The Evolution of Voter Turnout in Texas
The Battle between Rural and Urban Areas Over the Course of Six Presidential Elections
The Presidential Election of 2016 happened about a month ago and the world is still in shock over the results of the election. This is not a surprise considering the fact that our options were Hillary Clinton, a woman that has long been dubbed as ‘corrupt’ throughout her career, and Donald Trump, a billionaire reality TV star with questionable twitter habits. Either way, there was no doubt in any voter’s mind that there was going to be problems following the results. However, many were still shocked once the election came to fruition. Political pundit outlets, pollsters, and statistical analysis websites such as fivethirtyeight are reeling from disbelief after their predictions, charts, and graphs, that were based on extensive research, were proved to be inaccurate once the night of the election began to ease on.
Many publications, such as the NY Times and the Washington Post, began to notice a interesting pattern on voter turnout percentage among rural and urban voters and their choice of political party. Fueling the question on whether there is a disparity of voter turnout between rural and urban counties in Texas, with the lower voter turnout block being centered in rural areas.Arguably, the presidential election of 2016 is the most divisive election to date and poses an interesting basis on the influence of voter participation on government elections between rural and urban counties compared to past elections. The trends and patterns of voter participation is extremely important considering that many government candidates are more likely to visit that area, or not bother at all, to try and gain that area’s vote. It is no surprise that voter turnout trends have evolved over the last six presidential elections in Texas, seen more noticeably in the 2016 election; however it is important to note the changes of voter turnout in rural and urban areas as these results can influence and shape any government election.
To provide some context, Texas has approximately 254 counties. Among those 254 counties, there are 177 counties that are classified as rural and 77 counties that are classified as urban. However, urban counties tend to have a larger population located within those areas compared to lower population levels in rural areas. Both rural areas and urban areas have a quantitative advantage and each hold a vast influence in electing the next government officials.Furthermore, research data was taken from the last six presidential elections (1996, 2000,2004,2008,2012,2016) in Texas to be able to identify any patterns or trends within rural and urban counties. The illustrations below, based on this data, are a great way to compare voter participation in rural and urban areas over the past two decades and to see if there is any truth to the claim that there is low voter participation in rural areas in Texas and if there is a large difference in voter participation between urban and rural counties.
While the results of the 2016 presidential election are not finalized and have not dramatically changed since election night, they were included due to the fact that presidential candidate Trump ended up winning largely due to the rural vote among many states in America. It was interesting to see if there was a pattern or indication of change between the 2016 election and the 2012 and 2008 election among rural and urban counties. Based on the results, there seemed to be a noticeable increase in voter participation in Texas during the 2016 presidential election, supporting the claim that rural voters played a large part in electing Donald Trump.
Starting with the first graph, illustrating the voter turnout percentage during the 1996 presidential election,it clearly shows that most of the urban and rural areas of Texas fall between the 50–59% range of voter turnout. The 40–49% and 60–69% blocks seems to fall over rural areas with minimal coverage in urban areas. Not to mention, the highest and lowest voter turnout blocks are only located within rural areas. It would seem that both urban and rural counties have around the same voter participation, according to the graph.
Going on to the 2000 Presidential Election results, there is an increase in the 40–49% block within rural counties which diminishes the 50–59% block in those areas. The lowest voter turnout percentages and the largest voter turnout percentages seem to still occupy within rural areas. It would be safe to say that urban areas still have a bit more consistency among voter participation. However, it is important to note that none of the urban areas have reached above the 70% voter participation block or have reached below the 39% participation block.
Compared to the 2004 voter turnout graph, there has been an increase in the 60–69% block among rural and urban counties. While most urban counties still operate within the 50–59% block. The 40–49% block has dwindled, but it is still focused around rural areas. Moreover, the trend of the largest and lowest voter turnout blocks mainly being located within rural areas displays a voter pattern that is shown among the previous graphs. Jumping to the 2008 graph, it looks fairly similar to the last presidential election map. The 40–49% block is still mainly located in rural counties, especially along the southern and eastern parts of Texas. Of course, the lowest and higher voter turnout blocks are scattered among rural counties, contributing to the pattern shown in the previous graphs.
Then we come to the 2012 voter turnout map, it shows that most of the urban areas are within the 50–69% range, a high amount of voter participation. Moreover, a small amount of urban areas falls within the 40–49% range, mainly in the south as we saw in the previous two graphs. The rural areas tend to fall within the same range, including the consistent pattern of the 40–49% block in the south. Of course, it is important to note that the rural areas still occupy the lowest and highest voter turnout blocks in several counties.
Finally, we arrive to the most current results of the 2016 presidential election. The largest areas that cover the rural and urban counties are the 50–59% block and the 60–69% block. There was a decrease in the 0–39% block. Moreover, there was a slight increase in the 70–100% voting block among several rural areas. However, the 40–49% block still seems to cover a fair amount of rural areas and some urban counties. Overall, it has been consistent among previous voting patterns, with a detection of an increase in voter participation during this presidential election.
In order to see if there was an indication of change in voting patterns, two maps were graphed to see if there was a change in voter participation from the most current results compared to the last two presidential elections. Between 2016 and 2008, there seemed to be a balance between the 0–5% increase block and the -5-(-1) % decrease block. The increase and decrease block seem to be split between rural and urban areas. Also, the 6–11% and 11- >15% increase blocks are only found in rural areas. Which is not surprising since previous graphs have shown that the 70–100% voting block mainly fell within rural areas. Going to the decrease blocks, there was still a fair amount of coverage located in rural areas and some urban areas. Compared to the 2016 and 2012 voter turnout map, there is a noticeable change among voter turnout in rural and urban counties. There is a large increase of voter participation in both urban and rural areas, with the 6–11% and 11->15% increase blocks only located within rural counties, similar to the 2016/2008 graph. There is a minimal amount of decrease blocks in this graph, showcasing an increase in voter participation. Overall, there was a definite change in voting patterns and an increase in voter participation in 2016 compared to the results in 2012 and 2008 graph.
The presidential election of 2016 was definitely the election where rural voters had the highest voter turnout participation compared to previous elections. Based on voter turnout patterns, urban areas within Texas tend to be more consistent in their voter turnout percentages among various presidential elections, mainly being centered in the middle of the spectrum. Rural areas were not wholly consistent and wavered from one of the spectrum to the next, unlike their urban counterparts. Among voting patterns, rural areas still occupied a fair amount of voter turnout blocks in comparison to urban areas; however, only rural areas are consistently seen with counties in the highest voter turnout block and the lowest voter turnout block. In addition, the low voter turnout block decreased while the high voter block increased within rural areas in the 2016 graph, an indication of positive change. As I mentioned previously, population and quantity of counties play a big part in voter turnout percentages among rural and urban counties, giving each a unique advantage. In the end, many did not predict the pattern changes within rural and urban areas and the election ended up in the hands of the rural voter. The results of the 2016 presidential election were much more unpredictable compared to previous elections and it is more likely to hasten the efforts of government candidates to begin appealing to both urban and rural areas to gain the votes necessary in order to win . As of now, the most current election displays both rural and urban areas as powerful, polarized forces that have the influence to shape any government election in their favor and, if used correctly, will give each an advantage within the politcal sphere.