Much post-election commentary has focused on the GOP's demographic problem - particularly with Hispanic/Latino voters. But Dave Troy pinpoints another trouble spot in a fascinating post at his blog: cities. Troy cites population density as a top indicator of voting patterns and concludes that "red states are just underdeveloped blue states."
Curious about the correlation between population density and voting behavior, I began with analyzing the election results from the least and most dense counties and county equivalents. 98% of the 50 most dense counties voted Obama. 98% of the 50 least dense counties voted for Romney.
Troy examined the data and found the "crossover point." It's at approximately 800 people per square mile:
At about 800 people per square mile, people switch from voting primarily Republican to voting primarily Democratic. Put another way, below 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Republican. Above 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Democrat. A 66% preference is a clear, dominant majority.
Another, more complex chart that doesn't lend itself to being downsized (so please check it out at his blog), points out the main difference between the "blue" and "red" states. The latter have very few cities, but the cities that are in those states tend to skew Democratic. Examples include:
- Boise, Idaho
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Indianopolis, IN
And, closer to home.... Birmingham - where the GOP candidates were decimated last month.
The Atlantic Cities touched on Troy's article and reminded us that John Judas predicted this almost a decade ago. In his book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, Judas wrote that new Democratic strongholds would be based on what what some observers call "the creative class" and the white working class: (p143)
... it does lie in the new workforce of postindustrial America and in the fast-growing metropolitan areas where they live and work. The key for Democratis will be in synthesizing Greenberg and Penn, - in discovering a strategy that retains support among the white working class, but also builds support among college-educated professionals and others in America's burgeoning ideopolises. To do that, they don't have to choose between a populist politics and a politics that emphasizes the "quality of life." They can do both, as Clinton began to demonstrate in 1996, but as Gore failed to do in 2000, largely because of factors that had nothing to do with the appeal of his politics. The Democrats' future, and the promise of its new majority, lies in the rough synthesis represented by this progressive centrism.
In her book "Carry Me Home," a history of the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, Diane McWhorter made much the same point the importance of educated citizens. She wrote about the decline of Bull Connor and his savage tactics, noting that the tipping point in Birmingham happened when large numbers of more educated residents were drawn to the city by UAB, hospitals, financial services, etc. Many of these people supported civil rights, but even those who weren't totally sympathetic to the the protestors were not willing to live in a city torn by strife and one with such a terrible national image.
A friend from Birmingham who's very active in the Democratic Party has insisted for years that the only way to put the ADP back in the game is to focus first on the cities: Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, & Montgomery. He's tired of the stranglehold that rural legislators have on the state government and wants the more urban county parties to work together to build an alternative.
So what do you think? Is Alabama just an underdeveloped blue state? The voting patterns in many of our cities mirror the national results in 2012.
Other formerly solid "red" states are slowly turning purple. Why not us? And how will we do it?