The New York Times‘ exceptionally talented cartographic nerds came out with an interactive map yesterday that plots the 2016 presidential election down to voter precincts, the most granular level of analysis it can go. If you’ve been stuck in a haze since November 2016 wondering exactly what happened, it might be fun to check out while you’re in a post-lunch food coma. But the most fascinating.
As with maps of the electoral college that make an evenly divided United States look overwhelmingly Republican, it’s important to resist the conclusion that just because large geographical parcels appear pink or red means that they’re home to vast numbers of people. They’re usually rural and lightly populated. For instance, two large tracts of land east of Benicia and south of Fairfield that contain mostly water yielded fewer than 50 votes between them, although Trump won each overwhelmingly.
There’s one error, though. Hover over any part of San Francisco and it tells you that the nearest Trump precinct is in Orinda. But if you go to Orinda, which is basically a sea of blue like everywhere else in the region, there’s a bizarre precinct that’s in two discontinuous chunks that yielded three votes for Clinton and zero for Trump. Hover over that and it says the “nearest Trump precinct is right next door.” It’s next door to the more western of the two chunks, and if you scroll over there you’ll find you’re not really in Orinda proper but in Tilden Regional Park in the hills directly north of the UC campus. That precinct was Trump’s by a stunning 100 percent margin, because he won the only ballot cast.
In other words, Trump’s best performing Bay Area precinct is a sort of rotten borough with only one voter in it. Who is this lonely Republican, peering down at a hotbed of liberalism from his or her aerie? Was it Edward Scissorhands? Three naked mole rats stacked in a trench coat that teetered into a barren polling place and managed to sneak past a snoozing volunteer and scan their ballot undetected?
There’s another conspicuous splotch of pink down on the Peninsula near Woodside, but apart from sparsely populated agricultural regions, the nearest Bay Area communities with substantial numbers of Trump voters are … in the northern and eastern suburbs of Sacramento. Even the cities of the Central Valley, widely considered to be conservative places, are thoroughly blue oases. Factoring out the isolated pockets here and there, the closest town of any size to San Francisco that can reasonably said to be a Republican city is Roseville.