Did Dallas County Vote More Republican and Less Democratic in 2012? No. It Voted More Libertarian.

The Texas Tribune’s map analyzing vote drift from blue to red in Texas in 2012.

The Texas Tribune has put up one of those data-driven interactive elements that it does so well, demonstrating how Texas drifted slightly more Republican in 2012 (as judged based on the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, compared to 2008′s Obama vs. John McCain race.) You can see their full map here.

I won’t take issue with their overall premise, because I can’t spend all that time checking all their numbers. (I’ve got cutest pet contest nominations to judge.) I will take issue with the way they characterize Dallas County, however. You’ll notice (on the screenshot image above) that they’ve colored Dallas red. That doesn’t mean the county went for Romney, because it didn’t. It just means, according to the Tribune‘s analysis, that the county went slightly more for Romney than it had gone for McCain. They cite the fact that Obama’s margin over Romney in Dallas was 4,158 fewer votes than he’d scored against McCain.

This seems a flawed way to measure the relative strength of the parties. The total number of votes cast for the GOP and Democratic candidates in Dallas was down (about 4.5%), so instead of making a judgment based on the raw votes, I believe looking at the relative percentages that each polled is a better indicator. When you do that, you see a different story.

Dallas County Elections has updated its vote totals since the Tribune pulled its information. Still, the latest numbers show Obama won by 3,231 fewer votes than he scored against McCain, so their map would still have Dallas colored red. But let’s instead look at the percentage of the vote won by each:

2008 2012
Obama/Obama 57.15% 57.13%
McCain/Romney 41.89% 41.67%
Obama margin: 15.26% 15.46%



That difference is small, but it also shows a bigger percentage win for Obama. Dallas County, it could be argued, went more Democratic in 2012. How does that makes sense, since the raw vote margin was slimmer, and since Obama’s overall share of the vote declined? Because, of course, Romney and Obama weren’t the only two presidential candidates on the ballot. Look at how the Libertarian Gary Johnson did in 2012 versus Bob Barr in 2008:

2008 2012
Barr/Johnson 0.59% 0.95%



So there’s your story. Dallas County went more Libertarian in 2012. (And Green Party too, for that matter.)