Trump vs. Biden: Can the Most Popular Cars in Every Swing State Predict the Election?

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As we near the 2020 election, it seems like the U.S. has never been more divided. Everything is split along political lines—what tv shows we watch, what teams we support, even the brand of beans we buy. Could the car we drive also predict how we’ll vote in November?
We took a look at the top five cars owned in each state to see if there were any differences between Democrats and Republicans. Then we crunched the numbers on car ownership to see if we could crack the code on how purple states will end up swinging in November.

In Red States, Ford and Pick-up Trucks Reign Supreme

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When we looked at the data for car ownership in Red states, it was no contest: Ford is far and away the most popular. In fact, of the 20 states we identified as clearly right-leaning, every single one had a Ford in its top five. The Ford-F150, which once won the Automotive Excellence Award in Popular Mechanics’s Workhorse Category, is the most popular.
It might not be surprising that a pick-up truck is a popular choice in red states, many of which are more rural than traditionally blue states. But the mid-size Ford Fusion also neared the top of the list, with the compact Ford Fusion not far behind. No matter the size, it seems like red-leaning states just love their Fords.
Chevrolets are another popular pick, ranking as the fourth highest car make in red states, yet not even cracking the top five in blue states. The Chevrolet Silverado (another pick-up truck) is the most popular model, with the Chevrolet Equinox and the Chevrolet Cruze tied for second.
The Dodge Ram is a top-owned car in five states projected to vote Republican this year: Wyoming, Missouri, West Virginia, Alaska, and Montana. But it didn’t make one list in a blue or purple state. So if you see a Dodge on the road, you may well be in Trump country.

Blue States Love Hondas

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In states highly favored to vote blue in November, Hondas topped the list by a landslide. And of all the Hondas, the Honda Civic—a compact car that was Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year in 1996—is the clear winner.
In fact, of the 21 states we identified as left-leaning, only six don’t have the Honda Civic as one of their top five most-owned cars: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico. And of those, three have other Hondas on their list: the Honda Accord in Delaware and New Mexico, and the Honda Odyssey in Hawaii.
Toyotas are also far more popular in Democratic states than Republican states. Twelve of the 21 blue states have a Toyota in the top five, whereas only seven Republican states have a Toyota ranked. The most popular make of Toyota in these states is the Camry, with the Prius coming in second. The environmentally friendly hybrid car doesn’t make it into the top five in any red states.
Only one kind of car is a top pick in blue states, but doesn’t make an appearance on any red state lists—the Kia Soul, a subcompact crossover SUV that’s the fourth most popular car in Hawaii.

Nissan Altima, the Ultimate Uniter?

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In these strange times, is there anything at all that unites us? If there’s an answer, it might be the Nissan, which is the second most popular car make in both red and blue states. So it’s no surprise that it’s the number one car in five of the 10 swing states we looked at!
But although the Nissan is popular across the country, the model of Nissan might be an indicator of a state’s political leanings. In both red and blue states, the mid-size Nissan Altima is the most popular model. But while drivers in Republican states go almost exclusively for the Altima for their top five, drivers in Democrat-leaning states also drive Nissan Rogues and Nissan Sentras.
The conclusion: If you see a lot of Nissans Altimas on the road, you could be anywhere. But if you’re seeing models besides the Altima, you might be in Biden territory.

Where Do the Swing States Fall?

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Once we realized there are big differences between what cars drivers in red and blue states own, we had to wonder: Where do the purple states fall? Pundits all seem to agree that the outcome of the election could be left up to just a few states this November.
So we analyzed the top make and models of cars in 10 states that are key to the 2020 election to see which way they trended. Is it as reliable as a poll or statistical analysis? Probably not. But we know that cars are more than just hunks of metal that take you places. People pick the cars they drive based on taste, commuting habits, budget, and personal values—many of the same things that might shape their vote in November.

Arizona: Close, But Leaning Blue

Traditionally a red state, Arizona has been become more of a battleground with each new election cycle. Will this be the year the tide turns?
The top car in Arizona is the ultimate swing state vehicle: the Nissan Altima. But if we look closer, the rest of the list tells a different story. Yes, there’s a Ford F-150 coming in at number four, which is the most popular car in red states. But the presence of two different Honda Civic models and the placement of the Nissan Sentra (a very blue state Nissan) at number three means Arizona is leaning blue in terms of car ownership, but just barely.
Top Five Cars in Arizona
  • Nissan Altima
  • Honda Civic LX
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Ford F-150
  • Honda Civic EX

Florida: Leaning Blue

In 2016, Florida’s electoral votes went to Trump. But current projections say the Sunshine State is slightly favored to vote for Biden in the 2020 election.
Florida doesn’t have a Ford in its top five, which would put it at odds with most red states. And while the state’s number one car is the Nissan Altima (which is popular across the aisle), the strong showing from Corollas and Camrys places this state in clear blue territory.
Top Five Cars in Florida
  • Nissan Altima
  • Toyota Corolla L
  • Honda Civic LX
  • Toyota Camry LE
  • Nissan Sentra

Georgia: Too Close to Call!

In 2016, Trump won Georgia’s popular vote by more than five percentage points. But the race looks closer for 2020, with Republicans only slightly favored to come out on top.
The Altima solidifies Georgia’s place as one of the key swing states of 2020. And the Ford F-150 coming in so high (at number two) is a strong signifier that Georgia might stay red in November. That said, the three cars rounding out the top five are strong signifiers for Democrat-leaning states. Looking at the cars people own in Georgia, we’re going to say this is still too close to call.
Top Five Cars in Georgia
  • Nissan Altima
  • Ford F-150
  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Camry
  • Honda Civic

Iowa: Leaning Red

After going to Democrats in 2008 and 2012, Iowa gave Republicans a win in 2016. This year, Iowa is poised to be a key swing state again.
Iowa has two Ford models and two Chevrolet models in its top 10, which places it firmly in red state territory in terms of car choice.
Top Five Cars in Iowa
  • Ford F-150
  • Ford Fusion
  • Chevrolet Impala
  • Nissan Altima
  • Chevrolet Equinox

Minnesota: Close, But Leaning Red

Minnesota was once considered a Democratic stronghold, until it nearly went red four years ago. Currently, polls indicate it’s swinging back to blue.
Minnesota has an unusual top five. The top car is the Toyota Camry, which is generally favored by blue states. That said, the rest of the list is full of red-state cars like the Ford Fusion, the Ford F-150, and the Chevrolet Equinox. Looking at the whole list, we’re going to say Minnesota is close, but leaning Republican.
Top Five Cars in Minnesota
  • Toyota Camry
  • Ford Fusion
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Ford Supercrew
  • Ford F-150

North Carolina: Leaning Blue

FiveThirtyEight has North Carolina as a toss-up, making it a vital state in November.
With a strong showing from the Hondas in the top three and a Toyota Camry at number five, drivers in North Carolina are leaning left in their car choices, despite an appearance from the Ford 150 pick-up at number four.
Top Five Cars in North Carolina
  • Nissan Altima
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Civic
  • Ford F-150
  • Toyota Camry

Ohio: Leaning Red

Though Ohio has been firmly red for the past few years, analysts are saying the state could be up for grabs for the 2020 election.
Ford is king in Ohio, with the Ford Fusion Sedan taking first place. The blue state Honda Civic makes a good showing with two trims in the top five. But with the Ford Focus and the Ford F-150 coming in strong at numbers three and four, respectively, we’re calling this one for Republicans.
Top Five Cars in Ohio
  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Civic LX
  • Ford Focus
  • Ford F-150
  • Honda Civic EX

Pennsylvania: Leaning Blue

With 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania will be one of the most important swing states this year.
The Altima comes in first in Pennsylvania, which doesn’t give much indication on how voters might lean. But with the more blue-leaning Nissan Rogue in third place and two Hondas on the list, the car choices indicate that Pennsylvania will swing towards Biden this year.
Top Five Cars in Pennsylvania
  • Nissan Altima
  • Honda Civic
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Honda Accord
  • Ford Fusion

Texas: Leaning Red

The Lone Star State has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, but polls indicate that could be changing.
Texas is a tricky state in terms of car ownership. The Ford F-150 Supercrew pick-up truck tops the list, which is a clear indicator that a state is leaning Republican. But the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Camry are both cars much more common in blue states. With two red state cars, two blue state cars, and one neutral pick, we’re going to go with the higher numbers and say Texas is leaning red for November.
Top Five Cars in Texas
  • Ford Supercrew
  • Nissan altima
  • Ford F-150
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Camry

Wisconsin: Leaning Red

Political observers everywhere were shocked when Wisconsin voted red four years ago. This time around, the state seems poised to vote blue, but pundits are keeping an extra close eye on this key battleground.
Of all the swing states we analyzed, Wisconsin’s car buying habits might be the most clear-cut. With three Ford models on the list, and the Chevrolet Equinox and Cruze rounding out the top five, drivers in Wisconsin are purchasing cars that put them firmly in line with the most right-leaning states in America.
Top Five Cars in Wisconsin
  • Ford F-150
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Ford Fusion
  • Ford Focus
  • Chevrolet Cruze

So, Who Will Win?

Our electoral map projects 314 votes going to Biden and 208 going to Trump, not including Georgia’s too-close-to-call electoral votes. Is that what will happen in November? Hard to know. But while It’s true that this might not be the most traditional way to predict an election, it is 2020. Anything can (and probably will) happen. So maybe we’re onto something after all! We’ll all find out in November.

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