Democrats have puzzled over why Biden did not perform as well in cities as expected, and conversely, why Trump seemed to overperform in them. Overall, Biden won major metro areas, but his slippage compared with Trump’s gains was notable.
Trump gained in every borough of New York City except Staten Island (where he was already a favorite) compared with 2016, recording a gain of 12 percentage points in his share of the total vote in the Bronx and 9 points in Queens. He improved his margin by more than 18 points in largely immigrant and working-class assembly districts encompassing Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights. New York City as a whole swung toward Trump by 7.6 points between 2016 and 2020, more than any single state swung in the election, as Trump picked up support in 58 of the city’s 65 assembly districts. Compared with 2016, he gained votes in cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit, the latter of which gave Trump 5,000 more votes than in 2016 and Biden 1,000 fewer than Hillary Clinton won. As pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson has noted, even though Joe Biden won major metros as expected, closer scrutiny of a number of blue cities reveals blue doughnuts: As Democrats increased their command of the suburbs, their hold on inner cities weakened.
No one expected this, and there certainly isn’t much about Donald Trump’s policies on trade, immigration, tax cuts, or conservative judges that explains it. It seems obvious instead that in the age of COVID and violent protests, progressive cities overplayed their hand. When you ask your residents to pay too much for subpar housing, pledge to defund the police as crime soars, and force parents to do things they thought their taxes paid teachers to do, you shouldn’t be surprised at the backlash.
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