Government

Yes, You’re Right, Colleges Are Liberal Bubbles. Here’s the Data.

November 14, 2016

Campuses tend to be viewed as enclaves of liberalism — bubbles or oases, depending on your view, set apart from the rest of America.

In the counties that are home to public flagship universities, only nine favored Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton, according to a Chronicle analysis of voting data. In the 49 counties included in the analysis, Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Trump, on average, by about 18 percentage points. In counties with a public flagship, the percentage of voters favoring Mrs. Clinton was 11 points, on average, higher than her statewide percentage.

Alaska was excluded from the analysis because it does not have county-level election data from the 2016 presidential election. Some states have more than one campus that serves a flagship role; to keep the analysis simple, we selected only one from each of the other 49 states.

Among the places with large disparities between the vote in counties with flagships and the rest of the state was the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Orange County. There, Mrs. Clinton received 74 percent of the county-level vote, even though she lost the state overall, winning 46.7 percent of the vote.

And in some cases, while states may have swung toward the Republicans since the 2012 election, the counties with flagship universities swung the other direction. Mr. Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s Republican win in North Carolina, for instance, carrying the state by 3.8 points, compared to Mr. Romney’s 2.2-point victory. At the same time, Orange County voted even more solidly Democratic than it did four years earlier.

A similar story played out in Dane County, Wis., home of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The University of Maryland at College Park, in Prince George’s County, is a striking example, too. The county gave Mrs. Clinton 89.3 percent of its vote, and Mr. Trump just 8.3 percent. At the state level, Mrs. Clinton still won — but by a significantly slimmer margin. She got 60.5 percent of the Maryland vote.

A few of the counties did favor Mr. Trump, including those in which the University of Arkansas, the University of Mississippi, the University of North Dakota, the University of Oklahoma at Norman, the University of Wyoming, and West Virginia University are located. However, in the counties where those colleges are located, the percentage of voters supporting Mr. Trump was lower than the statewide percentage.

The State University of New York at Buffalo, in Erie County, was an anomaly: That county gave Mr. Trump 7.9 more percentage points in votes than he received in New York State, which went to Mrs. Clinton.

Here’s a table with all 49 of those the flagships, comparing Mr. Trump’s margin in the state and the county with the public flagship.

Corrections (11/14/2016, 2:57 p.m.): This article originally misnamed an institution. It is West Virginia University, not the University of West Virginia. And the chart originally misidentified the flagship campus of the University of Alabama system. It is in Tuscaloosa, not Birmingham. The chart and the article have been updated to reflect those corrections.