Cities won the 2012 election for President Obama

President Barack Obama (D) was reelected on Tuesday, November 6. President Obama won approximately 51% of the popular vote, but won in convincing fashion with the Electoral College, earning 332 out of 578 total electoral votes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cities appeared to deliver the victory of a second term for President Obama this election season. According to Edison Research, President Obama earned approximately 69.4% of the vote in cities with more than 500,000 people, and 58.4% of the vote in cities with 50,000 to 500,000 people.

Furthermore, with the exception of Jacksonville and Salt Lake City’s home counties, President Obama won the plurality of votes in every major American city. This includes Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Akron and Youngstown in Ohio.


The President Obama won all but two counties with major cities, and swept the major demographics that are changing urban American. Map courtesy of The New York Times.

The browning of America
Cincinnati’s traditionally conservative Hamilton County has been trending more liberal over the past decade. Over that same time frame, American cities have seen a long foreseen demographic shift take root.

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau found that minority babies are now a majority of those born in the United States, and that 50,000 Hispanics reach voting age every month. Furthermore, 11% of all U.S. counties are now majority-minority, and half of the 40 largest metropolitan regions now have a while population below 60%.

The trends, when compared with the results of the 2012 election, are profound.

According to NEP Exit Poll conducted by Edison Research, President Obama earned the vote of 92.7% of black voters, 70.6% of Hispanic voters, 73.2% of Asian voters, and 57.7% of all other non-white voters. Mitt Romney, however, did earn the vote of approximately 58.7% of white voters.

Not only are these demographic groups growing in numbers, they are increasingly showing up to vote, with both black and Hispanic voters showing up in record numbers for the second consecutive presidential election.

The single, urban woman
Single women are another increasingly powerful force behind the resurgence of cities. There are an estimated 17 million women who live alone in America, and President Obama won that voting bloc by a whopping 39%.

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg attributes the foundation for this demographic shift to larger cultural changes in American society. In his book, Going Solo, he describes the rapid entry of women into the civilian workforce over the past 40 years, the delay of marriage for young people, and the “divorce revolution” that took place during the 1970s.

In short, young people, especially young women, are much different in contemporary America than those from 50 years ago.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of women in the workforce has grown from 14.8 million in 1967 to 43.2 million in 2009. And in 2009, it is estimated that approximately 30% of all women over the age of 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or more.

Should these trends continue, the single urban woman may continue to become an even more powerful voting bloc.

With single women and minorities becoming an increasingly dominant portion of 21st century American cities, it may force the hands both major political parties to focus more of their energy on public policies that positively relate to urban voters.

  • D2

    Romney won OKC and Tulsa county as well. And I think Ft. Worth-Tarrant too. In any case, cities have been heavily Democratic for quite awhile now, and I’m always shocked to see the GOP carry any. Also, demographics are changing, yes, but not rapidly enough to explain the difference between, say, 2012 ans 2004. As votes are still being tabulated, I’d say that the underlying narrative is whites suburban and rural whites staying home.

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      You are correct. I didn’t include Ft. Worth intentionally because it is part of the larger Dallas-Ft. Worth region, and I included Dallas already.

      With that said, I should have included OKC and Tulsa as Obama did not win a single county in Okalahoma. It is one of the reddest states in the country.

    • W. White

      Not to overly criticize this post (because I agree with its general statement) but some of the mid-sized southern cities also went for Romney. Chattanooga and Knoxville in Tennessee and Huntsville (home to a large NASA facility that probably does not like that Obama basically made them all unemployed) and Mobile in Alabama all voted for Romney. Other cities such as Savannah, Charleston, and Jackson, MS (which I believe all barely voted for Obama) only voted for Obama because of the large African-American populations in those cities. As with so many things, you have to treat southern cities differently; I do not think they are quite as urbanized as cities in the north and west; so they still have that rural mentality, manifested in the cancerous sprawl around all of them. At least in Cincinnati and other northern cities, the sprawl surrounds something urban which all of us recognize as a “city” instead of sprawl surrounding a collection of parking lots and suburban-style “downtown” buildings.

  • jasomm

    This is a better representation of the Urban-Rural population divide within the election (click on “Size of lead” map)http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/results/president

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12305166 Jake Mecklenborg

    In the Cincinnati area so many Republicans who once lived in suburban Hamilton County have moved to Butler, Warren and Clermont that it has diluted Hamilton county’s 50+ year Republican majority. When I pointed that out to one such person recently, it was clear that that phenomenon had never dawned on him, and in the same instant he took a quarter-step back as he realized his actions were actually of some consequence.