Pardon the lateness; I’ve had a very busy past few months. -Gregory
Unlike in 2008, when Connecticut held its Democratic presidential primary relatively early (on February 5), in 2016 Connecticut’s Democratic primary was held in the second half of primary season, on April 26, alongside primaries in four other states: Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. Some people were concerned that this would result in Connecticut receiving less attention from the presidential candidates than it received in 2008. However, since Hillary Clinton was still trying to put away the nomination at this time, and Bernie Sanders was attempting to claw back from his considerable deficit in delegates, ultimately both Hillary and Bernie spent a substantial amount of time in the state.
Connecticut has closed primaries, where only registered members of a political party can vote. This has major consequences for the primary, since independents are approximately 45 percent of all registered voters in Connecticut, and substantially outnumber both registered Democrats and registered Republicans. In other northern states that have open primaries, exit polls showed that registered Democrats were substantially more likely to support Hillary, while independents were more likely to vote for Bernie. Thus, having a closed primary gave a slight advantage to Hillary in Connecticut (across the country, Bernie won only a single closed primary – Oregon). However, despite that, the polls were close in the run-up to the primary.
In the end, Hillary won the Connecticut Democratic Primary by a margin of just over 5 percentage points – a slightly larger margin than Obama won by in 2008. Hillary received approximately 5,000 more votes than she got in 2008, while Bernie received about 27,000 fewer votes than Obama received in 2008. Turnout in 2016 was approximately 93 percent of what it was in 2012. Hillary won only three of Connecticut’s 8 counties, and only about one-third of its 169 towns. However, the three counties that she won contain approximately 70 percent of Connecticut’s population, and she also won the twelve largest cities in Connecticut, many by large margins.
But let’s dive a bit more deeply into the results. Which towns did Hillary and Bernie win, and why did they win them? What were some surprises in the results? What sorts of trends were noticeable looking at the results by town? Follow me below the fold to find out.
Here is a map of the town-by-town results of the 2016 Connecticut Democratic Presidential Primary:
Let’s begin at the place where Connecticut’s state legislative district numbering system begins: Hartford. Hartford is Connecticut’s fourth-largest city, with about 125,000 people, along with being the state capital. Hartford has the smallest percentage of non-Hispanic whites of any city or town in New England, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also the most Democratic city or town in all of New England, voting 92 percent for Obama in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012. It is split between a heavily African-American north side, which voted in the high 70s for Hillary, and a largely Hispanic south side, which voted in the low 60s for Hillary, with the end result being that Hartford gave just under 70 percent of its vote to Hillary.
Many of Hartford’s populous inner suburbs also supported Hillary. West Hartford (upper-middle-class and Jewish) and East Hartford (working-class and racially diverse) both gave Hillary over 55 percent. The inner northern suburbs of Bloomfield and Windsor both voted for Hillary in landslides; in fact, Bloomfield, which is the only town in New England with a majority-black population, gave Hillary 74 percent, her best performance of any town in New England. The southern suburbs were more split – Glastonbury, Wethersfield, and Rocky Hill narrowly went for Hillary, while Newington narrowly went for Bernie. New Britain went to Hillary despite its being the home of Central Connecticut State University. Hartford’s rich western suburbs, including Farmington, Avon, and Simsbury, also went to Hillary.
However, Hartford’s outer suburbs almost invariably voted for Bernie. From its southern suburbs including Southington and Berlin, to western suburbs such as Burlington and Canton, to northern suburbs such as Granby, Suffield, and Enfield, to its eastern suburbs bordering the Quiet Corner such as Ellington, Tolland, and Hebron, all voted for Bernie. In addition, the large (>50K) towns of Bristol and Manchester both voted for Bernie. Bristol was the largest town in Connecticut that voted for Bernie. Manchester was a bit of a surprise, since the towns north, south, and west of it all voted for Hillary, but it has a large working-class population and is less diverse than East Hartford.
Moving east, we arrive in Tolland and Windham counties. Much of this area is known as the Quiet Corner, as it is mostly rural and small-town. This area went heavily to Bernie – Bernie swept every town in both Tolland and Windham counties, and won them both by approximately 21 points. He won Mansfield, home to UConn, by a roughly 2-1 margin, and won Windham by 20 points despite its large Hispanic population. He did very well in the working-class Quinebaug Valley of eastern Connecticut, including in the larger town of Norwich in New London County. As we move south to New London County, Bernie won the four easternmost coastal towns by small margins. Bernie’s win in New London was another surprise – it’s a diverse town with a large LGBT population (which went heavily for Hillary in Massachusetts). Hillary did better in some of the towns near the mouth of the Connecticut River, including Old Saybrook and the Lymes – these towns are slightly richer than the surrounding ones. Middletown, which contains Wesleyan University, voted narrowly for Bernie; this helps demonstrate that Bernie made some headway at private colleges since his surprising loss in Williamstown in Massachusetts.
The New Haven area, as always, showed some fascinating trends. The coastal towns east of New Haven generally supported Hillary, with the exception of Branford. New Haven itself voted only 57 percent for Hillary, substantially less than either Bridgeport or Hartford. This may be because New Haven is approximately 32 percent non-Hispanic white, while Bridgeport’s percentage is in the low 20s and Hartford’s is in the teens. It is likely that Bernie did well with those white voters as well as with students at Yale, while Hillary, as always, did well with African-Americans. Neighboring Hamden, which is 30 percent black, also went to Hillary by a large margin, as did the rich inner suburbs of Orange and Woodbridge. New Haven’s other suburbs, including West Haven, Milford, East Haven, and North Haven, were more closely divided. In the remainder of the county, Wallingford went narrowly to Bernie, while Meriden (large Hispanic population) and Cheshire (wealthier town) went to Hillary. The working-class Naugatuck Valley largely went to Bernie (this was also one of Trump’s best areas in Connecticut), while Waterbury, the 5th largest city in Connecticut, narrowly went to Hillary due to its substantial African-American population. The more working-class suburbs of Waterbury all went to Bernie, mostly by substantial margins.
Before we wrap up our tour of Connecticut with Fairfield County, it’s time to take a brief detour to Litchfield County. Litchfield is mostly rural, and all but four of its towns went to Bernie. In most general elections, there’s a substantial divide in Litchfield’s voting patterns, with the towns in the far northwest corner of the state voting for Democrats, and most of the other towns in the county voting for Republicans. However, interestingly, this divide was pretty much nonexistent in the primary results. Some of the heavily Democratic towns (including Canaan and Cornwall) went to Bernie by substantial margins, while others (including Salisbury and Sharon) went to Hillary. That these towns voted differently is extremely unusual (they all voted heavily for Obama in the 2008 primary). Most of the towns outside the northwest corner voted for Bernie by varying margins – only Washington and Roxbury in this area voted for Hillary.
Any election prognosticator worth their salt could have looked at the election results from previous states and determined that Hillary would perform very well in Fairfield County. And indeed, that’s exactly what happened. Hillary received over 60 percent of the vote in Fairfield County, and she got over 70 percent in two towns. In addition, Bernie did not receive over 55 percent in a single town in Fairfield County, the only county in Connecticut where that was the case. The six towns in Fairfield that Bernie won are all on the periphery of the county, and are mostly middle-class and not particularly rich. Hillary did win Danbury though, which is the 7th largest city in Connecticut.
Hillary won the right-leaning Bridgeport suburbs of Trumbull and Easton by small margins, and the rich outer suburban towns of Ridgefield and Redding by wider margins. She won Stratford (just east of Bridgeport) by a solid margin, helped by the large African-American community there. She won Bridgeport itself by a strong 65-33 margin, doing very well with both African-Americans and Hispanics there. She won the rich town of Fairfield, just west of Bridgeport, by 19 points despite the presence of two universities there. Continuing west, she won Weston and Westport, both of which are rich, Democratic, and have large Jewish populations, by landslide 70-30 margins. She won Wilton, which is just as rich but less Democratic, by a 65-34 margin. Norwalk, the 6th largest town in Connecticut, was slightly closer due to it not being as rich as its neighboring towns, but Hillary still won it by 19 points. The strongly-Republican, ultra-rich towns of New Canaan and Darien both went to Hillary in massive landslides, giving her 72 and 70 percent of the vote respectively. Stamford, the third-largest city in Connecticut, gave Hillary approximately the same percentage of the vote as did Bridgeport, despite the fact that Stamford is substantially whiter, due to the fact that Stamford has lots of rich white finance-y Dems who were much more likely to support Hillary. And finally, last but certainly not least, the famously wealthy town of Greenwich gave Hillary a massive 68-31 victory.
Thus, it is clear from the town-by-town results that there were large differences in voting patterns based on race and socioeconomic status. Other lesser factors included population density and the presence or absence of colleges and universities. However, one major factor that did not seem to influence the results of the primary was general election voting patterns. Hillary did just as well in rich Democratic Fairfield County towns as she did in rich Republican Fairfield County towns, and Bernie did just as well in small, working-class conservative towns in Litchfield and Windham counties as he did in small, working-class liberal towns in Litchfield and Windham counties.
This next map compares the turnout in the 2016 Democratic Primary to that of 2008. Overall, Democratic turnout in 2016 was only 93 percent of what it was in 2008, but this was spread quite unevenly across the state.
There are several interesting patterns that this map shows. First, the Hartford and Waterbury areas, as well as most working-class towns (in both the Quiet Corner and the Naugatuck Valley), saw substantial decreases in turnout from 2008 to 2012. This is true of both towns that voted for Hillary and towns that voted for Bernie. Thus, it seems that Bernie did not inspire a wave of first-time working-class voters to vote for him. However, to his credit, he did inspire a bunch of new voters in places like Mansfield and the nearby towns, as well as in some Northwest Corner towns.
While Hartford and Waterbury saw large decreases in turnout from 2008 to 2012, New Haven and Bridgeport saw only smaller decreases in turnout, and in fact many of the towns near Bridgeport actually saw increases in turnout. However, most of the rich towns in the western half of Fairfield County saw drops in turnout from 2008 to 2016. Finally, the dark blue town in the lower Connecticut River Valley is Lyme, which seems to have had a small population boom in the intervening eight years between 2008 and 2016.
The following map shows the voter turnout as a percentage of active Democratic voters, rather than in comparison to 2008.
This map shows several interesting turnout patterns that were obscured in the previous map. First of all, regardless of whether turnout in cities was above or below that of 2008, it was still very low in almost all of Connecticut’s major cities. Even some of the smaller cities such as Meriden, New Britain, Torrington, and New London saw very low turnout. This low turnout in cities does not have to do with race: heavily-white Torrington saw very low turnout, while turnout in majority-black Bloomfield was about average for the state overall. In addition, the working-class Quinebaug Valley (which went heavily for Bernie) also saw low turnout. There were a few areas of the state that saw above-average turnout: the shoreline between New Haven and New London, Mansfield and its surrounding towns, and the Northwest Corner (every town in which saw high turnout, making its diverging election results even stranger). One factor that did not seem to predict high turnout is wealth, which is unusual, since in most general elections, wealthy towns have consistently higher turnout than poorer or working-class towns. However, that was not the case this time. All of Hartford’s wealthy western suburbs had approximately average turnout, while in Fairfield County, some wealthy towns had higher turnout (such as Weston and Westport) while others had lower turnout (such as New Canaan and Darien). And remember, these turnout figures are calculated using the number of active registered Democrats in each town, so some towns being more Democratic or more Republican should not (and do not) have an impact on these figures.
Finally, a bonus map: the results for Massachusetts and Connecticut, together.
The same trends are visible in both states: Hillary won the cities, rich suburbs, and anywhere with a large minority population, while Bernie won most of the middle-class suburbs, working-class towns, and rural areas. Hillary performed about 2 points better statewide in Connecticut, where she received over 70 percent in three towns, as opposed to only one in Massachusetts. Conversely, Bernie received over 70 percent in several rural towns in Massachusetts, mostly in Franklin County, while he did not receive over 70 percent in any town in Connecticut (although he came pretty darn close in Canaan and Voluntown).
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