Thursday, November 10, 2016

Reply To Reader Regarding Election Results In The Marcellus / Utica -- November 10, 2016


November 12, 2016: continuing the theme, the reader provided additional data regarding Ohio --
The swing in the twelve (12) Ohio counties with activity in the Utica play: the swing from Obama in 2008 to Trump in 2016 was 148,464.
This represents a swing from an Obama plurality of 59,418 to a Trump plurality of 89,046.
While less than Trump's margin, it is a larger percentage swing than in the neighboring counties in PA.
November 10, 2016: see first comment which I brought up here to make it browser-searchable --
I ran some numbers yesterday on this very topic.
The swing in vote from Democratic to Republican presidential candidates in the 10 Pennsylvania counties with the most wells, using Bush v Kerry in 2004 as a starting point was over 100,000 votes. Trump's margin was less than 70,000.
The county with the most wells went from a 552 vote margin for Kerry to a 24,505 lead for Trump.
I haven't crunched Ohio's numbers fully but the trend looks similar, using 2008 as a base, although 21012 might be a better figure based on activity in the Utica shale. 
So, again, in the Pennsylvania County with the most wells:
  • 2004: Kerry wins by a margin of 552 votes
  • 2016: Trump wins by a margin of 24,505
That is absolutely incredible. I guess Hillary's words certainly have consequences. Amazing.

And then more:
  • 2004: Bush plurality in Pennsylvania counties with more natural gas wells -- 78,860
  • 2016: Trump plurality in Pennsylvania counties with most natural gas wells -- 186,433
  • between 2004 and 2016, that's an increase of 107,573 votes in the ten counties in PA that have the most natural gas wells
  • 2016: Trump's margin in Pennsylvania -- 68,236
I guess that answers that question: how big a role was played by the voters in rural Pennsylvania counties which had the most natural gas wells.

Bottom line:
  • the increase in votes from natural gas-rich Pennsylvania counties from 2004 to 2016 was 107,573
  • Trump took Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes
By the way, early in the evening, Pennsylvania was in the Hillary column. This explains why it took until later for the Pennsylvania numbers to flip -- rural counties tend to be delayed in getting their numbers in.

Very, very interesting.
Original Post
Not necessarily ready for prime time (in a long note like this, there will be typographical and factual errors).

A reader asked about my thoughts on the oil and gas industry's influence on this election. The reader noted:
One overlooked argument that can be made is that the oil and gas influence won this election....winning Pennsylvania and Ohio was the key to electoral win and if you look at the red counties in those states and the evolution of them over the years, they all lie within the Marcellus/Utica shale play consisting of hundreds of thousands of land/royalty owners and thousands of jobs.
That's an incredibly interesting observation. I think you are incredibly "spot on." For me, it was a no-brainer -- Hillary had said she would ban fracking when she was in Detroit talking about water issues. For the life of me, I could not understand why the results in Pennsylvania were as close as they were. [More on that later.]

But back to the point.

I can't speak to Ohio and Pennsylvania but perhaps an analogy. Take a look at what happened in the North Dakota gubernatorial race. It was nothing short of amazing.  In the GOP primary, a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industry was knocked out of the running by a guy from Fargo. Fargo is as far away from the Bakken as one can possibly get in North Dakota.

There has long been an "east vs west" division in North Dakota. The Bakken is the "west" (and a very, very small geographical footprint in North Dakota, at that); the high tech, the money, the influence is all in the east (and more specifically, Fargo).

So, when the GOP picked a Fargo guy, I thought it was all over, with regard to North Dakota support for the oil and gas industry.


Until I looked at his credentials (at the linked site above).

But this is what blew me away. The GOP gubernatorial candidate from the "east" made an inspired choice when he selected the mayor of Watford City to be his running mate.

Williston has done very, very well in the Bakken boom, but city politics and county politics almost killed the "golden goose" at times, or so it seemed to me. There was a lot of small-town thinking at a time when much more progressive imagining was needed. Fortunately, the Bakken is so big, even Williston/Williams County politicians couldn't kill it.

On the other hand, Watford City is an incredibly small town -- or at least it was. As "wild" as "western North Dakota is" one can argue that Watford City/McKenzie County is even wilder. And I say that in a good sense.

Perhaps Watford City had the advantage of seeing what was going on in Williston before the boom hit them. From various sources, it's my impression the Watford City mayor was the guy that really kept his city together and made a lot of inspired (to use that word again) decisions.

A highly successful Fargo personality with a maverick mayor from the heart of the Bakken? The results: they won with 77% of the vote. The Democratic opponent: 19%.  And it wasn't straight ticket. Trump got 66% of the vote, which means a lot of Hillary supporters crossed over to vote for the GOP gubernatorial candidate.

Seventy-seven percent of the vote is huge. The state has had some incredibly good and memorable Democratic governors (I'm thinking of Governor Guy and Governor Link).

My hunch is that a lot of folks (especially out east and maybe in Bismarck) were (very) unhappy with the oil and gas industry and that's why the GOP primary turned out the way it did -- choosing the Fargo guy over the individual closely associated with the North Dakota oil sector. But, by selecting the mayor of Watford City -- again, an incredibly small town with very few votes compared to the "major cities" in North Dakota, he reassured the folks who were strong oil and gas supporters that things would be fine.

I'm convinced that adding the Watford City mayor to the ticket was an inspired choice and probably added 10 - 20% to the final results.

So, if Pennsylvania and Ohio are anything like North Dakota oil and gas played a huge role.


Break, break.

So, why was it so close in Pennsylvania, and such a landslide in North Dakota? That's easy: the big urban areas in Pennsylvania are very, very different than the urban areas in North Dakota, both in relative size and political leanings. I bet the post-election analysis will show huge turnout for GOP in the oil and gas (rural) areas of Pennsylvania, but the turnout would have had to be huge to overcome the turnout in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

And I will bet the African-American population did not show up for Hillary the same way they turned out for Obama.


Break, break.

When Michigan was still "too close to call," a reporter on television remarked that rural voters in Michigan were overwhelmingly turning out for Trump (completely different from that being seen in Detroit and other urban areas). The reporter said it was the first time Michigan had gone to the GOP since 1988, or something to that effect. And then he gave the numbers. In previous elections, the turnout in rural Michigan was 19%. In this election, two days ago, the turnout was 26% and the reporter thought that incredible.

I thought it was terrible. Twenty-six percent turnout in an election like this? When the Iraqis got their vote after Saddam fell, their turnout approached 100%. Twenty-six percent tells me that for the most part, Americans are not involved politically. That's counterintuitive when one reads the newspapers, surfs the net, and watches television -- one gets the impression, 99% of Americans are involved politically. But, here 19% or 26% turned out to vote and it was a big deal.


Break, break.

Lots of rambling. I don't know if the parts make a whole, but one might get a gist of what I'm trying to say.

But you are so correct. Hillary was playing to her base when she said she would ban fracking; she was listening to her 20-something (in age) speech writers and strategists. She herself hadn't driven a car in ages. She would have done so much better by just saying that, like Obama, when it comes to energy, she is "for all of the above" but "will want to insure that safety is paramount" and leave it at that. But to be in Michigan and say she will ban fracking -- wow -- the folks (paying attention) in the neighboring states must have felt their hearts skipping a collective beat.


  1. I ran some numbers yesterday on this very topic. The swing in vote from Democratic to Republican presidential candidates in the 10 PA counties with the most wells, using Bush v Kerry in 2004 as a starting point was over 100 k votes. Trumps margin was less than 70k. The county with the most wells went from a 552 vote margin for Kerry to a 24, 505 lead for Trump. I haven't crunched Ohio's numbers fully but the trend looks similar, using 2008 as a base, although 21012 might be a better figure based on activity in the Utica shale.

    1. Absolutely amazing. Thank you very much. I would never have imagined it so huge. I brought your comment up to the main post so it could be browser-searched.

  2. Trump plurality in top PA gas counties 186433. Bush 04 plurality 78860 increase of 107573. Trump PA margin 68236

    1. Thank you. I brought that up to the main post, also.

  3. i'm sure the Utica area went big for Trump, but i knew early on that Ohio was going for him when i saw the union towns of Warren and Youngstown just east of me spitting their vote...those are steel and auto towns that are normally 75% Democrat, & they've been hurt by NAFTA & manufacturing moving to at least in the rust belt, trade seems to have been a deciding issue...

    1. Interesting. There have been a number of articles on unions actually supporting Trump, which makes for a bit of irony, to say the least. But already Canada and Mexico are anxious to talk with Trump about re-negotiating NAFTA before throwing it out altogether. Their eagerness to re-negotiate suggests they think Trump will stay true to his word; and, that they (Canada, Mexico) got a pretty good deal with NAFTA -- and want to keep it, at least at some level. Their eagerness to re-negotiate speaks volumes about NAFTA -- a pretty good deal for Mexico / Canada at the expense of the US.