Macomb County Pre-2016, A Predictable Win?
Prior to the 2016 election, Michigan and Macomb County were perceived as Democrat-leaning. On a national level, both Michigan and Macomb County had gone Democrat in every presidential election since 1988. Obama won Michigan by 16% in 2008 and 9.5% in 2012, and Macomb County trailed not far behind with Obama winning by 9% and 4% respectively. On a state level, Michigan elected Republican governor Rick Snyder in 2010 and 2014, but has elected two Democrat senators in every election since 2000. Therefore, while Michigan had some tendency to elect Republican state officials, it was still expected to remain Democrat-leaning going into the 2016 presidential election.
The 2016 Presidential Election
In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan in a shocking turn of events with 47.3% of the vote; only 0.3 percentage points higher than Hillary Clinton.
In explaining why Trump won Michigan in 2016, Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster known for analyzing Macomb County voters, puts it well: “We have an election where Hillary Clinton ignores Michigan, doesn’t respect working people, doesn’t run on the kind of issues that matter to these voters…and when they’re not respected, they turn away.”
Greenberg’s assertion that Clinton ignored Michigan in the 2016 election refers to her decision to focus on Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, rather than states such as Michigan. Arguably, it is this lack of attention that allowed Trump to come in and gather support in much of the state.
The parts of Michigan that went Democrat vs. Republican (and to what degree) can be seen in the graphic below:
In Macomb County, Trump expanded on his marginal state win, beating Hillary Clinton by 11.6 percentage points. In some northern parts of the county and along Lake St. Clair, Trump managed to gain more than 60% of the vote. Considering that Macomb County is an area of primarily working-class, white people in a state where the industry is a major topic, Trump’s big promises were especially enticing to voters.
As Greenberg puts it, “Trump was talking about trade, throwing out NAFTA and these trade agreements and working for them, and produced a margin in Macomb that was big enough to give him a win in Michigan.”
Macomb is the third-largest county in Michigan, and if not for his win there, it is very possible that Trump would not have won Michigan at all. Considering that Michigan was a major battleground state in 2016, it is possible that a loss there might have resulted in a loss of the presidency for Trump.