While Biden has won an absolute majority of the popular vote, he’s also won that majority from counties significantly more productive than the counties Trump won. A stark difference between counties that went for Biden and those that went for Trump is the significantly higher share of gross domestic product in Biden-supporting counties. (The gap is even greater than it was four years ago between Trump and Clinton counties.) Mark Muro, Eli Byerly Duke, Yang You, and Robert Maxim write Biden-voting counties equal 70% of America’s economy. What does this mean for the nation’s political-economic divide?
Even with a new president and political party soon in charge of the White House, the nation’s economic standoff continues. Notwithstanding President-elect Joe Biden’s solid popular vote victory, last week’s election failed to deliver the kind of transformative reorientation of the nation’s political-economic map that Democrats (and some Republicans) had hoped for. The data confirms that the election sharpened the striking geographic divide between red and blue America, instead of dispelling it.
Most notably, the stark economic rift that Brookings Metro documented after Donald Trump’s shocking 2016 victory has grown even wider. In 2016, we wrote that the 2,584 counties that Trump won generated just 36% of the country’s economic output, whereas the 472 counties Hillary Clinton carried equated to almost two-thirds of the nation’s aggregate economy.
A similar analysis for last week’s election shows these trends continuing, albeit with a different political outcome. This time, Biden’s winning base in 477 counties encompasses fully 70% of America’s economic activity, while Trump’s losing base of 2,497 counties represents just 29% of the economy. (Votes are still outstanding in 110 mostly low-output counties, and this piece will be updated as new data is reported.)
There’s a self-serving – but false – notion among Trump supporters that they’re more productive than others. The opposite is true: the aggregate annual production of Biden-supporting counties is significantly higher by proportion (even beyond Biden’s popular vote majority).
It’s next-to-impossible that there’s a single explanation for this gap, but whatever the causes it’s more pronounced now than when Trump was first elected.
Trumpism may outlast Trump, but it has been – and shows every sign of remaining – an ideology that is stronger among local economies that are the weaker.