2012 Election County-By-County

In what now seems to be a quadrennial ritual, I’ve seen a version of this map, which I happened to obtain from USA Today, floating around Facebook and Twitter since yesterday morning:



What it shows, of course, is the Electoral breakdown at the county level and, as in previous years, appears to show a far “redder” nation that election results would indicate. There’s a similar map for the 2008 election:

And, James Joyner’s post-election post in 2008 has similar maps from 2000 and 2004.

The map is, of course, largely meaningless. Vast stretches of the country, especially in the West, are indeed red, but they represent parts of the country with lots of open land, some of dedicated to either Federal Parks or military bases, and very few people. A far more accurate representation would be this map from Mark Newman which adjusts the size of the states based on their relative population:

As in the past, Republicans do well in red states with lots of land, but elections are won and lost where people actually live even under the Electoral College.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. An estimated 13 million fewer people voted this year than in 2008, and tens of millions of people who could have voted did not. I’d like to see those non-voters relative weights calculated into the last heat map somehow, too. Were there relatively more non-voters in the blue or in the red densities? I think that answer would help reveal the actual depth of Romney’s defeat.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    The 3-D map broken down by county is the best graphic to use to review the election. Count the number of counties where the Democrats won by more than 100K and then count the number of counties where the Republicans won by more than 100K.

    When the Democrats win a county, they usually win by a huge margin. Places like Cook county gave President Obama a net million votes (approximately) . the idea that the republicans can overcome the dominant position that the Democrats have in the urban cores is laughable.

  3. @superdestroyer:

    Which is pretty much what I said here.

    The Washington Post has a breakdown of break to Obama or Romney by age, compared to 2008. They say that only one age group broke more to Obama this year than then, ages 30-44. Every other age group, including youth, broke right.

    In fact, this is a very confusing chart because overwhelmingly, the electorate this year broke right in almost all categories, including ideology, marital status and even some ethnicities.

    And Obama was still elected despite garnering something like 8 million fewer votes than in 2008. (IIRC, this makes him the first incumbent ever to be relected to a second term with fewer votes than his first term.)

    The conclusion is obvious: not enough voters defected to put Romney over the top. That means, I think, that Romney was defeated more by people who didn’t vote at all than by those who voted for Obama. That’s why I think a heat map that somehow displays relative weights of nonvoters in red or blue areas would be a useful analysis.

  4. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I would love to see a county by county version of Mark Newman’s map. Texas – for example – outside of the border region (i.e. majority Hispanic, heavily Democratic) has exactly five counties that went for Obama. But four of those five are Harris (Houston), Dallas (Dallas), Travis (Austin), and Bexar (San Antoinio), housing the four largest cities in the state.

  5. Cindy K says:

    Thanks for this work. It’s exactly what I wanted to find and saves me digging it up. Will be linking it all soon.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It just dawned on me that I’ve never lived in a red county. For Pete’s sake not only was I born in a blue county I’ve never even temporarily resided in anything other than a blue county. And I wasn’t exactly born yesterday. Gulp. You would think by now I would have gone crazy. Hmm.

    In any event, those county maps indeed are electorally meaningless but they do nevertheless say a lot about the demographics of our politics. People who work hard with their hands vote Republican. People with soft hands who work in cubicles vote Democrat. People who live independently vote Republican. People who live dependently overwhelmingly vote Democrat. That’s really not coincidental.

  7. PJ says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    I would love to see a county by county version of Mark Newman’s map.

    You’re not the only one wanting to see that, and according to Mark Newman’s site:

    (Thanks for all the emails. New county-by-county maps are on the way soon.)

  8. PJ says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:
    And until they are added, here’s a link for them for the 2008 election and the 2004 election.

  9. Janis Gore says:

    I’m looking at the south, and noting the concentration of blue along the Mississippi, then at that curve across Alabama and Georgia, then up through the Carolinas.

    Does that curve correspond to an interstate highway? And why so many blue counties and parishes along the river?

  10. Fiona says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    The Washington Post charts are interesting but if you drill down a little deeper into the state charts, the results aren’t quite as clear cut. In North Carolina, for instance, men broke more for Obama this year than in 2008. There are similar discrepancies from the national results in all of the state charts posted.

    As for voter turnout, it was indeed less this year than 2008. But 2008 was a record year for turnout both in terms of sheer numbers and the percentage of eligible voters who actually voted (63%). Obama, in 2008, received more votes than any previous presidential victor. The last time turnout was as high as 63% was 1960. In short, 2008 was an unusual year, not likely to be repeated anytime soon. The turnout for this year was more typical.

  11. Janis Gore says:

    The floods of last year (or was it the one before?) might account for the river counties. The Feds were helpful then.

  12. goethean says:

    @Janis Gore: The cotton belt -> lots of slaves -> lots of blacks

  13. ratufa says:
  14. James Joyner says:

    @Janis Gore: @goethean: @ratufa: Yup. It’s commonly referred to as the “Black Belt.” Both because of the richness of the soil and because of the large African American population.

  15. Just Me says:

    What I find interesting is that as more people become more urban the GOP has to find ways to appeal to them to win-especially on a national level.

    The democrats can almost but not quite write off every red county and not bother. They can almost-tailor their plank to the urban voter.

    I am not sure if this is a good thing.

  16. Janis Gore says:

    The streak through MS and AL sill looks like a major artery to me. Pops. frequently cluster near highways.

  17. Janis Gore says:

    Warrren County (Vicksburg) was red last time, I think. That could be GOTV.

  18. Anderson says:

    You can still see the old cotton belt.

  19. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Janis Gore: It might look like it, but it isn’t. It is the Cotton Belt. If you overlay a map of the interstate highway system, it doesn’t line up.

  20. superdestroyer says:

    The blue counties in the deep south and Texas are the counties that are majority minority counties. Even when the Repulbicans totally dominate in states like Texas or Alabama , blacks and Hispanics stay home in the Democratic Party.

    If the Republicans in Texas cannot appeal to Hispanics, there is no way that the Repulbicans at the national level. When Hispanics has rather be totally out of power rather than participate in the dominant party, it should be obvious that Hispanics are very liberal and want a liberal, big spending, high level government.

  21. Janis Gore says:

    @superdestroyer: Hon, you are a broken record.

  22. JohnMcC says:

    @Janis Gore: Ms Gore, you are observing the distribution of black-majority counties in these two states. In the Mississippi delta and the so-called “black belt” (named for the color of the SOIL) the traditional plantation economy did not need the same infrastructure of towns and highways so they were not built. Not having been built back then, they are not there now. What is there is mostly the descendents of the earlier inhabitants. If you over-lay a road map onto the map of Alabama you’ll discover that the center of that ‘black-belt’ arc is a tiny town with a famous name: Selma.

  23. Janis Gore says:

    Well, I’ll take y’alls word for it.

  24. Janis Gore says:

    I’m aware of the Black Belt and such, I’ve just not seen it mapped this way before.

  25. superdestroyer says:

    @Janis Gore:

    At least I knew about the black belt in the deep south. It is really hard to take anyone seriously in a discussion of politics when they refuse to understand demographics, populations, trends, and how politics works.

    The Repulbicans have been all over the media discussing ways to attract Hispanics. Yet, none of them want to discuss the current demographic trends in the U.S. and what the demographic trends of the future war. Think of all of the pundits who keep saying that Hispanics can become conservatives without understanding that more than 50% of Hispanic children are born to single mothers.

  26. Janis Gore says:

    @superdestroyer: I’ve told you more than once not to talk down to me, snotwad.

  27. Janis Gore says:

    @superdestroyer: Go give some money to the Salvation Army, or something.

  28. Janis Gore says:

    The Black Belt proper extends west of that county in LA and toward Dallas. It peters off as it goes further west . My parents came from that stretch of the Black Belt. My Mama picked cotton in Gunter, TX, snotwad.

  29. Janis Gore says:

    And they grow cotton on the land that starts at the end of my street block. Or corn. Or soybeans.

  30. Janis Gore says:

    But our parish is red on that map. Adams County across the river is blue.

  31. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: What about silly-ass hedge fund traders and private equity raiders?

    White males with delusions of power over everyone else vote Republican. There. That seems to cover all bases.

  32. Janis Gore says:

    In LA, I-20 extends through the upper Black Belt. Huey Long had it designed that way, to serve the farmers who cropped on that land.

  33. Janis Gore says:

    His son, Senator Russell B. would have been the one to implement his plans.

  34. Janis Gore says:

    That red county up there at the top of MS is Tate County, a Memphis suburb. I think the wide stretch of blue up the border of MS tracks I-55.

    Jackson is up that way, and I have been to Jackson more times than I care to remember. My brother was hospitalized there.

  35. Janis Gore says:

    Or 61 North.

  36. Janis Gore says:

    See if you can overlay HWY 84 across MS-AL.

  37. Janis Gore says:

    You don’t see many blue areas in LA because any black in her/his right mind and with any gumption split for Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Jackson or the north a long time ago.

  38. Janis Gore says:

    Looks like that’s 85 coming east out of Mongomery AL, and curving into GA.

  39. PJ says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:
    And the 2012 page has now been updated with county by county images.

  40. bill says:

    basically you just have to buy out 10 major metropolitan areas and you win. nothing new.

  41. Janis Gore says:

    @bill: That’s pretty damn snotty. Go give some money to the Mennonite Services.

  42. Janis Gore says:

    In olden days, I’d suppose those were called farm-to market roads.

  43. An Interested Party says:

    In any event, those county maps indeed are electorally meaningless but they do nevertheless say a lot about the demographics of our politics. People who work hard with their hands vote Republican. People with soft hands who work in cubicles vote Democrat. People who live independently vote Republican. People who live dependently overwhelmingly vote Democrat. That’s really not coincidental.

    Of all of the extreme bullshit you have posted here, this load smells the worst…if you want to talk about people who work hard with their hands, look at all the auto workers who voted for the Democrat…if you want to talk about people with soft hands, look at all the hedge fund managers who voted for the Republican…as for independence and dependence, look at all the old white people dependent on their Social Security checks and Medicare who voted for the Republican…you really need to work on your fantasies, because if we want to make crass generalizations and talk about takers and moochers, we need look no further than at Republican dominated red states, as well as all the rich fatcats who feed at the government trough on a regular basis…

  44. bill says:

    @grumpy realist: there’s very few of them, just the nature of the business. in essence, it looks like people vote with their wallets for the most part. jfk asked the question before, and the answer died with him.

  45. bill says:

    @Janis Gore: reality bites whether you care or not!

  46. Janis Gore says:

    Sure do.

  47. Jc says:

    Time for the electoral college to be re-vamped, it has become an election of a few states in each election cycle and those “must win/swing states” are wrought with fraud! It has become the who can come up with the resonating TV ad. The country size has almost quadrupled since it’s beginning. It was set up to handle 13 not 50. There has got to be a better way. WHY should Ohio be the catalyst EVERY election cycle?

  48. loom says:

    Yes, everyone realizes the population differences. So the 3D map is silly. The point of the map is that the country is in the hands of a few highly populated urban areas. That is disturbing. You’re not going to get a high population density where the food is grown.

  49. Ben W says:

    Amen thank you. Feed the rest of the nation we do. Not some union feeder. Hard workin manufacturers. lol You people don’t have a clue how hard union workers don’t work.

  50. John W says:

    @Janis Gore:

    look at the racial makeup of Mississippi River counties. therein lies the story.

  51. Ron says:

    Nice work on this site.

    On a related topic, how about a big post and discussion about the fact that more people voted for Democrats for the House of Representatives than for Republicans? The fact that gerrymandering turned this vote for the people’s house on its head is certainly worth attention, and yet I doubt most people even know it happened.

    And thanks for all of the sane conservative thought, coming from a liberal who appreciates your ideas.

  52. Red/Blue says:

    This map proves that we are not a country of blue states vs red states…we are a country of red states and a few blue cities.

  53. Janis Gore says:

    What’s proven by the maps, in my vision, is that we are an organic whole, bound together by needs and ties that can’t be broken. That’s what America looks like.

  54. bloxy says:

    I have lived in rural pa for most of my life. I spent some years in Washington DC and the New England States. I see alot of people that work extremely hard and want to pave their future with the rewards that come of that work. In the rural areas I think the people that are less fortunate tend to vote blue because their family always has and also as a means to get back at the percieved wealthy business owners. In the metro areas the less fortunate sway blue for the same reasons and they also see a blue government giving them more of what they want with less work. The educated wealthy of the cities feel its cool and correct to vote blue because democrates are perceived as better for the society long term. In rural America the red vote is strong because you have educated people willing to pick up a shovel and do the hard work because it has to be done. In the cities you call a landscaper or a lawn care company. We need to have educated people but we also need to teach our youth that its ok to get your hands dirty and feel the soreness of a blister. We are moving closer to a population of soft hands. We need to get the people back together we all want the same things in life. We need to push back against a government that is suppressing growth of the American spirit. A government that is artificially propping up the dreams of our youth. A government cant give reality to dreams. Push back before its to late.

  55. Clifton says:

    Just a minor detail…

    On the final count for Clallam County, WA (the most extreme NW point in the lower 48), Obama overtook Romney to win by 135 votes.

    And Bloxy – Please spare us your pathetic bromides about the virtues of rural America. I could go on for a very long time how reality (as measured by actual statistics) fails to support your stereotypes. I don’t have the time. Suffice it say that rural America is not the cradle of virtue that people like you portray it to be and that rural America does more than its share of sucking off the government teet.