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Which San Franciscans Voted for Trump?

San Francisco: home to fog floating atop the Golden Gate Bridge, endless rolling hills, and a history of liberal activism. I grew up empowered by the diversity that San Francisco championed. For decades, my city has been the center for the fight for equal rights. As a woman of color, I felt incredibly lucky to grow up in San Francisco, where left-leaning politics and our city’s activist history was celebrated everyday. Not many conservatives live in the city, and the Republicans I did know were not Trump supporters. With that being said, it doesn’t mean San Francisco is completely homogeneous. In a city that is so deeply embedded blue, and especially within the context of our country’s incredibly polarizing and important 2020 presidential election, I wondered: Which San Francsicans voted for Trump?

San Francisco houses, lady walking in front of them
Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

The San Francisco Chronicle came out with interesting statistics after Election Day, presenting us with which neighborhoods had the highest turnout for Trump. Writer Andrew Chamings explained that 41,000 San Franciscans voted for Trump, which is under 12% of registered voters in the city. On the other hand, 300,000 voters chose Joe Biden, constituting 86% of registered voters. This large disparity is not all that surprising for a historically blue city. But, 12% was still shocking to me. You couldn’t go a block without seeing houses and businesses waving pride flags or posters celebrating Black Lives Matter. People all over the country and world have flocked to San Francisco for its safe haven, especially for those seeking acceptance and empowerment for their diverse identities. 

Coming in fourth and third with the highest Republican tally were two of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, the Excelsior and Portola, where Trump boasted a respective 19.93% and 20.26% of the vote. Both the Excelsior and Portola house predominantly Asian residents. According to The New York Times exit polls, 63% of Asian voters supported Biden. While it is clear the majority favors the democratic candidate, this percentage is lower than Black and Latino voters, where a respective 87% and 66% voted for our president-elect. According to The Associated Press, 83% of Asian youth from ages 18-29 voted for Joe Biden. These numbers make me wonder if there is a significant political divide between older and younger Asian American voters.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The second highest Trump turnout was Lake Merced, a neighborhood that many San Franciscans including myself often forget exists. It’s known for its lake and golf courses, which might explain why their residents favor Trump. 

Ranking first in the highest turnout for Trump was the working class neighborhood of Visitacion Valley, with 23.56% of their voters choosing Trump. I was incredibly shocked that an ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood like Visitacion Valley would vote for Trump. My preconceived biases imagined wealthy, white neighborhoods like Pacific Heights or the Marina would carry the highest percentages. According to the NYT exit polls, white voters favored Trump by clear margins.

So is the number of San Franscicans voting for Trump actually significant? The short answer: no. It is not significant in the sense that there is a possibility a liberal stronghold like San Francisco will soon turn red. But, it is worth understanding where these pockets of conservatism lie and what they mean. To my surprise, it was the working class neighborhoods that voted the most for Trump. What we can learn is that despite the politically homogeneous and beautifully diverse city San Francisco has become, one particularly polarizing issue this expensive city has continually faced is affordability. Working class families do not see themselves represented in our country’s democratic politicians nor the city’s progressivism. Since liberal politics have not been working, these working class families living in one of the United States’ most expensive cities believe conservatism must be the answer to poverty. In a time that is so polarizing for our country’s politics, we must start within our neighborhoods to ensure that everyone living in our city feels seen and supported.

Emily Lai

UC Berkeley '24

Emily is a first year at UC Berkeley intending to major in Economics and History. She's passionate about fitness, food, and politics.
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