A wave in white, blue-collar voters never materialized in Washington in the 2016 presidential election. But the bump in college-educated whites could have helped Hillary Clinton receive a higher percentage of King County votes than Obama in 2012.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s populist message resonated with many white, blue-collar voters in Washington, as it did elsewhere in the country.
Even so, new census data show that there was no tidal wave in voter turnout among the state’s working-class whites.
It’s true that, compared with the 2012 presidential contest that re-elected President Barack Obama, white Washingtonians turned out in force last November. But the data show that this surge was mainly from white voters with college degrees — not blue-collar folks who make up Trump’s signature demographic.
In Washington, about 2.8 million non-Hispanic whites voted in the 2016 election. That represents 72 percent of the white population that is eligible to vote, a 4 percentage point bump from the 2012 election.
With the increase, Washington in 2016 had the fourth-highest turnout of white voters among the 50 states, up from 13th in 2012.
And indeed, some of that increase came from white voters without a college degree, a group Trump won nationally by an overwhelming margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The turnout in Washington for this group was 63 percent, which is 2 percentage points higher than in 2012. That pencils out to an increase of 72,000 white voters without a college education.
That certainly helped Trump do well in Washington — for a Republican, at least. Even though Clinton handily won the state, Trump flipped five Western Washington counties from blue to red. All are counties with a high percentage of blue-collar white voters: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Mason and Cowlitz
But the main reason that white voter turnout went up in 2016 was because of folks with a college…