On June 7, 2016, the final group of states held their presidential primaries for the 2016 election cycle. While the media coverage of the primaries that day focused almost entirely on California, perhaps the more revealing primary, in terms of using the results to draw conclusions about the political demographics of the state and how it might vote in November, occurred in New Jersey.
New Jersey, as a state with large African-American and Hispanic populations and lots of wealthy suburbanites, demographics that favored Clinton in previous states’ primaries, was widely expected to go strongly for Clinton. That is precisely what happened, as Clinton defeated Sanders by a dominating 63-37 margin and won 21 out of 23 counties in the state (and the two that she lost are both heavily Republican).
But where in New Jersey did Clinton perform well, and where did Sanders perform well? Considering that New Jersey is such a diverse state both racially and socioeconomically, did those factors play into their performances in different towns across the state? What conclusions can be drawn from the election results that may shed some light on how the general election will play in New Jersey? Read on to find out.
Below is a statewide map of the results of the 2016 New Jersey Democratic presidential primary:
I will now go through the results county-by-county to point out trends that are visible from the municipality-level election results. Each county has a labeled, zoomed-in map of its election results for reference.
Atlantic County, population 275,000, voted for Clinton by a 62-38 margin. Her best towns were Atlantic City and Pleasantville, both of which have large African-American and Hispanic populations and are heavily Democratic in general elections. She also performed well in the smaller, more Republican coastal towns southwest of Atlantic City, including Ventnor City and Margate City. Those towns, tourist towns located on a barrier island, are generally richer than the nearby mainland towns, which may explain why they gave more support to Clinton. Clinton also performed well in the inland towns of Buena and Buena Vista, which have large minority populations. She won the large, diverse townships of Egg Harbor, Galloway, and Hamilton by solid, but not huge, margins.
Sanders won only six towns in Atlantic County, and four of them are very small: Folsom, Port Republic, Estell Manor, and Corbin City. He also won Egg Harbor City and Northfield. All of these towns except for Egg Harbor City are heavily white. Sanders’ strength in small, rural, mostly-white towns is a theme that will be evident in several other counties across the state.
Bergen, the most populous county in New Jersey, went to Hillary by a 62-38 margin overall. Of its 70 municipalities, not a single one voted for Bernie; one (the small town of Northvale) was a tie while the other 69 went for Hillary by varying margins. Despite the unanimity of its towns, there were some very interesting trends in the municipalities’ election results.
The three heavily Democratic towns of Hackensack, Teaneck, and Englewood, which together have most of Bergen’s African-American population, all went very strongly for Hillary. Notably, the rich, white, conservative town of Englewood Cliffs, which usually has starkly different voting patterns from Englewood (its neighbor to the west), also went heavily for Hillary. The small, rich towns north of that area, including Tenafly, Cresskill, and Demarest, voted strongly for Hillary as well. The very diverse towns south of Englewood, including Cliffside Park and Fort Lee, voted for Hillary by similar margins to the county as a whole, as did some of the richer, more Republican towns in the western part of the county, including Ridgewood, Wyckoff, and Ramsey.
The row of middle-class towns in the center of the county generally went to Hillary by smaller margins, such as Paramus and Saddle Brook. The working-class town of Garfield, which has a large minority population, voted for Hillary by a similar margin to the aforementioned middle-class, mostly-white towns. Bernie’s strongest region in Bergen was the southern part of the county, which consists of several working-class, mostly white towns including Lyndhurst, Rutherford, and Carlstadt. Bernie broke 45 percent in several of these towns. Thus, it should already be clear that race and socioeconomic status played a major role in New Jersey towns’ voting patterns.
Hillary won Burlington County with yet another 62-38 victory, and won all but six municipalities in the county. Her biggest win was in Willingboro, which is about 70 percent African-American. She also did well in some of the richer suburbs such as Moorestown and Mount Laurel, as well as in some very diverse towns such as Burlington Township and Pemberton Township. She did less well in the working-class, mostly white towns along the Delaware River west of Burlington, such as Delran, Cinnaminson, and Riverton, but she still won them by mostly solid margins. She narrowly lost two small, working-class towns – Bordentown City and Wrightstown. However, Bernie’s biggest wins came in the sparsely-populated, heavily Republican southern part of the county, where he won the four townships of Tabernacle, Woodland, Bass River, and Washington by solid margins. That barely put even a small dent into Hillary’s dominating win in Burlington County, though.
Hillary won another strong victory in Camden County, losing only seven towns, mostly by small margins. Her largest wins were in the heavily-minority city of Camden, the town of Lawnside (the most heavily African-American town in New Jersey), and Chesilhurst, which is also mostly African-American. She won most of the larger townships by wide margins as well, including Pennsauken and Winslow (both of which have large African-American populations) and Cherry Hill and Voorhees (which are relatively wealthy). Her numbers were less gaudy in some of the smaller, mostly-white towns just south and southeast of Camden, but she still won most of them. Bernie narrowly won Collingswood, which has large counter-culture and LGBT populations. He also narrowly won Oaklyn and Audubon, which, despite their proximity to Camden, are almost entirely white and mostly middle-class. The socio-economic divide in election results can be seen well in the towns of Haddon and Haddonfield. Both are heavily white, but Haddon is mostly middle-class while Haddonfield is richer, and thus Haddonfield was much more supportive of Hillary than Haddon was.
Cape May County voted approximately 55-45 for Hillary. Her best areas were the very wealthy coastal towns of Avalon and Stone Harbor, both of which gave Hillary over 70 percent of the vote. She also did very well in the towns of Wildwood and Woodbine, both of which have large minority populations. The only two municipalities that she lost were the townships of Upper and Dennis, both of which are mostly rural and quite conservative. She performed approximately in line with the countywide results in the two largest municipalities, Middle and Lower, which are both mostly suburban.
Cumberland County gave Hillary a strong 64-36 victory. Her best areas were the city of Bridgeton and the neighboring township of Fairfield, both of which have large African-American populations. These are also usually the two most Democratic Cumberland County municipalities in general elections. She also performed quite well in Vineland, the largest city in the county, which has a large Hispanic population; and Millville, which is also quite diverse. Hillary only lost two municipalities – Shiloh, a small (population 516) town in the western part of the county, and Maurice River, a large, sparsely-populated township in the eastern part of the county. The other rural townships generally voted for Hillary by small margins. The results in Cumberland County generally had more to do with the racial demographics and urban vs. rural patterns of each municipality rather than socioeconomic status, since there aren’t really any rich areas in the county.
Essex County gave Hillary a crushing 73-27 victory in the primary. In fact, Essex was Hillary’s second-best county in the entire Northeast, just narrowly being edged by Prince George’s County, Maryland. Hillary’s dominance here was really not a surprise, as its demographics are tailor-made for her. Essex is about 40 percent African-American, and the cities and towns with large African-American populations predictably gave her huge margins. Hillary received 79 percent of the vote in Newark, 80 percent in East Orange (which is usually the most Democratic municipality in New Jersey in statewide elections), and a massive 84 percent in Irvington, which was her best municipality in the state. Hillary also performed very well in towns with large African-American minorities and lots of progressive Jews, such as South Orange, Maplewood, West Orange, and Montclair, receiving about 2/3 of the vote in those towns. Even in the western part of the county, which has almost no African-Americans (yes, Essex County is still quite racially segregated), the affluent voters there gave Hillary huge margins of victory, including over 70 percent in Livingston and Millburn (the former of which is where Chris Christie grew up), and over 60 percent in most of the remaining towns. The only municipalities where Hillary received less than 60 percent of the vote were Nutley and Caldwell, both of which are mostly white and generally less wealthy than the other mostly white areas of Essex.
Gloucester County, located just southwest of Camden County, gave Hillary a 56-44 victory. Her best towns were Glassboro, Clayton, and Paulsboro, all of which have large African-American populations, and the township of Woolwich, which is fast-growing and generally wealthier than the surrounding areas. The racial and socioeconomic patterns in the election results are on full display here, as several small, mostly white, working-class towns, such as Pitman, National Park, and Westville, gave Bernie sizeable margins of victory. Bernie also won the small, rural, heavily Republican township of South Harrison. The larger townships in Gloucester, including Deptford, West Deptford, Washington, and Monroe, all voted very similarly to each other and to the county as a whole, as differences between them in socioeconomic status and racial demographics largely canceled each other out.
Hudson County voted for Hillary by a 2-1 margin, and every one of its municipalities gave Hillary at least 55 percent of the vote. Her best municipalities were Union City and West New York, both of which have large Hispanic majorities. Guttenberg and North Bergen, which also have large Hispanic populations, went almost as strongly for her, as did Jersey City (which is extremely diverse) and Hoboken (which is mostly white but quite wealthy). The towns that gave Hillary under 60 percent are all mostly white and generally lower-middle-class, including Bayonne, Kearny, and Secaucus. However, Hillary still did better there than in towns with similar demographics elsewhere in the state, partly due to the strength of Hudson County’s political machine, which supported Hillary.
Hunterdon County, a reliably Republican area northwest of Trenton, voted for Hillary by a narrow 3-point margin. Its results saw an interesting east-west divide, where the towns in the eastern half of the county tended to vote for Hillary, and the western towns tended to vote for Bernie. The county is heavily white, so racial demographics did not play a role in this split. Instead, it has more to do with wealth, and urban vs. rural status. The eastern townships are generally outer suburbs, especially Raritan, Readington, and Clinton townships. These places are generally on the wealthier side. Tewksbury Township, north of Readington, is smaller, but is extremely rich, thus explaining why Hillary did so well there. By contrast, the western townships are generally rural and middle-class, a demographic that Bernie did reasonably well with in New Jersey (and particularly so in the northwestern part of the state).
Mercer County, home to New Jersey’s capital city of Trenton, voted for Hillary by a dominating 66-34 margin. Hillary’s votes were roughly evenly distributed throughout the county, with only two small, mostly white towns, Hightstown and Hopewell Borough, giving her less than 55 percent. Of the remaining municipalities, only Hamilton and Robbinsville gave Hillary less than 60 percent – Hamilton has a large working-class population, and Robbinsville is whiter than most of the other townships in Mercer, which have large African-American or Asian populations. It should come as no surprise that Hillary’s best municipality in Mercer was the city of Trenton, considering that approximately half of Trenton’s population is African-American and a majority of the remainder is Hispanic. One other municipality whose results are of note is Princeton, home to the well-known Ivy League university of the same name, which dominates the local economy. While Bernie performed well in many other university towns across the country, Hillary nonetheless received over 60 percent in Princeton. Why didn’t Bernie do well in Princeton? One possible reason is that the primary was held in June, when most colleges (including Princeton) are on summer break, so the students weren’t there to vote. Another explanation, which I have noticed in several other Northeastern states, is that Hillary tends to do better at private colleges (such as Princeton) than public universities. This pattern was clearly evident in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and it undoubtedly plays a role in Hillary’s unexpectedly strong performance in Princeton.
Middlesex County, a very diverse county that is now the second-largest in New Jersey, gave Hillary a 61-39 percent victory. The results from this county show that not only race and socioeconomic status, but also age demographics, can impact the election results. Hillary’s two best municipalities were Perth Amboy and Monroe Township, and those two places could not be more different. Perth Amboy is over 80 percent Hispanic (a demographic that went strongly for Hillary in New Jersey but was not so strong for her in some other states), and has a rather young population. Monroe, by contrast, is a large, mostly-white township that used to be mostly rural but over the last few decades has filled up with senior housing developments. Polls during the primary consistently showed that Hillary was much stronger with senior citizens than with millennials, and Monroe Township is one of the best examples of that pattern in action. It should not be a surprise that Sumter County, Florida (home to The Villages, the largest age-restricted community in the country) gave Hillary a much larger percentage of the vote than its racial demographics (mostly white) and socioeconomic states (largely middle-class) would have indicated. We will return to this theme in the discussion of Ocean County.
Three municipalities in Middlesex voted for Bernie – Milltown, Spotswood, and South Amboy. All are small, mostly-white, working-class communities. With the exception of Monroe, the percentage of the vote that the remaining townships gave to Hillary is largely a function of their percentage of white people, with the very diverse townships of South Brunswick and Piscataway voting heavily for Hillary, while Sayreville, which is whiter, only voted for Hillary narrowly. An extension of the public vs. private college pattern that I noted earlier is on display here, in the city of New Brunswick. New Brunswick is 50 percent Hispanic, 16 percent African-American, and 8 percent Asian, so one would expect it to vote heavily for Hillary. However, in actuality, it gave Hillary a smaller percentage than most of the surrounding townships, and many other areas with much larger white populations. This is most likely due to the presence of Rutgers University in the city, as the median age in New Brunswick is only 23 years.
Monmouth, a large, light-red county containing the northern part of the Jersey Shore, voted for Hillary by a margin of 58-42. The election results here mostly follow the patterns that have been mentioned previously, with a few interesting exceptions. Hillary, predictably, performed well in the rich townships of Marlboro, Manalapan, and Colts Neck, as well as minority-heavy Neptune Township and Long Branch. However, Hillary received less than 70 percent in Asbury Park, which is surprising considering that Asbury Park is a majority-African-American city with large Hispanic and LGBT populations. LGBT voters voted heavily for Hillary in the Massachusetts primary (she got 64 percent in Provincetown), but since then, the LGBT community seems to have been more evenly divided between the two candidates.
Some of the more Republican areas of Monmouth were more supportive toward Bernie. He won the two large, heavily Republican townships of Howell and Wall, and only narrowly lost the deep-red township of Middletown (the largest municipality in Monmouth). However, Hillary was able to hold her own in the richer Republican areas, including Holmdel, Colts Neck, and Rumson. This is a theme that we will see more of in Morris County. Bernie also, unsurprisingly, performed well in white working-class towns such as Union Beach.
Morris County, a large, rich, mostly Republican county in North Jersey, voted for Hillary by a 58-42 margin. Bernie won only five municipalities – the small towns of Netcong, Boonton, and Butler, and the western townships of Jefferson and Washington. One pattern that should be immediately visible is that the western row of townships (Jefferson, Roxbury, Mount Olive, and Washington) gave Hillary substantially less support than she received in most of the rest of the county. These townships are adjacent to Warren and Sussex counties, where Bernie did very well, so they may be an extension of that.
The dominant type of municipality in Morris is one that is rich, mostly white, and Republican. Interestingly, not all municipalities that fit that description voted the same way. These municipalities in the southern and southeastern areas of the county, including Chester, Mendham, Harding, and Chatham, all voted strongly for Hillary. In the central part of the county there was more of a mixed bag – Denville voted only narrowly for Hillary, but neighboring Mountain Lakes, a very rich community, voted over 70 percent for Hillary. In the northern portion of the county, Montville gave Hillary much more support than the neighboring, comparatively-rich town of Kinnelon, however Montville has a large Asian population that may have made the difference. Pequannock voted strongly for Hillary due to a senior housing facility in town that consistently has massive voter turnout. All of the towns that I mentioned in this paragraph consistently vote for Republicans.
Ocean County, containing a large portion of the Jersey Shore, is whiter and less rich than most other counties in New Jersey, so it should not come as a surprise that it gave Hillary a relatively narrow 9-point victory. The variations in the election results here have more to do with age and religion than with race or socioeconomic status. Hillary’s two best municipalities were Manchester and Lakewood, and they voted for her for entirely different reasons. Manchester is dominated by age-restricted communities (its median age is 65), and senior citizens have consistently gave Hillary more support than middle-aged people or millennials. Lakewood, by contrast, is dominated by Orthodox Haredi Jews. Voters in Haredi Jewish communities tend to vote as a bloc, and they are swing voters in general elections. However, in the 2016 primary, most communities of Haredi Jews, both in New York and New Jersey, voted for Hillary, possibly because they know her well from her time as a U.S. Senator from New York.
Berkeley (median age: 61) and Jackson (richer than the neighboring towns) also gave Hillary greater support than the county as a whole. Bernie won the large townships of Brick, Lacey, and Stafford by narrow margins; in fact, Brick, the 13th most populous municipality in New Jersey, was the largest municipality in the state to vote for Bernie. Toms River (pop. 90K), the county seat, voted for Hillary by a similar margin to the county as a whole. Some of the more rural townships in Ocean voted for Bernie, similar to what we saw in Burlington County.
Passaic County, an oddly-shaped county in North Jersey that contains Paterson, voted for Hillary by a huge 68-32 margin. Interestingly, Hillary only broke 70 percent in three municipalities – Paterson, Passaic, and Prospect Park. However, those three municipalities contained almost half of all the votes cast in Passaic. Paterson is the third-largest city in New Jersey, and it is heavily African-American and Hispanic, so Hillary’s 80 percent there should not come as a huge surprise. Further evidence that Hillary crushed it with Hispanics in New Jersey despite winning them by much smaller margins elsewhere comes from the city of Passaic, which is heavily Hispanic – Hillary won there by a 3-1 margin. Hillary also did very well in the city of Clifton, the second-largest city in the county. Her margins weren’t so gaudy in the other, more Republican suburban towns, but she still won all but three of them, and the three that she lost were all in the northwestern extension of the county. The only town that she lost by more than a narrow margin was West Milford, which borders Sussex County (where Hillary did quite poorly).
Salem County, the least populous and most rural county in New Jersey, voted for Hillary by a 13-point margin. Most of that margin came from three towns: Salem and Penns Grove (both of which have large African-American populations) and Carneys Point (which surrounds Penns Grove and which also has a substantial minority population). The mostly white, working-class towns of Pennsville and Pittsgrove narrowly voted for Hillary. The other towns in Salem are all very small and generally Republican, so they see very few voters in Democratic primaries, and thus even if their election results vary compared to the others, this can’t be considered to be indicative of anything.
Somerset County, a mostly suburban county west of Plainfield and New Brunswick, voted for Hillary by a 62-38 margin. Again, the appearance of the map can be deceiving, considering that over half of the municipalities in Somerset gave Hillary less than 60 percent, while none gave her more than 70 percent. However, Democratic politics in Somerset is dominated by Franklin Township, just west of New Brunswick, which is both the most populous and most Democratic municipality in Somerset, and Franklin gave Hillary 69 percent of the vote. The towns in Somerset where Hillary struggled are all either small or have low voter turnout – the number of voters in every town where Hillary received less than 55 percent combined is only about a third of the number of voters in Franklin Township. Franklin owes its support of Hillary to its diversity – it is one of the most diverse and well-integrated towns in the entire state. The other towns in Somerset where Hillary did well are all very rich, and despite their differences in partisanship (Bernardsville and Warren are Republican, while Montgomery leans Democratic), they all voted for Hillary at similar rates. Manville and Raritan, which voted for Bernie, are both mostly white and working-class (I’m sure you were shocked by that, right?).
Sussex County is the clear outlier in this election. This northernmost, outer-suburban-and-rural, heavily Republican county not only voted for Bernie, but did so by a wide margin – 57-43. In fact, Bernie did so well in Sussex that he won every single municipality, a feat that Hillary only matched in Essex, Hudson, and Mercer. While Sussex is heavily Republican, that doesn’t explain the support for Bernie – plenty of heavily Republican towns elsewhere in North Jersey voted for Hillary. It’s a relatively wealthy area (particularly the more suburban towns), so that doesn’t explain why it supported Bernie. Interestingly, there seems to be a pattern where the closer to the Pennsylvania border a municipality is located, the greater its support for Bernie. Racial demographics might play a role (the county is over 90 percent white), however they don’t explain the intra-county differences. One pattern that seems slightly noticeable is that the more rural townships seem to have supported Bernie at a generally higher rate than the suburban townships, however Vernon Township, the most populous municipality in Sussex, is a glaring exception to this. One more odd aspect of the results in Sussex is that there was an 11-point difference between the election results in Vernon and Sparta, which almost always vote very similarly, and have almost identical demographics.
Union County, containing Elizabeth and Plainfield, voted for Hillary by a massive 69-31 margin, second among New Jersey counties only to Essex. Union County does not require fancy explanations as to why each town voted the way it did – racial demographics and socioeconomic status pretty much explain it all. All three of Hillary’s best towns in Union – Hillside, Roselle, and Plainfield – have majority-black populations. Elizabeth is majority-Hispanic with a large black population. And Westfield, the only other town in Union to give over 70 percent of its vote to Hillary, is quite rich and has a large Jewish population. All of the other towns in Union County that gave Hillary over 60 percent either have large African-American populations (Union Township, Linden, and Rahway) or are wealthy (the rest of them). Every municipality in Union where Hillary received less than 60 percent of the vote is heavily white, and they are generally more middle-class. The only municipality in Union that Bernie won was the tiny township of Winfield, which was originally created to house shipyard workers during World War II and is still largely working-class. Thus, Union County is probably the best county in New Jersey to use to demonstrate the primacy of racial demographics and socioeconomic status in determining the political geography and town-by-town election results of the 2016 Democratic primary.
Warren County, the westernmost county in North Jersey, was the closest county in New Jersey in the 2016 primary – Bernie won it by less than two percent. The only pattern noticeable from these results is that Hillary won the Phillipsburg area (home to about 1/3 of the county’s voters) while Bernie won all but three of the municipalities outside that area. Warren County is heavily white and almost entirely rural, so those factors did not play a role in the differences between municipalities. Almost half of the municipalities in Warren saw fewer than 200 voters, so it’s likely that some of the variations in election results among the rural townships were due to nothing more than randomness.
Finally, I have one more map to present. This map looks at the turnout in the 2016 primary by comparing the number of voters from each municipality who voted in that primary to the number who voted for Obama in the 2012 presidential election. I use the latter as a proxy for the number of active Democratic voters in each municipality.
To start off, I should state that there was no noticeable correlation between support for either Hillary or Bernie and higher turnout in the primary. Neither candidate was able to drive turnout among their supporters across the state any more than the other candidate was. I won’t be able to discuss every single pattern on this map, but I will mention a few.
First, turnout in the four southernmost counties (Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May) was almost uniformly very low. Turnout was very low in cities, suburbs, and rural areas, and in rich towns, middle-class towns, and poorer towns.
Another noticeable pattern is that the inner suburbs of Camden, particularly those in Camden County, had very high turnout. This is true in both the Hillary-supporting and Bernie-supporting towns in that area, as well as in both middle-class and upper-class towns. I suspect that one cause of the high turnout may have been the Congressional primary in NJ-01; those inner suburbs were the strongest area of support for Alex Law, Donald Norcross’ challenger. Law came close to Norcross in most of those suburban towns, and won Collingswood (he was blown out everywhere else).
Another municipality with strong turnout was Monroe Township in Middlesex County, which as you may remember, has lots of senior housing communities. Manchester Township, Ocean County, another place with lots of senior communities, also stands out on the map as an island of high turnout surrounded by townships with much lower turnout.
The divide in Morris County between rich Republican towns in the southern and northern parts of the county is visible here as well, with the southern Morris towns having mostly strong turnout while the northern Morris towns seeing only average turnout.
Turnout in the suburbs of Essex County was quite strong, especially among the racially diverse, heavily Democratic inner suburbs of Newark such as Maplewood, South Orange, West Orange, Montclair, and Bloomfield. In a similar vein, the racially-diverse Bergen County towns of Teaneck and Englewood also saw excellent turnout.
Finally, the handiwork of the Hudson County Democratic machine is clearly visible. Hudson was the only county to see every municipality have above-average turnout, and in fact none were even close to average. The machine was very efficient at getting out the vote for Hillary (who, remember, won every municipality in Hudson County).
This is my last article about the 2016 Democratic primary. My next article will dive deeply into the results of the September 13, 2016 New Hampshire Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries.