Jobless voters key to Trump primary win

Job seekers stand in a line at a career fair in Chicago.
Tim Boyle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Job seekers stand in a line at a career fair in Chicago.

If you're an unemployed Republican, chances are you're supporting Donald Trump as your party's nominee.

That's the takeaway from a CNBC analysis of county-level primary voting data, which shows Trump has won big in counties with jobless rates higher than the national average.

That could bode well for the billionaire frontrunner in New York state's upcoming primary, where 46 of the state's 62 counties have jobless rates above 5.0 percent.

To gauge how well Trump is faring with voters looking for work CNBC looked at GOP primary results in more than 2000 counties in the states that have voted so far. (County-level data was not available for all states that have voted so far.) Of those counties, nearly 1400 had jobless rates above the national average of 5 percent.

Trump was the winner in about three-fourths of the counties with higher-than-average unemployment. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won about 21 percent of those counties, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich won just 2 percent of them.

That support among jobless voters could be pivotal for the GOP nomination as Trump's campaign works to recover from a major loss in Wisconsin, where the statewide jobless rate is 4.6 percent. While Trump carried 43 of the 58 Wisconsin counties with unemployment above the national average, he picked up just 35 percent of the statewide popular vote, behind Cruz's 48 percent share. (Kasich trailed with 14 percent.)

And while Trump won in more than half of the state's 72 counties, Cruz carried the southeast portion of the state, where Wisconsin's job market is strongest. That earned Cruz 36 percent of Wisconsin's 42 delegates.

As the campaign moves to the New York primary on April 19, Trump is counting on a home state advantage to help him regain his momentum against Cruz in New York City, where Trump's name is emblazoned on office towers, apartment buildings and hotels.

He's also counting on strong support upstate where, he has said, "I'm like the most popular person that's ever lived."

If his advantage with jobless voters holds, Trump should do well in New York in the majority of New York counties.

Despite a statewide jobless rate of 4.8 percent, New York's job market has recovered unevenly across the Empire State. In Tompkins County, home of Ithaca-based Cornell University, the jobless rate is a statewide low of just 3.7 percent. That compares with 8.1. percent in rural Hamilton County, located within Adirondack state park.

New York city's jobless rate also ranges from a low of 5.1 percent in Manhattan to 8.1 percent in the Bronx.

Trump has a solid lead in several statewide polls heading into the New York primary. But raw vote totals won't tell the whole story, thanks to New York's complex formula for allocating GOP delegates.

Of the 95 delegates chosen to go to the nominating convention, 14 of them are elected based on statewide results. To win them all, a candidate has to collect more than half the total votes cast. If no one wins half the total, those "at-large" delegates are split among candidates winning more than 20 percent of the vote.

The remaining 81 delegates are assigned based on tallies in each of the state's 27 congressional districts. To win all three, a candidate has to win half the votes in that district. Otherwise, the candidate with the most votes over 20 percent wins two delegates and the next highest tally gets one.

Correction: Ted Cruz carried the southeastern portion of Wisconsin. An earlier version misstated that fact.