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Densely populated urban counties in Wisconsin are slightly more likely to vote for the Democratic candidates in presidential elections, while less dense counties lean towards voting for the Republican candidate, according to University of Wisconsin research. 

Election results since 1952 show that Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee, and its suburbs became more Democratic-leaning, while more recently, major gains for the Democrats have been in Dane County, home to Madison, the second largest city.  

A comparison between vote shares in 20 cities in Wisconsin and their respective counties showed the urban areas tend to lean more Democratic than more sparsely populated areas in the same county. However, some cities like Waukesha—seventh largest in Wisconsin — continue to vote largely Republican.

Analysts observe that the urban trend of Democratic gains has been roughly offset by the counter-trend of rural counties becoming more Republican.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


WisContext: The political geography of Wisconsin: Partisanship and population density

Urban Milwaukee: Data Wonk: How Democratic are state’s smaller cities?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Tale of two toss-up elections 16 years apart: the new 50/50 Wisconsin isn’t the same as the old 50/50 Wisconsin

Urban Milwaukee: Data Wonk: Is Waukesha County becoming less red?

Milwaukee Magazine: Let’s Take a Deep Dive Into How the WOW Counties Voted

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Jacob Alabab-Moser / Wisconsin WatchFact Checker

Jacob Alabab-Moser joined as Wisconsin Watch’s fact checker in September 2022, as part of the effort by The Gigafact Project in partnership with different state-level news outlets to combat misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections. Jacob has several years of experience as a fact checker and research assistant at a variety of organizations, including at The Gigafact Project. He holds a BA from Brown University and is pursuing a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science.