Metro Areas of Note from 2016: Houston

This year, while Hillary Clinton bombed in traditionally swingy states, she did manage to improve dramatically over Obama in many suburban areas. In the deep red state of Texas, for example, all of the main metro areas swung to her. Essentially, Clinton traded rural white voters in states like Iowa and Wisconsin for whites with college degrees in places like Texas and Georgia. Not very good in terms of Electoral College math, but the phenomenon played a big part in driving the outcome.

Here, we’ll take a quick look at the counties making up the Houston metro area. Specifically, the core counties are Harris, the most populous county in the state, which houses Houston itself; Fort Bend to its west, which is the wealthiest county in TX; and finally Montgomery County, which is among the fastest-growing counties. For most of the past half century, this metro area has been pretty classically Republican-leaning, at both the national and state levels (Democrats are historically the rural party in Texas).

This changed in 2008. Then-Senator Obama was the first Democrat to win Harris County since LBJ, a Texan himself, was on the ballot. In 2012, President Obama became the first Democrat to carry it twice since FDR. Mrs. Clinton carried it in a relative blowout this year.

To the west, Fort Bend County, has historically been strongly GOP for many of the last decades. Its most famous political son (for better or worse) was Rep. Tom DeLay. When he was elected to his seat in the 1980s, he was one of just a handful of Republicans in the entire Texas delegation.  Since then, the county has seen rapid growth. In 1992, the year yours truly was born, it cast 88 ,000 votes in the Presidential election; this year, it cast a tick over 262,000.

Finally, Montgomery County is among the most ironclad suburban counties in the nation. As Governor Gregg Abbott says, “no one does it like Montgomery County!” Its growth rate has been even greater than that of Fort Bend. In 2000, it cast 106,000 votes – this year, it doubled to 205,000.

Recently, the area’s electorate has been growing more diverse, resulting in a leftward shift. These trends culminated this year in a 12% swing metrowide towards Clinton:


Obviously, it will be interesting to see how much of this is from the #NeverTrump effect. Still, as a Democrat who has been skeptical about the overall trend of Texas, I might have to reconsider after this year.

Here’s a precinct map of the core Houston metro area. We don’t have a swing map from 2012 to compare it to, but its should still be illustrative:


Here’s a bit of a closer look:


The precincts I’ve highlighted in yellow constitute Congressional District 7, represented by John Culberson (R). As this area is wealthier and whiter, it would likely be the epicenter of any #NeverTrump vote. In fact, this is the area that President George H. W. Bush represented while he served in Congress – Bush refused to support his party’s nominee this year. In 2012, it gave Romney a comfortable 60%; this year, Clinton carried it by just under 1.5%. Probably not the sign of an immediate stampede left there, but something to watch in the next few cycles.

At DDHQ, we’ll be looking at several more metro areas, so stay tuned!