Since the election in November, I have been working intermittently on a project to look at how the various precincts in Omaha voted. My goal was to try to find information that would help explain what I thought was going to be a certain defeat by Donald Trump in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. I thought that in Douglas County (the main portion of the district), it would be around a 10,000 vote victory for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. It ended up being around 6,000. I thought with this lead, Rep. Brad Ashford would certainly get over a 10,000 vote to help get him re-elected. He ended up getting around a 9,000 vote lead. And I certainly thought “retain” would be closer than a 14,000 vote defeat in the county. All of these stack on each other. At the end of Election Day, the people and policies I had supported ended up losing, thanks in part to more conservative Sarpy County. I wanted to know why. This analysis and report has taken way too much of my time and has become an obsession of mine in the last few months. I hope that it gives you some insights going forward.
What this isn’t is a replacement for actually meeting and talking with voters. Rep. Brad Ashford lost his election by a little over 3,000 votes. If 16 voters in each of the precincts in Douglas County switched their votes to Brad Ashford instead of Don Bacon, he would have won re-election. That’s how close it was. Hopefully, what this gives us is a blueprint going forward. Hopefully, we find precincts or areas that we were ignoring, previously.
Douglas County for those not intimately aware has a number of distinct regions in it. Separated by class and race, the county seems often that it is several distinct cities. There are a few towns in Douglas County outside of Omaha but they don’t seem as different as North Omaha compared to West Omaha. Omaha has been described as one of the most segregated cities in America. The western part of the city resembles white flight.
South Omaha: South Omaha is typically defined by many in Omaha as being the more heavily Latino area of the city. There is not a great definition of the region that is uniform in every person’s mind. I think there is a very distinct difference between South Omaha, east of around 72nd St compared to what many people consider to be West of there. I did go through the precincts that Tony Vargas and Mike McDonnell represent in the unicameral and included all of his precincts as South Omaha. For the most part, for the city proper (outside of Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley), I will be using street line boundaries as best I can to define the area.
North Omaha: North Omaha is typically viewed as the black area of Omaha. Again, there is not a uniform definition to explain what many mean when they refer to North Omaha. I cut my boundaries around 48th St and East. I went through and included the precincts that Ernie Chambers and Justin Wayne represent to include North Omaha.
Old Northwest Omaha: Thanks to the nature of Omaha and the annexation of many smaller towns for years, there are distinct regions throughout the city beyond the typical north-south boundary lines. I drew the boundaries of Old Northwest Omaha from about 72nd and Maple – 108th Fort including the streets West and North inbetween.
Northwest Omaha: While it does not have a distinguishing racial or class breakdown, Northwest Omaha that we refer to now, seems very different than what we would look at when we refer to the Old Northwest Omaha. West of 108th seems to refer to a different part of town, in my mind, at least. This also goes to the boundary lines around Pacific. So this extends 108th and Dodge – 180th and Maple encompassing the streets inbetween.
Millard: This is the large suburb in Douglas County. There are some arguments over what Millard encompasses. I include Millard from 96th and Harrison – 159th and Dodge, in my mind. There is a bit of an overlap in the North area with Northwest Omaha. Some parts of Millard are in the lower middle class to the upper extremes of higher middle class. While it does not necessarily follow, the area tends to get nicer as you go more West (towards the higher numbers).
West Omaha: I did kind of arbitrarily draw a line separating out Millard and what I consider West Omaha. I see West Omaha as beginning at around 160th and going west to 192nd. I believe it starts at Harrison and runs up to about Dodge. You can certainly argue that parts of Northwest Omaha should be included in my definition of West Omaha and I wouldn’t argue too hard. West Omaha is typically seen as the richer parts of Omaha and they are not wrong.
Midtown: I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good grasp of what people consider to be midtown. I went through and added all of the precincts that Sara Howard represents in the unicameral. I believe that midtown is around 48th-72nd L St – Maple St. But I’m open for more.
The rest of the towns and outlying areas like Ralston, Bennington, Elkhorn, Waterloo, and Valley have fairly set definitions. I consider Elkhorn to be west of 192nd and north to Fort. Waterloo is out Northwest there, as is Valley. Bennington is North of Fort beginning around 156th in my mind.
I have Ralston on its defined boundaries – Precinct 08-01, 08-02, 08-05, and 08-06.
As I have said, outside of the outlying areas of Douglas County, I will try my best to give the street boundaries when I talk about a precinct, as best I can, to give people a visualization of where they are.
Edit: If you would like to request a copy of the raw data that I am looking at, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Trump areas
For the most part, the areas of Douglas County that most heavily voted for Donald Trump are in the Western areas of Douglas County that are typically considered out of Omaha. There are 33 precincts that gave 60% or more of the four party vote share. Of those 33, 26 are west of 160th St. Of the other 7 precincts, only two are east of 108th St.
In these 33 precincts, 36,750 votes were cast for one of the four political parties running. Here were the results:
|% of votes||64.3%||31.0%||4.0%||0.7%|
There were clearly areas of these 33 precincts that either did not feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump as President. There were 262 more votes cast for Congress than for the Presidential candidate of one of the four parties. Even more startling if you begin to look at it, is that that there were another 600 voters or so who came home from either the Libertarian Party or who crossed Presidential lines. Somewhat surprising is that there were about 500 voters for Democrat Brad Ashford who did not vote for Hillary Clinton for President. Perhaps this is not so surprising if you believe that these two Presidential candidates were the two most disliked candidates in history.
Here were the results of the precincts at the Congressional level. There were 37,012 votes cast for the three parties running for Congress.
|% of votes cast||65.5%||32.1%||2.4%|
Donald Trump was an outspoken supporter for the death penalty. In Nebraska, we had a referendum on whether or not we should follow through with the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty or if we should reinstate the death penalty. The language on the ballot was not confusing if you read through the referendum on the ballot but was slightly confusing to explain to someone who hadn’t looked at it. Retain would be a vote to keep the repeal of the death penalty. Repeal would reinstate the death penalty.
|% of votes cast||38.0%||62.0%|
These are all pretty high margins and seems unlikely to be able to be overcome in all of the precincts. But, again, that is not my goal. My goal is to simply cut margins where we can, even if it is as small as 16 votes/precinct. So we will look at individual precincts if there is a way for us to cut into the margin going forward.
Precincts where Trump outperformed Don Bacon
There are four precincts where Trump was able to outperform Republican Congressional candidate Don Bacon by 3 or more points in these precincts where he got 60% or more of the four party vote share. They were with the difference in parentheses 08-41 (6.9); 08-09 (5.2); 08-40 (4.1); and 08-14 (3.6).
08-41: This is on the Northwest side of Douglas County. I refer to it as Waterloo, even if it may be incorrect. This would play on one of the more popular narratives that Trump was able to do extremely well in areas with more rural areas or areas that were out of the way of the typical suburban community and do well with white voters with lower education levels.
|% of votes cast||71.2%||24.7%||3.6%||0.5%|
Trump was able to get a number of voters who crossed party lines to vote for him and then went back to vote for Ashford in the Congressional races. There were 5 voters in this precinct who did not vote for one of the four parties running for President but voted for Congress:
So we need to figure out why so many of those voters went for Trump and then were able to vote for Ashford. This may or not be repeatable without Trump on the ballot for the Democratic challenger in 2018 to replicate what Ashford was able to do. It seems probable to me that the Trump/Ashford voters are on their way to shifting their allegiances from Democratic candidates to Republican. The only problem with this idea is that Lou Ann Linehan, former chief of staff for Chuck Hagel, defeated Democratic candidate Bill Armbrust 54.05% – 45.95%. Linehan ran slightly behind what she did in the rest of her legislative district in this precinct. This is one of the precincts, in particular, where I would like more data to see the trends.
08-09: This is one of the precincts that stick out like a sore thumb for the precincts that gave Trump so much of the four-party vote share. This precinct is primarily located from 48th-72nd St and from Sargent-Northern Hills. This is one of only two precincts with the majority of it east of 108th St. This precinct only had 660 votes cast for one of the four Presidential candidates.
|% of votes cast||64.5%||31.7%||3.6%||0.2%|
There were only 3 voters who voted for one of those Presidential candidates who did not vote for Congress.
Again, we have a precinct where Trump managed to convince a number of voters that voted for Ashford to vote for him in the Presidential portion of the ballot. There is not a good explanation to this precinct. Jill Brown, who is probably more liberal than Justin Wayne, won the precinct 54.86% -45.14% of the vote, even though there were only 53 less votes for legislature compared to the Presidential election.
08-40: I have this listed in my spreadsheet as Valley. Valley was 95% white in the 2010 census. 22% of the residents of Valley have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment rate in Valley is 3.8%. The average of residents in Valley is just over 42 years old. There were 1,407 votes cast in the Presidential election for one of the four candidates:
|% of votes cast||70.1||25.8||3.5||0.6|
Again, we see voters choosing Trump at the Presidential level but reverting back to giving Ashford a vote at the Congressional level.
There were 1406 votes cast at the Congressional level in this precinct.
With 179 votes being lost from the Presidential ballot to the Legislative ballot, Lou Ann Linehan won the precinct 54.72% – 45.28%. Armbrust received nearly 200 more votes than Clinton did in this precinct.
08-14: In the Northwest area of Douglas County, if you go far enough North you reach Bennington. And you run into this precinct. This precinct is only a part of what I classify as Bennington. There were 876 votes cast in this precinct for the four party Presidential vote.
|% of votes cast||66.4%||28.8%||4.1%||0.7%|
And again, what we see is Trump was able to convince a number of voters to choose him and allow them to vote for Ashford at the Congressional level. With 1 more vote cast at the Congressional level than with the four party Presidential ballot, we see just how successful Trump was able to be over Bacon.
A somewhat conclusion of the Trump precincts
I’ll be honest about what I thought I was going to find. I thought what I was going to find was that the Trump voters simply did not show up to vote at the Congressional level and that was what was causing him to overperform relative to Bacon’s numbers or even Linehan’s numbers. I was also expecting a small swing of voters deciding to vote for Trump/Laird.
But that is not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing a number of Trump voters deciding that they didn’t want to vote for Bacon in Congress and wanted to support Ashford. This can be true for a number of reasons. My guess is that there is not an insignificant amount of voters who simply wanted a split ballot. They could not pull the ballot trigger for Clinton but did not think that the Republicans should pick up a seat there.
I think there are some voters out there who were upset about voting for Clinton and seeing that they are in a roughly safe area to vote, decided that they could vote for Trump and then Ashford. But I do not know this for certain.
One of the more likely explanations is that Trump was able to connect at some level with these voters who may have lower education and are white in a way that Clinton was not able to. The reasons may range from they think Trump is a secret liberal, they want a crackdown on immigration, they believe he will get things done, or simple dislike for Clinton.
The organizing principle of the Democratic Party is that we are all in this together. The goal should be to engage these voters. They may range from slightly misinformed to openly hostile to Democratic principles. But we do owe it to ourselves to see if they can be reached. Cutting into margins in areas where we performed the worst at the Presidential level can provide significant results. A number of these voters are willing to vote for Democratic policies and we must figure out why, if we want to remain competitive.
One thing I will reiterate throughout this series is the need for positive engagement with voters in every area by the Democratic Party and staff. We need to be going out into these communities and figure out why they can reconcile a vote for Trump/Ashford. And what we can do to vote Democratic on each line. But more importantly, we need to engage them to figure out what is important to them and highlight how we either have the best solution to the problem or how we are working on it.