Metro Atlanta region turning bluer, including Gwinnett, Cobb and Henry

By Maria Saporta

Although Georgia is still a red state, the island of blue known as metro Atlanta is getting bluer.

Between the presidential elections of 2012 and 2016, three metro counties switched from voting primarily for Republican Mitt Romney to voting primarily for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Those three counties were  Gwinnett, Cobb and Henry.

Of the 10 counties in the Atlanta Regional Commission, eight favored Clinton over Republican Donald Trump. In all, of the 1,836,059 votes cast in the Atlanta region, 59.6 percent went to Clinton and 37 percent when to Trump.

By comparison, in 2012, of the 1,691,900 votes cast in the Atlanta region, 56.4 percent went to President Barack Obama and 43.6 percent went to Romney.

10-county Atlanta region

A map of the 10-county Atlanta region (Source: Atlanta Regional Commission)

At the time, there was special significance with that vote. When the T-SPLOST (Transportation Improvement Act) went before voters in July, 2012, it fell far short of passage. Many political observers interpreted that vote as proof that metro Atlanta residents did not want to invest in transportation and they would not support a regional transportation tax.

But the Nov. 6, 2012 vote clearly showed that the T-SPLOST would have stood a much better chance of passing if the referendum had been held during the General Election rather than the Primary.

Also, in metro Atlanta, the November vote had 954,829 votes cast for Obama – nearly 300,000 more votes than all the votes cast on July 31 in the 10-county region. The vote was 254,663 for the T-SPLOST; 420,872 against it – for a total of 675,535 votes.

So what can we learn from this election?

For starters, if one wants a sales tax initiative to pass, a General Election tends to have the highest turnout –  and at least in most of the recent elections, the higher turnout translates into more votes for Democrats. While not all Democrats support tax increases, they tend to be more receptive to raising taxes than Republicans.

This past election was proof positive.

In the City of Atlanta, nearly 72 percent of voters favored a half-penny increase for MARTA; and about 70 percent favored a .4 of a cent increase for overall transportation improvements.

Most other jurisdictions in the metro area that had sales tax initiatives on their ballot also had similar positive results.

Secretary of State

Home page of the Georgia Secretary of State’s webpage

Astute politicians will pay close attention to these results. If we are ever to reconsider having a regional referendum for transportation or another initiative, we probably would want to target the Presidential Election of 2020.

With Henry, Gwinnett and Cobb choosing a Democrat for president over a Republican, it should tell some folks that those traditionally red counties may have much more competitive local races going forward.

And it’s not just metro Atlanta.

Statewide, Georgia also turned a shade more purple when compared to 2012.

There were 181,665 additional votes in 2016 over the 3.9 million votes cast in 2012. Of the new votes cast, 95,856 went to Clinton; 6,400 went to Trump and 79,409 went to Gary Johnson.

Another fact to keep in mind – the 10 counties in the Atlanta region cast 45 percent of all the votes in Georgia’s 159 counties. When one considers the other blue islands in the state – Savannah, Macon, Columbus, Augusta, Athens – it shows that we are not just a state of two Georgias – metro Atlanta and the rest of the state. We are a state of urban areas and rural areas.

The 2012 and 2016 General Elections are two moments in time. But they act like a mirror giving us a sense of where we’ve been and where we’re going.

And we are definitely a state in transition. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

The Atlanta region 2016 election results:

 Clinton            Trump

Cherokee:       22.7 %                 72.7 %

Clayton:           85.1 %                 13.2 %

Cobb:                48.8 %                 46.8 %

DeKalb:            80.8 %                 16.1 %

Douglas:           54.0 %                 43.2 %

Fayette:            38.5 %                 58.0 %

Fulton:              69.2 %                 27.1 %

Gwinnett:         51.0 %                 45.2 %

Henry:               50.9 %                 46.6 %

Rockdale:          61.7 %                 35.8 %

Source: Georgia’s Secretary of State’s 2016 election results

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

18 comments
mikeleeph12
mikeleeph12

Republicans continue to cheat to win elections.  I wonder how many votes Hillary would have had if Republicans hadn't been so busy with their voter suppression efforts, gerrymandering, closing of voting offices, limiting of early voting, strict voter ID laws,all designed to suppress the minority vote.  If it were up to Republicans, only wealthy white Christian heterosexual males in the top 1% would vote and screw the rest of us.  Republicans are going to send this country into the toilet.  I hope nobody is thinking of having kids because there is no future in this country anymore.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Take a tranquilizer, hide in your safe place, and repeat this paraphrase of President Obama's mantra:

Elections matter.

Trump won; Clinton lost.

Deal with it.

ironic1
ironic1

@mikeleeph12  Come on, you paint a bleak picture of the U.S. Maybe you would enjoy life in Somalia.


Lighten up - think about the millions who endured eight years of the Obama administration. He's an decent man but timid in his approach to leadership. All those red lines and bows to Wall Street. Lots of wincing when he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, not only without earning it but within weeks calling for the surge in Afghanistan



As for the Democrats, the party is in free fall and has been for decades, slowly but surely. Its leaders have missed countless opportunities to pass significant legislation, especially under Obama. They squandered the two years with Obama as president when they ran the House and Senate. They could have passed important gun and environmental legislation but instead concentrated on a healthcare plan bound for failure. If they had wanted a genuinely strong candidate for the presidency in 2016 instead of a queen, who could have picked up House and Senate seats along the way, Democrats could be gerrymandering and correcting all the horrible ills of the mean old Republicans.

Andrew Pvine
Andrew Pvine

bluer means higher taxes, horrible money management, higher poverty, higher crime... look at every other blue place... time to wake up

Cenate Pruitt
Cenate Pruitt

redder means higher unemployment, higher obesity, higher diabetes, higher drop out rates, lower standardized test scores, lower wages, higher teen pregnancy ....look at every other red place... time to wake up

Cenate Pruitt
Cenate Pruitt

Let's all follow the example of Mississippi, shan't we?

ironic1
ironic1

What do you say about people who say and write things to make themselves feel superior to others? (Usually, they're needy - on many levels.) Consider what you wrote, and do some serious mirror time.

PJ Hughes
PJ Hughes

We've been a red state for the last 14yrs and crime and unemployment have gone up. The civics lessons that we learned in high school about each political party are no longer valid.

Andrew Weiler
Andrew Weiler

Changing demographics alone will probably make GA up for grabs in the next 4-8 years instead of reliably red. Metro Atlanta is getting tired of being the engine of the state's economy while backwoods knuckle-draggers get the final say on everything

ironic1
ironic1

We've lived in the City of Atlanta for a number of years, so yes - lots of taxes. In all candor, though, we have knuckle-draggers here too, plenty of them. Every state has its share of them. New York, for example,  has a high illiteracy rate. Same for portions of California. We have plenty of friends and relatives who live south of the metro area, many well-educated, well-to-do and well-travelled. And unlike you, they are not snobs.

Peter Korman
Peter Korman

Perhaps you might analyze the county and district votes for Isakson in 2016 or Deal & Purdue from 2014 before making this conclusion? Or look at the 2018 State Constitutional Officers races? This presidential election presented a difficult choice for Democrats and Republicans, and many crossed party lines or chose not to select either.

letmesaythis
letmesaythis

While I am glad to see GA turn a bit bluer.....I would imagine the increase in blue voters has more to do with a anti-Trump vote. 

If the Republicans could find a good candidate, we would see some counties revert to red. 

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The last Democrats won statewide elections in 2006. Since then Republicans have won, regardless of the candidate they put forward.

Candidate selection is more crucial for Democrats at this time. And the choice looks very limited.

ironic1
ironic1

Atlanta began decades ago to reflect the massive immigration to our region, and this is primarily what you are now seeing in results in Cobb and Gwinnett. Other sources indicate that the women's vote in Cobb show an affluent but aging population.Millennials may tend to be more liberal, but those who are aging, working and beginning to pay more taxes may decide they will like more fiscally conservative policies.

Heath Harvey
Heath Harvey

While I personally hope your conclusion to be accurate, I have my doubts. This presidential election was incredibly anomalous, with two of the most unpopular candidates ever. It would probably be a mistake to derive any trends from what just occurred.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Maria, Presidential election results mean nothing; the statewide votes prove what color a county may be. Let's look at the only statewide race in this election cycle - US Senator. The Democrats carried only Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Rockdale, so you can rightfully term those as blue counties. All the rest you mention were carried by the Republican candidate and are not blue counties.

We shall know more in two years when we have a full slate of statewide races. For the Democrats to make any progress they will have to put forward a stronger slate of candidates than they did this year.