Tags

, , , , , , , ,

One of my favorite statistical reports just came out a week ago – the Commerce Department’s survey of economic growth last year in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. I like the report so much mainly because it’s accompanied by the release of figures that show how much manufacturing production changed in real terms on an annual basis – and therefore gives us another indication as to whether or not the sector really has recovered from the Great Recession completely. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t. But more on that later.)

This year, the new state numbers provide some new insights into why last year’s presidential election turned out as it did. Specifically, it shows a strong relationship between a state’s economic performance and its award of electoral votes to President Trump or his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

To begin, here’s a list of the “Top Ten” states that enjoyed the fastest inflation-adjusted growth between 2015 and 2016. (Because of ties, there are actually 21 of them). Their real percentage growth in 2016 is next to their names, then comes their rank (in parentheses) and then their presidential choice:

Washington 3.7 (1) Clinton

Oregon 3.3 (2) Clinton

Utah 3.0 (3) Trump

NH 3.0 (3) Clinton

Fla. 3.0 (3) Trump

Georgia 3.0 (3) Trump

Utah 3.0 (3) Trump

Calif. 2.9 (4) Clinton

Nevada 2.4 (5) Clinton

DC 2.4 (5) Clinton

Arizona 2.1 (6) Trump

So. Carolina 2.1 (6) Trump

Hawaii 2.1 (6) Clinton

Tenn. 2.0 (7) Trump

Colorado 2.0 (7) Clinton

Mass. 2.0 (7) Clinton

Idaho 1.8 (8) Trump

Michigan 1.8 (8) Trump

Ohio 1.7 (9) Trump

So. Dakota 1.7 (9) Trump

No. Carolina 1.6 (10) Trump

At first glance, the election seems like a toss-up in terms of the economic winner states, with Mr. Trump winning twelve and Clinton nine. But in terms of one of the main questions posed about the president’s supporters – whether they were motivated mainly by economic concerns or by other hopes or fears (ranging from racism and xenophobia to mistrust of Clinton) – this list looks like it points to the latter.

But here’s where some context needs to be considered. After all, the president won 32 (or 62.75 percent) of the states (including D.C.) up for grabs. Clinton won only 19. But the Trump share of the economic winners was somewhat lower – 12 of 21, or 57.4 percent. So maybe economic issues were fairly prominent among the Trump-ers.

More convincing evidence comes from the list of the worst performing states in 2016. Here they are in the same format used for the first list. (These states total eleven due to a tie):

No. Dakota -6.5 (1) Trump

Alaska -5.0 (2) Trump

Wyoming -3.6 (3) Trump

Oklahoma -2.3 (4) Trump

West Va. -0.9 (5) Trump

Louisiana -0.6 (6) Trump

New Mex. -0.5 (7) Clinton

Kansas 0.2 (8) Trump

Montana 0.2 (8) Trump

Texas 0.4 (9) Trump

Delaware 0.3 (10) Clinton

In fact, this evidence couldn’t be clearer. President Trump won nine of these eleven slowest-growing states.

These results don’t finally resolve the debate over Trump voters by a long shot – if only because the nation’s population is so unevenly distributed among states, and because of the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College (except in Maine and Nebraska). Moreover, there’s not always such a bright line between economic and non-economic concerns, and many voters base their choices on several considerations.

Finally, it would be important to examine the economic growth trends over a longer period of time. That way, we could see whether various states’ expansion or contraction last year was consistent with longer-term trends or whether they were outliers. (Those distinctions presumably would have some influence over voters’ views of their own fortunes and the appeal of incumbents – or representatives of incumbent administrations – and challengers.)

But the news that nine of the 19 states won by Clinton were among the nation’s fastest growers, and only two were among the slowest, lends more support to the view that pocketbook issues created a big divide in the electorate last year.

And about that manufacturing news: The industry data released along with the new states growth shows that American domestic manufacturing’s output fell by 0.15 percent in constant dollar terms. That’s not much, but recall that it’s only a tenth as fast as even the negligible growth registered by the economy as a whole after inflation – 1.54 percent.

And thanks largely to this down year, from the last quarter of 2007 (when the Great Recession began) until the last quarter of last year (the latest quarterly data available), real manufacturing production shrank by 2.37 percent. As RealityChek readers know, there are several measures of manufacturing output used by the government – but they also know that most, like these latest data, show that the claim that America’s manufacturers have never turned out more product in this country than ever in the nation’s history are just peddling fakeonomics.

Advertisements