Monday, November 12, 2012

Fun With County-By-County Election Results

Much of my time this week has been sucked up by looking at the election results map, especially at the county-by-county numbers.  Back when I first started blogging out of despair after the 2004 election, I wrote about how the whole "red state-blue state" analysis was wrong, since what mattered were regions, not states, in regards to voting.  I hope that I can do my little bit to get the media to stop talking about a "red-blue" divide on the state level, and see it linked to particular regions and even micro-regions, whose political affiliations have a long history behind them.

Take Mississippi, for instance.  We think of it as the reddest of red states, but look at the results, and you will see a lot of deep blue counties in the Delta.  Some of these counties went over 80% for Obama!  You'd be hard-pressed to find numbers like that anywhere else, including in the "blue states."  Of course, those numbers in the Delta reflect the fact that its population is largely African American.  Conversely, the solidly blue state of Michigan is mostly light red outside of the Detroit-Flint-Ann Arbor triangle.

You can see similar things in that red state powerhouse, Texas.  The urban counties that hold Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin all went for Obama, as did the heavily Latino counties on the Rio Grande.  Rural Texas is redder than Bill O'Reilly's face on election night, but holding onto aging regions losing population is not a winning proposition.  The reddest of red regions are the rural Great Plains and Appalachia, which aren't exactly booming these days.

There are also rural regions that are blue, contrary to popular stereotype.  In the Midwest there is a blue zone that stretches across eastern Iowa, western Illinois, and southwestern Wisconsin.  The old southern cotton belt with its significant black population is blue, too.  On the other side, the Republicans certainly aren't appealing to urban voters at all.  Right here in Essex County the president got over 77% of the vote despite the presence of some more affluent suburbs.

Looking at this map, it looks like the Republicans can take either two paths.  The can concentrate on winning the suburbs (the swing vote, essentially), or perhaps make a play for the cities.  With a decent chunk of urban voters switching their votes, states like Wisconsin could go over to the GOP next time around, even if the cities are still majority blue.  Such a strategy, however, would force Republicans to drastically retool themselves, and I don't see that happening.

As a resident of a city, this map does worry me a little.  With so many votes for Democrats located in cities and so few for Republicans, the times when the GOP holds power are disastrous to urban residents.  That party is playing a take no prisoners game where they reward their benefactors and punish their enemies.  As long as one of the major parties sees urban America as its antagonist, city residents will continue to suffer relative privation.

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