Did Irish-America Vote for Trump?
A not-so-scientific analysis
Even though Angela Merkel is now stealing Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day thunder, one assumes that at some point this week Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny will get to visit the White House for his 7th and final presidential photo op.
We already know that when President Trump talks to foreign leaders, he likes to talk about the size of his election victory. So it’s entirely possible he’ll add “and the Irish helped a lot with that.” So jumping off that hypothetical — did the Irish American community vote for Trump?
Defining the “Irish-American” vote
This is a Medium post, not an academic paper, and so with that constraint in mind we’ll narrow down “Irish-American” to two categories:
1) White Catholics.
2) Those who entered “Irish” as their ancestry on their U.S. census form.
The White Catholic Vote
If we go with number one then the data is pretty straight forward. White Catholics have been voting Republican in greater numbers for the last few voting cycles, as Pew data shows below.
It’s by no means a definitive split, but in the last election the White Catholic bloc was third only to two historically staunch GOP allies: Evangelical Christians and Mormons. Adding to that, this was the second election cycle in a row where White Catholics were more likely to favor a Republican than mainstream Protestants were.
Also worth adding is that the White Catholic vote pretty much lined up with the overall White vote — which went 37% for Hillary vs 57% for Trump. This trend holds true for the last 4 presidential elections.
So if we take the above, then we can say that Irish-Americans are increasingly leaning to republican candidates (and that White Catholic voters are pretty much just White voters at this point). If that’s a little too simple for you, we can try and go deeper.
Irish America, County by County
According to the latest U.S. Census, just over 10% of Americans claim Irish ancestry. That population is scattered all across America, with high proportions in the Northeast. If we look at the pockets of America with the highest number of Americans claiming Irish ancestry, and put that beside vote counts from the 2016 presidential election, it look like this.
So of the 23 counties in America with over 50,000 Irish residing, only 8 went for Trump (and 4 of those only by margins of less than 5%). So can we say that the more Irish people in an area the more likely to vote for Hillary? Not really — leaving aside the fact that this data doesn’t tell us who exactly voted for whom — the data pretty much lines up with trends across the board: if you lived in a high population county, your county is more likely to have voted for Clinton.
Now let’s look at proportion, maybe if you have a high number of Irish relative to your population then that will affect the vote? For this analysis, we’ll look at counties reporting a quarter or more of its population as Irish.
This is split more evenly than the previous chart: 6 out of the 14 counties with Irish populations over 25% voted for Trump. Greeley County (Population: 2,500) is an outlier, which again lines up with the fact that rural counties went for Trump — however, Greeley county has the second highest number of Democratic voters in the state of Nebraska at 57%. Here another common trend is laid bare — Democrats simply didn’t come out and vote.
So can we say that Irish America voted for Trump? In an election with around 60% turnout, that leaves a lot of voters unaccounted for, so it would be a stretch to make a definitive call. None of the data above points to Irish-America being a standout voting bloc, rather it points to the fact that Irish-America may just simply be White America.
What we can say is that they certainly didn’t not vote for him. Those hats didn’t sell out by themselves.