Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jon Shields

Rights Information

2019 Matthew J Dayton


Pacific County was one of 206 counties nationwide to vote for President Trump in 2016 after voting for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. These counties were pivotal for Trump’s victory in 2016, and will continue to be crucial in the 2020 election and beyond. This paper uses an ethnographic method to understand why Pacific County flipped to vote for a Republican after voting for Democratic presidential candidates every cycle since 1952.

My findings suggest that the shift began with the long decline of the natural resource industry in the area. As industry diminished, unions became weaker, and they could no longer stabilize political life in Pacific County. I argue that the new political reality opened the door for local libertarian-style Republicans to make a successful values-based argument to folks in the area. Rural resentment towards the state government and urban Democrats accelerated the shift rightwards, culminating in Donald Trump’s success in Pacific County. This paper concludes by offering a series of recommendations to the Democratic Party as to how they can use Pacific County’s example to more effectively communicate to rural voters and counteract these trends nationwide.