Less Opportunity, More Support•
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may not appear to have a lot in common. But, by at least one measure, they do: voters with a lack of opportunity.
Both candidates have amassed their largest share of support in counties with lower scores on the Opportunity Index — a measure of economic mobility, which combines data on jobs, education and community health.
The index combines 14 indicators to create scores for each county, including traditional metrics like unemployment rate and unconventional ones like on-time high-school graduation rates. Those scores, plotted against the share of the vote each candidate captured during the Democratic and Republican primaries, provides a profile of support so far.
The results help explain how Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton have come to take leading positions in their respective primary races: Both have made compelling cases for themselves in places that are struggling in the 21st century economy. That doesn’t mean that they would fight for the same voters in the fall, should they become their parties’ nominees. The results show Mr. Trump’s strength among Republican primary voters and Mrs. Clinton’s appeal among Democrats, and each candidate’s appeal among the other’s supporters is likely to be low.
Mr. Trump’s strong correlation with counties that offer less opportunity is tied to his strength among Southern nominating voters so far. Southern states and counties generally fair worse on the Opportunity Index in part because of lower income and education levels.
Mr. Trump won nearly every county in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Despite the diverse counties in these states, exit-poll data show he’s winning the white voters there. Those voters would likely power wins for him in those states in a general election.
Mrs. Clinton’s strong correlation with counties that offer less opportunity is also tied to her big wins in the South. Like Mr. Trump, she won nearly every county in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. But unlike Mr. Trump, her exit-poll numbers suggest she is winning African-Americans in those counties.
In a general election, the differences between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in these counties would likely boil down to how racially diverse each is. Mrs. Clinton would likely win counties with large black and Hispanic populations and Mr. Trump would capture counties with more white, non-Hispanic voters.
Mr. Sanders’s strength in counties that offer more opportunity is tied to his strength with younger white people—particularly college students and recent graduates. He often wins counties around major universities and those places generally score higher on the Opportunity Index.
Even in Arizona, where he lost badly, the one county he won was Coconino, home of Northern Arizona University and Flagstaff. He also does well in northern rural places. Some of those counties, such as those in Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont, have higher incomes and education levels.
Mr. Kasich’s strength tends to sit with Republican establishment voters and those voters tend to congregate in counties with higher incomes and educations levels. For instance, Mr. Kasich came in second in Alexandria and Arlington in the dense Washington, D.C., suburbs in Virginia and he won Washtenaw and Kalamazoo counties in Michigan, home to major universities there.
Exit polls show Mr. Cruz does best with higher-income and higher-educated evangelicals, but he does well with less-wealthy evangelicals as well. And counties with large evangelical populations could be in high or lower indexing counties.
Counties such as Dewey and Ellis in Oklahoma, which have relatively high opportunity scores, are composed largely of evangelical Christians, while other counties with large evangelical populations, such as Crawford and Washington in Arkansas, score lower on the Opportunity Index.