Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: The odd quality that separates Tampa Bay from most of America

We are divided, you and me.

For that matter, so are you and a neighbor. You and a co-worker. Maybe even you and a family member.

We, as a community in Tampa Bay, are about as divided as it gets in America.

And that's not a bad thing. You might even say it's worth celebrating.

I started thinking about this when I saw a headline on analyst Nate Silver's website fivethirtyeight.com the other day. It declared, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared.''

The point was that, more and more, Americans are migrating to communities with like-minded people. Democrats move to blue communities, and Republicans look for red communities. Apparently, purple is passé.

The 2016 presidential election may have been close on a national scale, but it was a runaway in more than 90 percent of the nation's counties. Individual communities either went large for Donald Trump, or they went large for Hillary Clinton. There was very little in between.

Except here.

Of the 50 counties that had the most voters at the polls in November, Pinellas had the closest election results in America. It was 48.6 percent for Trump and 47.5 for Clinton. That's a 1.1 percent swing. Hillsborough County was 51.5 for Clinton and 44.7 for Trump, a 6.8 percent swing.

That means the Tampa Bay area had two of the six closest results among the nation's larger counties.

While residents in Chicago's Cook County (swing of 53 points), New York County (77.2 points), Philadelphia County (66.9 points) and Seattle's King County (50.4 points) are apparently on the same page politically, folks around here don't mind living next door to a commie. Or a fascist.

Clearly, I'm kidding. But only just a little.

Tampa Bay is an outlier in an increasingly polarized nation. It's apparent even in nearby communities. The Villages in Sumter County has become a haven for conservative retirees, and South Florida is like liberal catnip. So what makes Tampa Bay so different?

University of South Florida political scientist Dr. Susan MacManus, who has been working on a book examining voting habits along the Interstate 4 corridor, says Hills- borough is a perfect microcosm of America because it includes all three popular voting groups. Not Republican, Democrat and independent, but rural, suburban and urban.

And while voter registration statistics in Pinellas and Hillsborough show mostly similar trends for Republicans and Democrats during the past 20 years, independent and minor-party voters have exploded in both counties. They've nearly doubled in Pinellas and have more than tripled in Hillsborough.

"Is this a good thing for the community? I guess that's in the eye of the beholder,'' MacManus said. "It makes it easier to draw different businesses and economic opportunity because businesses like the idea of diversity. But it makes it more difficult to govern because it's harder to come to a consensus.''

The fivethirtyeight.com story pointed out that this extreme separation of blue and red voters is a fairly recent phenomenon. In 1992, the number of U.S. counties that had a separation of 50 points or more in the presidential election was 93. In the November election, that number was up to 1,196 counties.

Apparently, that makes us an outlier. An oddity. A rare oasis where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, soccer moms and urban hipsters choose to coexist.

I suppose that leaves just one thing to say:

Howdy neighbor!

Diversity of views in Tampa Bay

Of the 50 U.S. counties with the largest turnout of voters in the 2016 presidential election, Pinellas had the tightest race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Hillsborough also was in the top 10.

Voter rankCounty% point differenceWinner
37Pinellas (FL)1.1Trump
42Duval (FL)1.5Trump
4Maricopa (AZ)3.4Trump
15Riverside (CA)4.3Clinton
26Nassau (NY)5.4Clinton
28Hillsborough (FL)6.8Clinton
5Orange (CA)7.7Clinton
18Oakland (MI)8.1Clinton
24Suffolk (NY)8.2Trump
19Tarrant (TX)8.7Trump

Romano: The odd quality that separates Tampa Bay from most of America 03/18/17 [Last modified: Monday, March 20, 2017 11:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  3. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack

    Blogs

    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  4. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor

    Editorials

    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. SCOTUS won't hear Bondi appeal on death penalty

    Blogs

    From Dara Kam at News Service of Florida:

    Bondi