President Trump received tens of thousands more votes in New York City in the 2020 presidential election than in 2016, and some of his largest gains came from an unlikely area: the South Bronx.
Mr. Trump, a Republican, more than doubled his vote in each of three state Assembly districts bordering the Harlem River that are considered Democratic bastions, according to in-person voting data analyzed by the City University of New York’s Center for Urban Research.
President-elect Joe Biden still won the areas by wide margins, and received more than 80% of votes in the Bronx, but the districts posted the largest percentage increases in Trump votes anywhere in the city.
CUNY compared in-person votes cast this year with the total number of votes cast in 2016, when Mr. Trump received 164,131 votes in his home city—about 1.1 million fewer than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Even with incomplete figures, Mr. Trump has surpassed his 2016 total by 76,612 as a result of better showings in most of the Bronx and Brooklyn as well as all of Queens and Staten Island. The number of votes he received in most of Manhattan was less this year than in 2016.
Mr. Biden received just over 1 million in-person votes in the five boroughs.
Election officials are still opening more than 700,000 absentee ballots, so the final tallies will change in the coming days. Most of the mailed ballots were requested by Democrats, and political observers expect Mr. Biden’s votes to increase.
New York City as a whole generally backs Democratic candidates. But the results reflect Mr. Trump’s gains in majority-Latino communities, which Republicans said they hoped to build on in coming elections—including next year’s mayoral contest. Democrats said they would re-examine the voter-outreach strategies and campaign messages they use to engage Latino voters.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s a pro-Trump vote as much as it is a wake-up call to Democrats,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the top-ranking Latino Democrat in the Bronx.
Across New York state, Mr. Trump won the support of 30% of self-identified Latino voters compared with 66% for Mr. Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a large survey of voters conducted in the week before the election.
Bronx voters offered a variety of explanations for Mr. Trump’s gains, including his support for religious communities and small-business owners. The Rev. Oswald Denis, a 48-year-old Evangelical minister in the South Bronx said he and other pastors attend weekly meetings to discuss politics and city affairs.
Many members of his congregation—and other pastors—were attracted to the president because of his support for Israel and his antiabortion stance.
“That was very emotional for us,” said Mr. Denis, who referred to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. “In the end, we believe that Jerusalem is the city of peace where God is going to reign.”
Francisco Marte Sr., who immigrated to the South Bronx from the Dominican Republic and now runs the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York, said he knew many entrepreneurs supported Mr. Trump.
“Most of them were against the leftist policies,” he said. Mr. Trump’s support for law-and-order also resonated, he said.
Democrat Amanda Septimo was just elected to the state Assembly representing the 84th District, which includes the Bronx neighborhoods of Melrose, Mott Haven and Hunts Point. She won in a district where Mr. Trump received at least 2,500 more votes in this year’s election than in 2016. The president’s tally so far this year—4,166—is more than the 3,157 enrolled Republicans in the district. Overall turnout in the district this year was up by roughly 650 voters.
Ms. Septimo said she could feel support for Mr. Trump on the ground in the district. She said Democrats needed to do a better job connecting with working-class communities but that she thought the biggest factor boosting Mr. Trump was disinformation about Mr. Biden’s stances. “When you look at some of the Spanish-focused media, it’s really alarming,” she said.
Republicans were more likely than Democrats to vote on Election Day, observers said, and they finished ahead of several Democratic incumbent state legislators in Brooklyn and Staten Island—excluding the mail-in ballots still being counted.
GOP pollster John McLaughlin said Mr. Trump’s message in support of law and order was particularly effective in the communities, where it was reinforced by advertisements in the competitive race for Congress between Democratic Rep. Max Rose and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Ms. Malliotakis finished ahead of Mr. Rose on Election Day and declared victory, but the Associated Press hasn’t called the election.
“We saw that the president was running even or ahead in a lot of these areas, and he created a foundation that was solid for these candidates,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. Diaz Jr. said the Bronx Democratic Party didn’t mount its normal voter-turnout drives, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic and a transition in party leadership. Democrats in New York focused on helping Mr. Biden in the nearby battleground of Pennsylvania rather than back home.
State Sen. Jamaal Bailey, the new Bronx party chairman, said the party would need to adjust to new forms of campaigning. He said he was still waiting for all of the votes to be counted in the election, but said Democrats should hone their message.
Bronx Republican Chairman Mike Rendino said the results showed Mr. Trump’s economic populism played well in working-class neighborhoods, and he said it would be difficult for Republicans to retain that support if they returned to pre-Trump policies.
Curtis Sliwa, a Republican candidate for mayor, said GOP votes mostly came from Albanian and Italian neighborhoods in the northern part of the borough. Mr. Sliwa founded the Guardian Angels, a nonprofit crime-prevention organization, in the Fordham neighborhood in 1979. He said he would expand his outreach to include Dominican-Americans in the South Bronx.
“The Democrats just assume, ‘Oh, you don’t have to worry about the Bronx. It’s just a lock,’ ” he said. “It’s still Democratic, but it’s starting to change.”
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Appeared in the November 13, 2020, print edition as ‘Trump Drew More NYC Votes in 2020.’