Maps: How Oregon counties voted in 1988-2016 presidential elections

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Will Oregon's voting history give insight to the state's 2020 presidential election results?

Mapped data show whether voters in Oregon counties favored Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, in the 2016 presidential election. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County has voted primarily in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate for the last few decades, but the same can’t be said for most other counties in the state. 

Data from presidential elections dating back to 1988 show Multnomah, Lane, Lincoln, Benton, and Hood River counties have remained steadfastly blue, while the rest have bounced back and forth.

When mapped, these data yield some surprising results. Some counties that usually vote in favor of the Republican candidate have had years where the majority of votes went the other way. 

For example, in 1996, Bill Clinton bested Republican Bob Dole by 45 votes in Morrow County and 85 votes in Gilliam County. 

Tap or hover over the counties below to see voting results from the presidential election:

Joseph Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon, said the Democratic and Republican parties of the 1990s were much different than the parties we see today. He said in 1996, Clinton appealed to many working- and middle-class voters, more so than Bob Dole.

“Bill Clinton was able to win two elections in part by absorbing conservative political stances or economic stances and repackaging them as Democratic stances,” Lowndes said.

This could partly explain the outcome of the 1996 election in Morrow and Gilliam counties.

Since 1988, the majority of Oregon counties have voted in favor of the Republican presidential candidate. However, in all those elections, the majority of the votes in the state are for the Democratic candidate. This can be attributed to voters in more densely-populated counties like Multnomah and Lane. 

Lowndes says the support for Democratic candidates may have grown in urban areas in the ’90s as the Republican party became more “culturally conservative.”

“The party in the ‘90s went on the attack, very seriously, against abortion, against gay rights, and against, kind of like, the idea of government in general,” Lowndes explained.

The party used to represent more wealthy liberals, or middle-class liberals from urban areas, Lowndes said, but as the party moved rightward, it lost a lot of its moderate Republican voters.

“Once moderate Republicans are driven out of the party… then these people have nowhere to go, except for the Democratic party, which for the most part, represented for those years, not really a progressive or left agenda, but kind of a centrist agenda,” Lowndes said

Since Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, Oregon has seen an upward trend of more counties voting in favor of the Republican candidates. In 2008, 23 of Oregon’s 36 counties voted in favor of John McCain. In 2012, 26 counties voted in favor of Mitt Romney, and in 2016, 28 counties voted in favor of Donald Trump. 

One thing that’s noticeable in mapping data from these elections is that some counties on the coast, which used to vote in favor of the Democratic candidate, have recently voted in favor of the Republican. Lowndes said this could partly be attributed to an appeal Trump made when he campaigned in Eugene in 2016. At the event, Trump discussed pulp mill closures throughout the state.

“It’s not something Trump knew anything about or cared anything about,” Lowndes said, “but his point was that free trade agreements had really hurt Oregon workers and that NAFTA had really hurt the Timber industry and these jobs have been moved overseas and that, I think mattered to people who came to Eugene from outside of Eugene.”

Lowndes said it’s hard to say if Oregon’s coastal counties will continue to favor Trump in the 2020 election. He said there are several factors to consider, like what Democrats have to offer working-class people, and the fact that more Californians have been moving to the Oregon coast.

So, will this trend continue? Will more Oregon counties continue to go red in the future?

Lowndes says he has no idea, but future trends could weigh heavily on the 2020 election and whether Trump wins another term. Without Trump at the helm, Republicans will have more room to reconfigure what they stand for. 

“If the Republicans recast themselves as more of a center-right party, they’ve got big opportunities in Oregon,” Lowndes said.

He said Democrats are also in the middle of a transition period. Joe Biden could be the last “old guard” Democrat to run for president. The party will soon have to decide if it’s open to the progressive forces pushing it leftward.

Overall, Lowndes says maps showing which presidential candidates voters in Oregon counties prefer could vary drastically over the next four, eight, or 12 years. The two political parties are at a dynamic point and it will come down to how they each appeal to voters in years to come.

See maps of presidential election results by Oregon county from 1988-2016 below:

Tap or hover over the counties below to see voting results from the presidential election:

1988

1992:

1996:

2000:

2004:

2008:

2012:

2016:

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