2020 Election

The State shifts – Colorado

The state shift will be an ongoing series examining the shift in presidential vote between 2016 and 2020 in each state.

Colorado is one of the fasting growing states in the union. The state which was one considered a battleground state has shifted almost 20% from the 2004 election when George Bush defeated John Kerry 52%-47% in the state. However, now we can close the discussion on Colorado, it is and will be a blue state for many years to come. The state has many factors that contribute to its status of becoming a reliably blue state from high education, diverse population, and migration making it move to the Democrats safe column. Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016 by 4.9% (48.2-43.3) vs Joe Biden winning the state by 13.3% (55.4-41.9), a 8.6% swing to the Democrats.

Population Growth

Colorado has been growing ever since the state was admitted to the union. Colorado has added over 1,400,000 residents since 2000, and is approaching 6,000,000 residents in the state. The counties with the most population gain are centered around the Denver metro area, and others throughout the state besides in a few areas, the south east corner of the state, the northeast corner of the state and the northwest portion of the state. This trend reveals some things about the electorate. The 46 counties that experienced population growth between 2010-2018 only four of them shifted to the right, while 42 shifted to the left. The 16 counties that lost population also showed a striking trend for Republicans, half of the counties that lost population in the last 10 years also shifted right in 2020. So, only 12 counties in total shifted toward the GOP in 2020 and more than half of those are losing population. This is not a very encouraging sign if you are a republican.

Hispanic Vote

The national trend of hispanic/latino voters shifting rightward was not as uniform in Colorado. The eight counties with the most hispanic voters in them featured five counties shifting to the left and three to the right. Two counties also flipped entirely, but in different directions. Pueblo County and Alamsoa County both flipped in 2020, Pueblo to blue and Alamosa to red. The hispanic population is most concentrated on the border of New Mexico and Colorado, and is a mixed back when you add in population growth. The eight counties that have over 40% hispanic residents are split on growing and declining population in the state. However, both Pueblo and Alamosa County are growing and it bears watching what will happen to these counties in 2022.

County Flips

Only three counties flipped during the 2020 election. Pueblo and Garfield county went blue and Alamosa County went red. Starting with Pueblo County, it follows the trend of other counties that have flipped blue in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah in that it is growing. Pueblo County has grown by around 27,000 residents since 2000, and the population center in the county is the city of Pueblo. The county has a very high hispanic population and bucked the national trend of counties with high hispanic populations voting to the right of their 2016 totals. Pueblo County went red for the first time since 1972 in 2016 and has been a reliably blue county. Donald Trump won Pueblo County 46.1%-45.6% in 2016 and Joe Biden won 49.6%-47.9%. Garfield county also flipped blue in 2020. Garfield county is also growing much like Pueblo county. Garfield County has grown by around 17,000 residents since 2000. Garfield County’s population center is Glenwood Springs and the county also has a decent sized hispanic population sitting above 20%. Garfield county had been a reliably red county, only voting for a democratic presidential candidate six times since 1912. Garfield county was won by Donald Trump in 2016 49.6%-42.6% and Joe Biden won Garfield County in 2020 49.9%-47.6%. Finally we get to our first examined flip of the 2020 election in favor of the Republicans, Alamosa county. Alamosa county is another heavily hispanic county in Colorado, and is usually regarded as a swing county in the state. Alamosa County is one of the most hispanic counties in the entire state of Colorado and like many heavily hispanic areas across the country it shifted to the right in 2020. Alamosa is a small, but growing county in southern Colorado. Alamosa has grown by around 1,000 residents since 2000, and has a population of around 16,000 residents. The population center of the county is the city of Alamosa. The city of Alamosa has 9,600 residents, and is considerably smaller than any other the first two counites/cities we’ve examined in Colorado that flipped from 2016-2020. Despite Alamosa being pretty small when compared to Pueblo and Garfield county, Alamosa has one community college and a four year university. Adams State University in Alamosa has about 4,000 students and Trinidad State Junior College has 1,700 students. The county voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016: (46.0%-43.9%) (143 votes) and for Donald Trump in 2020: (48.8%-48.1%) (54 Votes). The county in the future will continue to be a swing county if past trends can tell us anything. The county has been decided by under 150 votes in the last two Presidential Elections and who knows how the county will vote in 2024.

The Future

Colorado appears to be trending leftward faster than any other state in country. The once hard fought swing state can now be considered safe D in future elections. The state shares a similarity to Virginia as both states were once highly contested, but have shifted to favor the Democrats. The future for Colorado is only going to look more and more blue. The state will continue growing at a fast rate due to its high quality of living and plethora of jobs available for young professionals. Republicans will not be able to compete statewide anymore in Colorado, as evidence from Cory Gardner recent senate loss, and I see nothing showing that the Republicans can improve their margins in the state as the heavily Republican areas such as the eastern portion of the state that borders Kansas have all been experiencing massive drops in population, and will continue that trend in the future. Democrats should continue to invest in growing counties that still vote Republican, but margins have come down significantly in recent cycles such as El Paso County, Douglas County, and Huerfano County. While Republicans should focus on making inroads with more and more hispanic voters across the state since it appears that will be their only chance to ever win anything in the state in the future, as the population moving to Colorado is mostly young white liberals who are not voting for the GOP. However, I do not think this will matter since the migration rate will trump whatever gains they make with hispanic voters between 2020-2024.

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