020. Nothing you cite in the Vox article addresses the real reason for the shift, and even the actual Vox article only mentions it dismissively in passing.

    I offered no comments on underlying Vietnamese American political views (only comments on the reason for the recent shifts). That said, I thought the Vox article was just a bunch of regurgitated racist tripe.

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