Why President Trump is going to lose the Rustbelt.

“All those manufacturing jobs have left Ohio. They’re all coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house” Donald Trump 7/25/2017

Looking back at the 2016 election, Ohio’s voters were disproportionately white working-class, and President Trump’s message resonated with them. (Griffin, Teixeira, & Halpin , 2017)   

Move ahead four years, Trump is still leading with white working-class males, but he has seen a significant drop in union households’ support, which accounted for about 23% of the vote in 2016. (CNN, 2016

According to a new FoxNews Poll, Union households now favor former Vice President Biden by 6 points, 51% to 45%. (FoxNews Poll, 2020).  According to exit polling (CNN, 2016), in 2016, Trump carried this voting bloc by 13 points, 54 to 41.  This data represents an 18-point swing.

Will this trend characterize the Rustbelt?

Breaking Ohio down into six geographic regions, Biden has the lead in the Columbus area.  The west area and Ohio Valley remain strong for Trump, based on the white working-class male vote.  Cleveland, the North, and Cincinnati/Dayton areas are a toss-up.

Over the past month, Biden has gained in union households by pushing a Scranton vs. Wall Street message and emphasizing his part of the GM bailout, which resonates with the state’s northern region.

For likely voters, 49% of union households believe that Biden would do a better job on the economy than Trump (48%).  While they are currently in a statistical tie, in the past this is an area when polled that Trump typically out does Biden. 

Union voters in the northeastern part of Ohio remember well when Trump promised the manufacturing jobs are “all coming back.”  He continued the hope by following this with “don’t move.  Don’t sell your house”. Since 2017, hundreds of workers at the Lordstown GM plant lost their jobs, sold their homes, and left the Youngstown area.  Though Trump carried Ohio in 2016, many have become frustrated with his record on economic issues, including his trade policies and organized labor attacks.

Outside of the auto industry, Ohio’s agricultural sector was hard hit.  The President’s trade war with China cost Ohio farmers due to Chinese retaliatory tariffs on US soybean exports.  A significant portion of Ohio’s soybean industry is on the west of the state, which was a Trump stronghold. 

Across the nation, Trump has led in the polls when it comes to the economy.  However, one in five Ohioans has filed for unemployment since April, according to Policy Matters Ohio researcher Michael Shields.  When Trump boasts about how great the economy is or how the stock market is doing, this statement falls on deaf Ohioan ears, and it’s not just because of the economic situation caused by a pandemic.

The Trump Campaign has all but abandoned areas like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  Especially lately, with canceling most if not all Ad Reservations in those areas (Coleman, 2020).

President Trump will more than likely still carry the west and Ohio valley regions of Ohio.  However, his numbers will be significantly decreased by the loss of the union household voters.  

With Biden’s 60% to 33% on the urban areas plus a decrease in union support for Trump, Ohio may return to blue in 2020.


CNN. CNN Politics. November 15, 2016. https://www.cnn.com/election/2016/results/exit-polls/ohio/president.

Coleman, Justine. The Hill. October 6, 2020. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/519766-trump-canceling-ads-in-ohio-and-iowa.

FoxNews Poll. “FoxNews Poll .” Fox News Poll Ohio. September 24, 2020. https://static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2020/09/Fox_September-20-23-2020_Complete_Ohio_Topline_September-24-Release.pdf.

Griffin, Rob, Ruy Teixeira, and John Halpin . Voter Trends in 2016. November 1, 2017. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2017/11/01/441926/voter-trends-in-2016/.

1 Comment

  1. Darrell FarlowOctober 10, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent detailed analysis, using important factors/keys that others have overlooked


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