Why would a county in rural North Carolina primarily made up of people of color vote for Donald Trump? That’s just what Robeson County did, giving 58.6 percent of its ballots in 2020 to the President, up from 50.8 percent in 2016. Both by percentage and raw number of votes, support for Trump over the four years grew more in Robeson than in any other North Carolina county.
Robeson, in the southeastern part of the state by the South Carolina line, was once a Democratic stronghold. Before 2016, a Republican presidential candidate hadn’t carried the county since Richard Nixon did so in 1972. True, the move from absolute blue to strong red has been a common trajectory for many rural counties, particularly in the South, when whites abandoned the Democrats after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was spearheaded by Lyndon Johnson. But Robeson County is just one-fourth white, with Blacks making up 24 percent, Latinxs nine percent, and Native Americans 39 percent of the population.
That goes against the national data. Indeed, in every region of the country except the Northeast, the 10 percent of rural counties won by Biden in 2020 have a higher average non-white share of the population than Trump-voting rural counties. In the South, rural counties won by Biden were, on average, two-thirds non-white. They were also high on the economic distress spectrum, though, and Robeson does meet this criterion. The Distressed Communities Index (DCI) developed by the nonprofit Economic Innovation Group measures economic well-being at the zip code level with data that ranges from unemployment and poverty to abandoned homes and educational achievement. With 100 signaling the greatest economic distress, Robeson County scored 88.7 with three towns over 95. It is North Carolina’s poorest county, with 70 percent of children living below the poverty line.Read Debby’s Full Article at Nonprofit Quarterly
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