US primaries #8: the Nevada results

by Jackie_South on February 26, 2016

NV iconThis week’s primaries in the Silver State cemented the lead positions for both the Democrats and Republicans

Last Saturday, I posted on the Democrats’ primary caucus in Nevada. On Tuesday, it was the Republicans’ turn. So, how did it all pan out?


A month ago, Saturday’s Democratic caucus looked like an easy win for Hillary Clinton, with the Latin American vote and the strong union presence in the state looking likely to bring the votes in for her. But in the days before the election, the polls tightened and it looked as if Sanders might pull off a huge upset in the wake of his emphatic New Hampshire victory.

In the end, Clinton won a narrow victory, but one better than the final polls had predicted.

NV Dem 2016 pie
Clinton won 20 of the 35 delegate places on offer, Sanders the other 15. As the map below shows, there was a clear north vs south pattern in the voting.

NV Dem 2016 map

Sanders won ten of the seventeen counties mainly in the north of the state, including the two main population centres there: the Reno-Sparks conurbation and the state capital, Carson City. Clinton won fewer counties – six – but this crucially included Clark County where 73% of Nevadans live.

The only exceptions to this north-south split were in two sparsely populated counties. In the south, Sanders won in the least populated county – Esmeralda – by 15 votes to 7. In the north, Churchill county was split evenly 46 votes each.

Converting to congressional districts (which is how the delegates get totted up) Sanders won the northern second district whilst Clinton won the three others. Regionally, Clinton won Clark County 55%-45%, Sanders won Washoe County (the second largest) by 54%-46% and the two tied overall across the rest of the state.

NV Dem 16 chart

Unsurprisingly, women voted for Clinton whilst more men voted for Sanders, but more women took part overall. Sanders won the 44 and younger age group by a massive 47% – far greater than Clinton’s 45+ lead of 35%, but 63% of voters were in the latter group.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Latin American vote, which Clinton had been expected to win. Whilst the exit poll had a relatively small sample of Latino voters it showed Sanders leading 53% to Clinton’s 45%. In fact, Latin American voting seemed low: 19% of voters in the primary compared to 27% of the state’s population. Whilst some of those 27% will not be able to vote for age or citizenship reasons, you would expect more of those that could to be Democrat than the state average.

The other group that was expected to favour Clinton did, but not by a huge margin: union members. Nevada has well organised trade unions, thanks to the casinos of Las Vegas and Reno – it is not unusual to find the person serving you a drink or meal in a Las Vegas casino proudly wearing a union bade on their uniform. Union members made up 28% of voters and backed Clinton 54%-43%, compared to 50%-47% in Clinton’s favour among non-union voters. Union organisation helped Clinton get her voters to the Las Vegas caucuses, but not in overwhelming numbers. A huge 62% of voters were first-time caucus goers, showing the growing importance of the Nevada caucus, the most recent to join the set of the first four states to vote.

Whilst Clinton’s victory may not have been as emphatic as she once hoped, she will be breathing a sigh of relief. With victory in tomorrow’s South Carolina primary seeming certain and the likelihood that she will win an overwhelming majority of the delegates up for election in Super Tuesday next week, her gold medal in the Silver State will see her safely through to the nomination. The worst days of the primary contest are probably now behind her.


Tuesday saw the Republicans turn in the Silver State. As we predicted, Donald Trump won easily. In fact, he won his largest share of a primary vote to date.

NV Rep 16 pie

Trump took more votes than his next nearest two rivals combined: 46% compared to 24% for Marco Rubio and 21% for Ted Cruz. He did even better in Clark County: he took 49% of the vote there. Given that one of the Las Vegas Strip’s most prestigious hotel casinos bears his name – a gilt-windowed 64 storey tower – that is hardly surprising. He took over 50% of the vote in the three counties to the north west of Clark County: Nye County and the much-less populous Esmeralda and Mineral counties.

This was a state Cruz had been thought to be able to contend strongly in but it was Rubio that took second place in both Clark County and Washoe County, and the third largest county (Carson City). Cruz did better in the more sparsely populated counties, but they only amount to only 12% of the population put together.

NV Rep 16 chart

Cruz did beat Rubio in one respect though. Whilst Rubio did not win the most votes in any county, Cruz did in two in the east of the state. In the northeast of the state, Cruz won Elko County, the fifth most populous in the state (after Clark, Washoe, Carson City and Lyon) by a 19% margin over the second-placed Trump.  Cruz also won the less populated Lincoln County further south by 16% over Trump.

Ben Carson finished a poor fourth, and was in that position in all but one county (he beat Rubio to third place in the titchy Storey County). John Kasich did even worse, finishing in last place in every single county.

NV Rep 16 map

Trump won among men and women, the educated and uneducated, the evangelicals and the non-evangelicals, the conservatives and moderates, the whites and (surprisingly given his rhetoric) Latinos. Only 8% of Republican caucus goers were of Latin American heritage, so the figures may mean comparatively little. But the fact that 45% of them voted for a man that wants to build a wall to stop Mexicans immigrating compared to the same percentage for the two Latino candidates put together (27% for Rubio, 18% for Cruz) seems bizarre.

Similarly, whether voters thought the most important issue was the economy, government spending, immigration or terrorism, they preferred the Donald over the others.

The only group he did not win in was among younger voters. 37% of under-35’s favoured Rubio compared to 31% for Trump.

It has been a good week for Trump: his second and third primary victories, winning all fifty delegates in South Carolina, and winning 46% of the vote in Nevada. To cap it all, he secured the endorsement of former rival Chris Christie today.

His nomination as the Republican candidate is not yet certain, but it is certainly now odds on.

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