“All politics is local,” is a quote attributed to famous Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. We can see this proven since 2016 in a big way, and to estimate 2020 presidential election predictions, we’ll look at what’s happening locally. In towns and distinct neighborhoods.
Today we’ll focus on two bellwether neighborhoods and one bellweather community of voters in New York City and how they signal who wil be the next president.
The neighborhoods are the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the borough of Staten Island, and the community is black voters across New York City.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan is like a little town, in that people know each other and usually exhibit the near monolithic voting pattern of liberal Democrats. Their shock in 2016 and ongoing disgust since then translates to outrage and shaming of those having elected and supporting Trump.
We’ll also focus on black voters in New York City and on voters on the NYC borough of Staten Island.
My contention is that liberal Democrats on the Upper West Side and many black voters in New York City will see increased numbers voting for Trump this fall. This means that New York could flip from a blue state to red, making Trump the first Republican presdient to do so since in 1984 Reagan. I further contend that Staten Island, the only borough of the five that was clearly red in 2016, and which is home to many families associated with first responders, will be an indicator of the country’s increased desire for law and order in the face of rioting and uncertainty.
What did voting look like in 2016?
This interactive map published by The New York Times allows the user to hover over an election precinct and see which 2016 presidential candidates got the highest percentage of voters.
There are two groups nationally that will be crucial for either Biden or Trump: liberal democrats and independents, and African-Americans. Biden must win a large percentage of the black vote, and if there is not overwhelming turnout among liberal Democrats and Independents, it will be difficult for him to win.
Overlapping with these groups and also distinct unto themselves are what are referred to as “law-and-order” (LAO) voters. This group is represented by the microcosm of Staten Island (and also Suffolk County on Long Island).
All will be detailed below.
New York State and New York City: The Data
When it comes to predicting the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Biden may have a significantly lower percentage of liberal Democrats and, to be more specific, educated white Democrats in large cities, which typically the states with the largest number of electoral votes: California, Texas and New York.
- California voted 62% Clinton and 32% Trump
- Texas voted 52% Trump and 43% Clinton
- New York voted 60% Clinton and 37% Trump
(source: NYT // Totals do not equal 100 due to rounding and third-party candidates not included.)
It’s going to be hard to flip California and Texas; I believe both states will double down support of their 2016 choices for reasons detailed below that make New York State and New York City unique and influential for predicting the 2020 presidential election.
New York City (81% Clinton and 13% Trump) has a few election precincts that may be bellwethers due to how heavily skewed they are, and not only is New York City a :
- New York City voted 81% Clinton and 13% Trump
- Of all enrolled voters in New York State, 41% live within New York City and 59% are outside of New York City.
- East Flatbush is a Brooklyn neighborhood that is nearly monolithic in its black vote for the Democrat candidate: voted 96% Clinton and 2% Trump.
- The Upper West Side is a Manhattan neighborhood that is largely white and votes heavily Democrat: 89% for Clinton, 8% for Trump in 2016.
- The borough of Staten Island voted 57% for Trump and 42% for Clinton.
Here’s how New York State could flip from blue to red based on new or increased percentages of Trump voters among liberal Democrats and blacks, and why the borough of Staten Island may be a bellwether for the rest of the country.
Why New York City will flip: Black and liberal Democrat voters, and Staten Island
There are three groups that are not only significant in numbers themselves but also indicators of what’s happening in the country at large.
Here’s why I think these three groups are microcosms of the country as a whole.
Black voters in New York City
President Obama, to his credit, lowered unemployment rates. President Trump, however, continued to lower unemployment to a 40-year low of 3.5% (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), prior to the impact of COVID-19.
This pre-COVID lower unemployment disproportionately helped blacks, as well as other groups.
The civil unrest caused by Black Lives Matter, Antifa and any others related to them have both hurt the cause of BLM (from a movement that crystallized support after George Floyd’s death to a source of animosity, even hatred and fear) and also increased what was already a longstanding complaint within the black community: “When are cops going to protect our communities and not just white neighborhoods?” Stronger police presence means less black-on-black crime which means that the average black family in urban areas benefits.
School choice — which Democrats are typically against but Trump is in favor of — also benefits many poorer black families living in large cities and who want to send their kids to schools that have greater resources than those merely closest to them.
The Robin Hood Foundation, perhaps the largest fundraising organization in NYC — founded by Paul Tudor Jones, sustained by the hedge fund sector and focused on poverty relief through education — has advanced quality education in the poorest black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Harlem, each with a significant concentration of black families. Trump knows that black parents are like every other parent: they want their kids to have a quality education, yet the teachers union is influential enough with Democrat officials (city, state, and federal) that school choice is often blocked.
Liberal Democrats on the Upper West Side
In late July, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio moved 237 homeless men into three Upper West Side hotels. This act alone may turn many liberal Democrats to Trump, a third-party candidate like Jo Jorgensen, or no vote whatever, on November 3.
(Voters were already disgusted with the mayor’s lack of leadership since he was elected in 2014, and they were suspicious about the spending of nearly $900 million allocated to ThriveNYC (a mental health initiative) by city official Chirlane McCray, chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. McCray is Mayor De Blasio’s wife. McCray’s professional background is as a writer, editor and activist.)
Almost immediately following the arrival of these homeless men, among them many criminals, addicts, and a few convicted sex offenders, a Facebook group called “Upper West Siders for Safe Streets” appeared and quickly amassed 15,000+ members. For context, there are only 100,000 residents living on the Upper West Side. Fifteen percent may not seem meaningful, but when you factor in the elderly population who are not on Facebook and those who are but prefer not to be part of a political group (which this became), residents under the age of 21 who are on Facebook or who don’t care, these 15,000 citizens and their outrage become a significant indicator of the country’s mood at large.
The group found no voice through Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer nor through City Council member Helen Rosenthal, representing the Upper West Side and a candidate for borough president, each who returned the citizens’ outrage with maddening silence.
The page resounded with comments like, “I never thought I’d say this, but I might have to vote for a conservative this fall.” [Editor: we are limited to showing screenshots of the page due to its internal policies.]
This group of liberal Democrats share an interest in law and order in light of episodes like this one, where BLM protesters harassed elderly diners on the Upper West Side:
Voters on Staten Island
Staten Island voted 57% Trump in 2016 to Clinton’s 42%. Staten Island is home to many families associated with law enforcement and first responders like firefighters. (The other NY County with similar demographics is Suffolk County on Long Island, which voted 54% Trump in 2016.)
This is where it gets tricky: both Biden and Trump have claimed multiple endorsements from law enforcement. Both are correct.
Trump has received an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 355,000 members across the country. Biden has received endorsements from 190 law enforcement officials across America.
Yet New York City’s Police Benevolent Association endorsed Trump, the first time in 36 years that it has endorsed a presidential candidate, and a move that New York Magazine called a “chilling portent.” NY Mag sees this endorsement as worrisome: public support of police nationally, they claim as shown in Gallup polls, has been steadily dropping. Yet time and again, despite polling, even liberal media show man-in-the-street pleas for greater crackdowns on rioting and lawlessness.
But states are won through the popular vote, and groups like the Fraternal Order of Police or NYC Police Benevolent Association are more broadly representative both of their members and the nation at large than are individual “officials” like those endorsing Biden. The FOP press release can be found HERE, which points out that they endorsed Trump also in 2016, neither Obama or Romney in 2012, and candidates in both parties prior to that. While their endorsement is not correlated with the outcome each election, it is indicative of the mood of the country in 2020 more than any other in recent memory.
“But,” you ask, “aren’t other unions like teachers unions solidly Democrat and sticking with Biden?”
The answer is “Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.” We are talking about increased votes in New York State to flip it, and there won’t be a significant increase in voting by teachers union members versus LAO voters and also parents like those on the Upper West Side, who even are hugely in favor of public education rather than charter schools but now are concerned for their kids’ safety due to poor leadership by their Mayor.
Flipping New York State: The Math
Total votes cast in the 2016 by New York State voters were 7,721,453. (source: NYT)
- Clinton votes totaled 4,556,124.
- Trump votes totaled 2,819,534
- Third-party votes totaled 345,795
Trump would need a swing of 868,296 voters in New York State assuming three things: (1) there will be increased turnout among active and inactive voters, but that it is split between the two major candidates since this has been such a polarizing year; (2) third party candidates in 2020 win roughly the same percentage of votes as in 2016 (4.5% total); and (3) an overwhelming majority of Trump voters from 2016 stay with him in 2020.
Here’s how we get to the needed votes to flip New York State from blue to red, which would point to a win for Donald J. Trump.
I’m giving points to Trump for lowered unemployment and an all-time high stock market, initiatives for small businesses, and deflection of blame for rioting and crime to state and local leaders, many of whom are Democrats. In favor of support for Biden are the perceived mishandling of COVID by Trump and general hatred of the sitting president. On this latter point, Trump’s recent bout with and recovery from the virus may lower public fear of the disease and lessen their desire to vote for the candidate who says he would have handled it differently.
Therefore, this is a bit of a finger-in-the-wind estimate, but it’s one plausible path to victory for President Trump.
Net increases for Trump in 2020 over 2016:
- Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx voters total 1,839,601
- With a net 7% increase for Trump due primarily the black vote, this translates to 82,827 net votes for Trump.
- Manhattan has 643,942 voters.
- I estimate a 10% increase for Trump due to the mayor’s mishandling of the city and that effect on liberal Democrats and Independents, and also from the black and latino vote. This gives Trump 51,408 votes toward the needed 868,296.
- Staten Island voter change will only be 5% of 175,580, due to a solid GOP base, translating to 1,365 votes.