November’s election results showed that most of California’s Democratic counties moved further away from President Donald Trump — and the bulk of its Republican counties did too.
With less than 1 million ballots left to count, the 2020 election here was an unsurprisingly blowout for President-elect Joe Biden. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton nabbed 62% of Golden State votes — an 80 year high. Four years later, Biden bested that by garnering 65%.
Biden outpolled the president in 35 of the state’s 58 counties, and racked up a bigger lead than Clinton’s in 27 of them. Two rural inland counties — Butte and Inyo — flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020.
Lassen County was the Trumpiest county in the state in 2016 and maintained that distinction in 2020. It was followed closely by Modoc.
More than 200 miles to the west and on the opposite end of the political spectrum, San Francisco once again came in as the most Trump-resistant county, followed by its northern neighbor, Marin.
Counties also come in very different sizes, which means a map can mislead: Democratic Los Angeles County has a population about 3,000 times larger than Trump-backing Sierra County. And in bluer-than-blue San Francisco, Biden’s 73% performance relative to Clinton’s 76% isn’t exactly a coup for the president.
Nonetheless a county-by-county look offers a telling look at how California’s political allegiances and voting patterns have shifted around in the intervening four years.
Imperial County experienced the largest shift in top-of-the-ticket voting behavior between 2016 and 2020. Four years ago, only a quarter of voters in California’s most southeasterly county backed Trump. This year, the president picked up more than 35%.
The reason that’s notable: More than 80% of Imperial County’s population identifies as Latino, which makes it the most heavily Latino county in the state. From the tip of Florida, along the Texas-Mexico border all the way to Calexico, Trump outperformed his 2016 numbers in many Latino-majority regions of the country. It’s still too early to explain exactly why this happened, but it’s a national phenomenon and California seems to be part of it.
Via the Post It, CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher shares frequent updates from the (socially distanced) 2020 campaign trail.
About the Author
Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state’s economy and budget.