The Final Clinton-Obama vs. Clinton-Sanders Map

In March I posted a map I created overlaying the state-by-state results of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with the 2016 Democratic primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. There are four colors: dark green for states that went Obama-Sanders, light green for states that went Clinton-Sanders, light blue for states that went Obama-Clinton, and dark blue for states that went Clinton-Clinton. Now I've updated that map for the last time:



Every state has had its chance to vote now. Only D.C.'s primary remains, and as much as I love the District, it's pretty clear that the results will be irrelevant to Hillary Clinton securing her party's nomination. I consider my map complete.

To be sure, this map does not display the most important data in a presidential primary—not which candidate won each state, but how many delegates the candidate won.

Nevertheless, I find it intriguing to examine how the 2016 primary map compares with that of 2008. My map clearly shows how the majority of states—31—stayed on the same side of the "Clinton vs. not Clinton" divide between 2008 and 2016. President Obama did not endorse Bernie Sanders' candidacy in any way, of course, but it seems clear a large number of his 2008 supporters chose Sanders in 2016. I'm sure an even larger number of Clinton's 2008 supporters chose to vote for her again in 2016. (I wonder if anyone's done polling to explore what those numbers might be.)

The map also highlights, however, the few states that "changed sides" by voting for Sanders this year after voting for Clinton in 2008, and the fairly large number of states that turned to Clinton in 2016 despite going for Obama in 2008. You might say that the large amount of light blue compared to the small amount of light green pretty well explains Hillary's clear victory this time around.

Here's the final tally:
  • 16 states that voted for Obama in 2008 voted for Sanders in 2016.
  • 6 states that voted for Clinton in 2008 voted for Sanders in 2016.
  • 13 states that voted for Obama in 2008 voted for Clinton in 2016.
  • 15 states that voted for Clinton in 2008 voted for her again in 2016.
percentage of African Americans in each U.S. county
(source)
I find it interesting that 20 out of the 24 states west of the Mississippi did not switch sides, with 13 of those states going Obama-Sanders and 7 going Clinton-Clinton. In fact, every "disloyal" state actually lies in the eastern half of the United States. (Yes, even Oklahoma lies fully to the east of the geographic center of the U.S.)

Perhaps the biggest story of Hillary Clinton's 2016 primary victory really is the support she received from African American voters. After all, the conglomeration of counties where black Americans are most concentrated overlays perfectly with the astonishing light blue strip of states from Louisiana to Delaware. The majority of black voters supported Obama in '08 and then supported Clinton in '16; as a demographic group, they made the largest change. Sanders may have received much greater support from younger voters than Obama did, and he may have received more support from many rural white voters than Obama did. Still, it wasn't enough for his campaign.

I do have a couple lingering questions I'm curious about, and if you have any insights, please leave a comment:
  • What explains Rhode Island flipping from Clinton to Sanders while neighboring Connecticut flipped from Obama to Clinton?
  • Clinton beat Obama in Oklahoma by a sizable margin in 2008 (over 20 points) but then lost pretty big to Sanders (over 10 points). The results in West Virginia were even more dramatic—a 41-point Clinton victory in 2008 but a nearly 15-point loss to Sanders in 2016. What ties these two states together?
Let me know if you like my map, or leave some suggestions below for future blog posts.

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