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GOP gained ground in middle-class communities in 2016

The Republican Party made deep inroads into America’s middle-class communities in 2016. Although many middle-class areas voted for Barack Obama in 2008, they overwhelmingly favored Donald Trump in 2016, a shift that was a key to his victory. Meanwhile, Democrats had more success retaining a loose “coalition” of lower-income and upper-income communities.

These findings emerge from a new Pew Research Center analysis that correlates how counties voted with the Center’s estimates of the size of the middle class in U.S. metropolitan areas. Post-election reporting has covered the role of white working-class or college-educated voters in the election, but this analysis focuses on how the middle class shifted allegiance over the course of Obama’s two terms as president.

For purposes of this analysis, our standard of measure was metropolitan areas that are middle class, not middle-class voters specifically. Middle-class communities were defined as metropolitan areas in which at least 55% of the adult population lived in middle-income households in 2014. (The national share of the population that is middle class is 51%.)

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