Three (really rustic) graphics:

Together, they spell trouble for Republicans here in Lancaster County, PA, which has for decades been a dependable stronghold for the GOP. The graphics represent, in order, the outcome of the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections.

  • Dark red indicates the Republican received better than 60% of the vote.
  • Light red indicates the Republican won, but his challenger received more than 40% of the vote.
  • Dark blue indicates the Democrat received better than 60% of the vote.
  • Light blue indicates the Democrat won, but his challenger received more than 40% of the vote.

While McCain/Palin still won Lancaster County last week by a comfortable 55/43 split (Ralph Nader got half a percent; Ron Paul got two-tenths of a percent as a write-in), the numbers indicate a changing electorate within our county. I was actually astonished to compare for myself the decisive break from voting patterns in the 2000 and 2004 elections. (Forgive the poor graphics quality; I did these myself.)

Here are a few ways of breaking down the numbers.

City vs. County

Lancaster City landslided for Obama, 76% to McCain’s 23%. The city represented 21,975 votes, or 10% of county voters. Compare this to much slimmer margins in 2004, where Kerry beat Bush 62 to 38, and 2008, where Gore beat Bush 57 to 39.

Once you subtract the city’s votes, Lancaster County favored McCain, less overwhelmingly, 59 to 40. Non-city residents cast 202,816 votes, making up the other 90% of voters. A margin of 19 points is gigantic, but a shocking change from 2004, when Bush carried 69 to Kerry’s 31, and 2000, when Bush also received 69% of the vote and Gore eked out 29.

Urban vs. Suburban/Exurban/Rural

That breakdown, however, ignores the important fact that there are urban dwellers living in other municipalities beside Lancaster City. Perhaps it is more fair to compare all the county’s “urban” voters against the rest. I ran the numbers comparing city and borough precincts against township precincts (including the urbanized Lancaster Township with the boroughs).

In urbania county-wide, Obama beat McCain 56–43, with 73,366 voters weighing in (33% of voters). In 2000 and 2004, Bush carried the county’s urban areas 56-43 and 57-40, respectively.

Away from urban districts, McCain beat Obama 61-37, with 151,425 voters. Again, this looks decisive until compared with Bush’s victories in 2004 and 200: 70-30 and 70-28.

Stack the Deck

What if we stack the deck? Just for fun, I picked out out all the municipalities in Lancaster County that went for Obama, and pitted them against the rest of the county. Here’s how it looks:

Select Municipalities: Obama 68, McCain 31.  Eighteen percent of the Lancaster County electorate, or 40,319 voters, currently live in areas where a majority of their neighbors currently lean Democratic. In 2004, those same municipalities on the whole went for Kerry by 61-38, and for Gore by just 57-39.

The Rest of Municipalities: McCain 61, Obama 38. Even in the most Republican areas of the county, Democratic voters should have no trouble finding many neighbors who share their political viewpoint. In these municipalities, Bush carried 2004 by 69-30, and 2000 by 69-28.

Perhaps most interesting is the list of municipalities who voted for Obama:

  • Columbia Borough
  • Christiana Borough (by a single vote)
  • Mountville
  • Marietta
  • Millersville
  • Lancaster City
  • Lancaster Township

Columbia borough voted Democratic in 2000 but not in 2004. Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, and part of Millersville borough voted Democratic in both 2000 and 2004. Christiana and Mountville’s votes came out of the blue; Marietta has for some time been on the Democrats’ wishlist as a municipality to pick up.

If you’d like to look at the raw data for yourself, the County has a list of polling locations, which you can use to decipher the election results for the past eight years.

2 thoughts on “Democrats Gaining in Lancaster County Republican Territory

  1. hmmm I was just working my way through the data this morning, I think I may have to write an alternate post to your data interpretation. (and use my mac to work up some pretty graphics) 🙂

  2. Ethan, I’d love to some alternate interpretation. I was genuinely surprised at the success of Obama/Biden around the county, and I was also surprised to see the level of support Bush received in both 2000 and 2004. I definitely see an argument in the data that Lancastrians vote for who they think is a good candidate, rather than against who they think is a bad one. That argument could then lead to a suggestion that any pro-Democratic trend could very easily reverse in 2016 (or even 2012) if the Democrats have a candidate at the top of their ticket who is something less than the excellent campaigner Obama proved to be.

Comments are now closed.