Prosser vs. Walker

On election night when I was analyzing Prosser’s results so far, one of the things I was looking at was a spreadsheet that compared Prosser’s performance in each county to Walker’s.  This analysis was quite revealing, even though the original post had incomplete information.  At the time of posting, Prosser was outperforming Walker in Dane county by a significant margin….. but when all the results came in, Prosser did awful in Dane county, several points worse than Walker.

One thing I noted in the comments as results continued to trickle in was that Prosser did very well in Milwaukee county relative to Walker and that result did hold up.  He significantly outperformed Stone there, and that is what allowed him to win the election.

It is one thing to see county-wide results on a spreadsheet, but quite another to visualize them.  Craig Gilbert, a JSOnline blogger, has gone the next step to put the Prosser vs. Walker comparison into a county by county map.


Gilbert looks at this map and talks about an “East vs. West” divide in Wisconsin and that is quite obviously correct… the counties that swung 8+ points towards the liberal candidate were all in the west half of the state.  All of the rest in the west swung at least a bit towards the liberal candidate.  Most of the candidates in the west half of the state didn’t move much, and there were a couple that moved significantly to Prosser.

While that’s true, that doesn’t really tell us too much.  What factors are at play that can help us to make sense of the map above?  I’d put forward the following 4 ideas…..

1) Return to normalcy- Look back at this map from 2004.  It is pretty clear that western counties have generally been more liberal for some time.  The fact that Walker did well in some of these counties (50% in La Crosse county, 49% in Eau Claire county) was something of an aberation.  A lot of these adjustments are simply counties moving back to their historical averages.

2) Increasing polarization – Similar to #1, but here I am thinking more about the extreme counties like Dane one hand and Washington, Waukesha, and Ozaukee on the other.  All of these counties tilted even heavier in favor of their preferred party.

3) Union membership – Obviously perceived demonization of unions has been a big issue in the last 6 months.  So it makes sense that the most unionized part of the state (near Duluth) and the area that obviously has the most state government employees (near Madison) saw huge swings away from the conservative.  Additionally, Green Bay (shifted only very slightly left) and Milwaukee  (moved right) are among the least unionized parts of the states, so the fact that they didn’t fall in love with Kloppenburg makes sense (% in unions is based on data from  Oh, and I don’t have any numbers on this, but I’m guessing the % in unions is pretty dang low in Menominee county, which has a population of 3,600, most of whom are Native Americans.  That was the other county besides Milwaukee where Prosser showed considerable improvement over Walker.

4) Prosser’s hometown – Gilbert did mention this one… Prosser is from Appleton, which certainly had to help is performance in the Fox Valley region.  In Outagamie county (where Appleton is) and several neighboring counties, Prosser did a couple percentage points better than Walker.

If you take these 4 points together, I think you can explain a pretty good chunk of the map above.

Do you have additional theories?  If so, I’d love to hear them… feel free to post in the comments section.



  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    I don’t know the demographics of Milwaukee except that voters there were very familiar with County Executive Walker and apparently many of these voters were not appreciative of the job he was doing. Conversations on this site led me to believe this was not an ideological issue as much but mostly a performance question the people had with Walker, plus perhaps a personal dislike for Walker the man. I suspect there was no such distaste or bad history for Prosser and this may have helped him garner more votes than Walker.

  2. My guess would be the west lacks local talk radio to counter the liberal local media.

  3. I and some friends are presently gathering the information precinct by precinct regarding what percentage of votes were cast by same-day registration. My guess is that we’re going to see higher percentages along the interstate highway corridors, just as we do higher voter shifts in the west in those places.