Friday, November 20, the Eau Claire Area’s monthly Eggs and Issues program featured a post-election analysis with Dr. Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll. Dr. Franklin’s analysis discussed the Wisconsin election results and described some of the changes that happened in this November’s election cycle. Most notably, the winner of the presidential elections flipped from President Trump winning in 2016 to Biden winning in 2020. Urban and more populated areas have been growing across the state and continue to grow bluer whereas the more rural parts of the state have become more red. At the Congressional and State Legislative levels little changed. The Congressional districts stayed the same and the Republicans in the State Senate now hold the largest majority they have had in decades. While a couple of seats shifted to the Democrats in the Milwaukee suburbs, the Republicans still hold the majority in the State Assembly.
According to Dr. Franklin, partisanship in the state is almost dead even with 30% being Republican and 29% being Democratic. When including Independents who lean and vote towards one party the divide becomes 45% Republican and 45% Democratic. This makes for a very even balance between parties which can be seen both in elections and public opinion polls.
In 2016, President Trump won Wisconsin by 0.77 percentage points and approximately 23,000 votes. This year Biden won the state by roughly 0.62 percentage points and about 21,000 votes. Pending the recounts going on in Dane and Milwaukee counties, this is a shift of about 1.4 percentage points. While these appear to be incredibly close margins, Dr. Franklin explained that this election was the fourth of the last six elections to have been decided by these margins. In 2004 the winner was determined by just under 13,000 votes and in 2000 less than 6,000 votes decided the winner. The elections of 2008 and 2012, on the other hand, saw President Obama win the state with 14 and 7 percent margins, respectively.
Breaking down the percent margin for president in 2020, Dr. Franklin explained that the eastern half of the state is generally red with the exception of Milwaukee and Menominee counties. The North also tends to vote red with Bayfield, Ashland, and Douglas counties typically voting blue. Dane County votes deep blue and La Crosse, Eau Claire, Portage, Iowa, Green, and Rock counties also voted blue. Sauk and Door counties were the only two counties in Wisconsin that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020.
Counties with a robust urban center are growing throughout the state and continue to vote blue. This includes Eau Claire which is a blue county surrounded by red. Taking a look at the wards within Eau Claire, Dr. Franklin noted that every ward with a substantial vote count went for Biden. All the other wards within the county, however, went for Trump except for Altoona. Even in red counties, villages and cities are typically less red than the surrounding rural areas.
According to Dr. Franklin, the change in percent margins from 2016 to 2020 are trends that have been going on for multiple elections. The trends are not unique to Trump, then, but rather represent patterns of geographic shifts in the state. Eau Claire County voted more for Biden than it had for Clinton in 2016. Green Bay and other Fox Valley counties that were light pink for the vote percentage map are now more blue. This shift shows that counties with cities are now voting increasingly Democratic. The margins were big enough for Baldwin to win all of the counties in 2018 and although Evers did not win all the counties, he did win all the cities. Dane and Milwaukee counties are the only counties that moved to be even more blue.
At the Congressional and State Legislative levels changes are minimal. Wisconsin has reliably Democratic and Republican districts for Congress with the 8th District around Green Bay being the only district to occasionally flip from Republican to Democrat. The Republicans in the State Senate now hold the largest majority they have had in decades. While two seats shifted to the Democrats in Milwaukee suburbs, the Republicans still hold the majority in the State Assembly.
Overall, the 2020 election was an incredibly close race, but the geographic shift has led to critical changes. These shifts will also be critical for statewide contests, but lower-level elections will have few implications for the state as a whole.
Marquette Law School Poll (Website)
Marquette pollster says 2020 miss raises questions (Leader-Telegram$)
Marquette Law School Poll Director shares what 2020 election means for Wisconsin (WEAU 13 News)
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.