Economics of Trumpland

Policy is directly impacted by elections—not just in who is sent to the White House, Congress, Statehouse, or City Hall. Elections provide insight into what policy makers need to address. The 2016 President Election provides substantial insight into the fact that two economic world’s exist—the have and the have nots. Donald Trump illustrated that he could tap into the frustrations of Republican, Independent and Democratic voters from communities that both Republicans and Democrats have taken for granted and, fortunately for Donald Trump, Midwest Industrial states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin put him over the top on the backs of the “have not” communities.

“Trumpland” is communities left behind as the Industrial Revolution fads into the Information Age. Trumpland in Ohio can found in the 43 counties that provided a 25% or higher vote margin for Donald Trump over the 2012 campaign of Republican Mitt Romney. In the 2012 election, these 43 Ohio Counties gave Romney an average margin of victory of 11%. In 2016, Trump won these same counties by an average margin of 42%. This is an unprecedented shift to the Republicans and potentially provides a transformation that could eliminate the New Deal Coalition that Democrats have counted on since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Trumpland was born through the economic chaos of industrial decline. The common strand most of these 43 Ohio counties have is that they are primarily rural but many of these communities once had a thriving industrial base that is for the most part missing. As the chart above illustrates, the manufacturing jobs that have declined nationally by 5% since 2001 have disappeared in the counties that gave Trump the largest margin of victory compared to Romney. In fact, Monroe County, Ohio gave Trump its largest margin of victory relative to Romney has literally moved from having almost 60% of its jobs in manufacturing and now has less than 2%.

Since 2010, Trumpland’s population declined at an average of 1.77%, with the largest population declines coming in the Southeastern and Northwestern portion of the State. In addition, the median household income in these areas stagnated at an average of $41,107 and the poverty level rose to an average of 13.9%, which is higher than that of the United States. More troubling, Ohio’s Trumpland lags substantially in the number of college graduates which makes the attraction of technology and white collar advanced service jobs nearly impossible as they lack the workforce for these high wage industries.

A review of the Ohio counties in which Trump underperformed Romney also illustrates how regions with a strong economic performance in the post-industrial age also did not respond to Trump’s call for votes. Delaware County underperformed for Trump more than any other Ohio county compared to Romney’s 2012 performance. Trump gained 7% less than Romney in the growing Central Ohio ex-ubran Delaware County. Trumpland didn’t reach Delaware County because the voters in this area are enjoying substantial economic success. Delaware County has a rapidly growing population as well as a poverty level of 3.1%. As Delaware County became more prosperous it began to attract highly educated people from declining population centers, which contributed to nearly one third of its population having a bachelor’s degree. Prosperous Delaware County was not inspired by the Trump narrative. While Trump still won the county, it was at a much lower margin than areas– many of which have not been considered Republican in the past.

The economics of Trumpland is clear. These former industrial regions are increasingly depressed economically and are continually losing population. The people in these areas generally grew up with the idea that the factories and industry that created an economic boom would always be there to provide jobs and a steady income. As these companies began to ship the jobs overseas and technology increased productivity and reduced manufacturing jobs, this way of life began to disappear in front of their eyes. Trump tapped into this frustration and rallied the people with the notion of reshoring factory jobs and restoring the traditional Rust Belt way of life, which in turn propelled him to the presidency.