The Changing Democratic Base from 1994 to 2012

Continuing our recent look at small counties, rural voters and the Democratic vote, I thought it might be instructive to look at a comparison between two Democratic victories. The Democrats last won a Governor’s race in 1994 which was before the current era of Democratic dominance of Presidential elections in the state began (The Democrats have basically won 4 of the last 5 Presidential elections in the state, the 2000 election being unquestionably won by Al Gore if you consider voter intent). Prior to Bill Clinton’s 1996 victory in the state, Florida was solidly Republican in Presidential elections. In fact in the 1980’s Florida was the most Republican state in the southeast. By 2000 it was the most Democratic state in the region. In 2008 and 2012 it was the second most Democratic state in the region behind Virginia.

With 2014 being an off-year election where Democrats are looking to win the Governorship for the first time in two decades, looking back at 1994 might not be as irrelevant as many think. But it is important to contrast that to the 2012 results and realize outside of Broward County, the Democrats electoral coalition has shifted dramatically. But Democrats must  be concerned about a potential failure  to recreate the 2008/2012 turnout in urban counties again for 2014.  Thus it might be wise to start thinking about other parts of state and at the very least cutting Republican margins of victory in several counties.

In 1994, Lawton Chiles won reelection by just over 70,000 votes statewide. In 2012, President Obama carried Florida in his reelection by almost the same exact raw vote margin. However, the consistencies between the vote numbers stop there. Chiles won by combining the traditional Democratic counties of Leon, Alachua and Volusia, with close victories in a large number of rural north Florida counties and runaway wins in Broward and Palm Beach counties. This was the traditional Democratic road map to victory from 1970 until 1996. Chiles was beaten along the I-4 corridor even in his home county of Polk, carrying just Pinellas (by an extremely narrow margin) and Volusia. The Governor was beaten throughout the traditional Republican “horseshoe” which at the time was anchored by the Orlando area. Chiles also in 1994 became the first person to win the Governorship without winning Hillsborough County in modern Florida history (Rick Scott would become the second in 2010).

In 2012, President Obama won reelection and carried the state because of his performance in urban areas. He was routed throughout the rural areas of north Florida, and in the traditionally Republican areas of southwest Florida. Shockingly, Obama lost Voluisa County, long one of the most reliable Democratic counties in the state, yet still prevailed. As the below chart indicates, the President’s gains in the Orlando Metropolitan Area were most significant when compared to the Chiles result in 1994, and reinforces the shifting demographics and growing urban/rural split in the state. It is also worth noting that even though the President did not carry Duval County, he ran substantially better there than Chiles did. Duval County/Jacksonville throughout the 1980s and 1990s was electorally polarized by race with very few white voters continuing to support Democrats at the top of the ticket, and virtually no black voters supporting the GOP . Jacksonville today has become a more cosmopolitan city and that has been reflected by the recent upsurge in support for top of the ticket Democrats and the election of Mayor Alvin Brown.  Additionally, Broward County which accounted for three times Chiles margin of victory in 1994 has grown even more Democratic which is contrary to the conventional wisdom in the 1990s which held that when Jewish condo leaders died off, Broward would gradually shift towards the Republicans. Miami-Dade is also rapidly moving towards Broward like levels in Democratic performance, as indicated by Obama’s 2012 performance.

The entire comparison chart of county percentages can be found below.

County Chiles Bush Obama Romney D % swing County Size
Alachua 61 39 59 41 -2 Medium
Baker 31 69 20 80 -11 Small
Bay 44 56 28 72 -16 Medium
Bradford 37 63 29 71 -8 Small
Brevard 46 54 44 56 -2 Large
Broward 65 35 68 32 3 Metro
Calhoun 51 49 28 72 -23 Small
Charlotte 46 54 42 58 -4 Medium
Citrus 49 51 39 61 -10 Medium
Clay 29 71 27 73 -2 Medium
Collier 39 61 35 65 -4 Medium
Columbia 42 58 31 69 -11 Small
Desoto 46 54 43 57 -3 Small
Dixie 50 50 26 74 -24 Small
Duval 41 59 49 51 8 Metro
Escambia 42 58 39 61 -3 Medium
Flagler 53 47 47 53 -6 Medium
Franklin 66 34 34 66 -32 Small
Gadsden 69 31 70 30 1 Small
Gilchrist 47 53 25 75 -22 Small
Glades 51 49 40 60 -11 Small
Gulf 57 43 29 71 -28 Small
Hamilton 51 49 41 59 -10 Small
Hardee 50 50 35 65 -15 Small
Hendry 44 56 47 53 3 Small
Hernando 51 49 46 54 -5 Medium
Highlands 46 54 39 61 -7 Medium
Hillsborough 49 51 54 46 5 Metro
Holmes 42 58 15 85 -27 Small
Indian River 44 56 39 61 -5 Medium
Jackson 47 53 35 65 -12 Small
Jefferson 62 38 51 49 -11 Small
Lafayette 45 55 21 79 -24 Small
Lake 49 51 41 59 -8 Medium
Lee 44 56 41 59 -3 Large
Leon 63 37 62 38 -1 Medium
Levy 51 49 34 66 -17 Small
Liberty 48 52 29 71 -19 Small
Madison 54 46 49 51 -5 Small
Manatee 46 54 44 56 -2 Medium
Marion 44 56 42 58 -2 Medium
Martin 45 55 39 61 -6 Medium
Miami-Dade 52 48 62 38 10 Metro
Monroe 57 43 51 49 -6 Small
Nassau 35 65 25 75 -10 Small
Okaloosa 34 66 26 74 -8 Medium
Okeechobee 49 51 40 60 -9 Small
Orange 48 52 59 41 11 Metro
Osceola 45 55 63 37 18 Medium
Palm Beach 62 38 59 41 -3 Metro
Pasco 52 48 47 53 -5 Large
Pinellas 51 49 53 47 2 Metro
Polk 47 53 47 53 0 Large
Putnam 48 52 38 62 -10 Small
Santa Rosa 37 63 23 77 -14 Medium
Sarasota 47 53 47 53 0 Medium
Seminole 43 57 47 53 4 Medium
St. Johns 37 63 31 69 -6 Medium
St. Lucie 51 49 54 46 3 Medium
Sumter 51 49 32 68 -19 Medium
Suwannee 43 57 27 73 -16 Small
Taylor 49 51 30 70 -19 Small
Union 29 71 25 75 -4 Small
Volusia 53 47 49 51 -4 Large
Wakulla 60 40 36 64 -24 Small
Walton 44 56 24 76 -20 Small
Washington 48 52 26 74 -22 Small

2 comments

  1. If additional analysis had occurred down to the Congressional District area, the contrasts in the demographics would have been even more striking Indian River County was represented in the U. S. House of Representatives by now Senator Nelson. He was replaced by Dave Weldon and then by Bill “Birther” Posey. This phenomena has occurred as more viewers of the comedy channel known as Fox News have moved into the Easten coast of Florida. There is, a demographic switch with the election of Patrick Murphy in the last election. In the upcoming election Gabriel Rothblatt will be joining his few Democrats. This is occurring because the Tea Party agenda has decreased in favorability.

    Like

  2. demodaysi · · Reply

    These stats should be cliff notes for democratic leadership in Florida. It shows where the work needs to be done, but is being ignored.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: