Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More on Culture and Politics

Recently I posted a couple of maps of Colin Woodard's division of North America into cultural zones. The Washington Post has provided the map shown above which has a somewhat different division of the nation (by county) into 15 cultural areas. I summarize the areas, with a different order than used in the WP:

The Greater Metropolitan Areas

  • Big Cities: 73.6 million very diverse people in the 46 largest counties; President Obama won 65 percent of the vote here in 2012.
  • Urban Suburbs: 66.2 million people in 106 counties just outside most major cities are starting to look like their more urban brethren. Obama won here by 16 points.
  • Middle Suburbs: About 16.3 million people live around big cities in the Northeast and Midwest; swung narrowly from Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012.
  • Exurbs: The not-quite-suburban, not-quite-rural bedroom communities in 222 counties are home to 32 million quite wealthy people; Romney won the exurbs by 17 points.

The Young Folk Are Leaving

  • Aging Farmlands: More than a quarter of the 576,000 people in the 161 counties clustered in the Dakotas south through the Great Plains are over 62 years old; Mitt Romney won 68 percent of the vote here in 2012.
  • Graying America: More of the 15.3 million residents in these 364 counties, scattered around the Mountain West and the northern border with Canada as far east as upper Maine, are over 62 than are under 18; Romney won 56 percent of the vote in these counties in 2012. And perhaps
  • Rural Middle America: The 21.5 million people in these 599 counties live everywhere from Upstate New York to Minnesota’s Iron Range. They are heavily white, they live in small towns, and they are not as reliant on agriculture as other rural counties.
Dominated by Ethnic Groups 
  • African American South: Home to 16.7 million people, the 371 counties running from Virginia to Texas are more than 40 percent African American. 
  • Hispanic Centers: 161 counties mostly in the Southwest, which 11.5 million people call home; Republicans used to win these counties handily, but with the growing number of Hispanics in the voter pool, they are turning increasingly purple.
  • LDS Enclaves: The vast majority of the 3 million people living in 41 counties in and around Utah are white, and young; Romney performed better here than in any other type of county, hitting 74 percent of the vote.
  • Native American Lands: More than half the 695,000 people who live in 42 counties, mostly in the West, are Native Americans; household incomes are significantly lower than the national average.
  • Evangelical Hubs: 12.5 million people live in 373 counties mostly scattered through what Woodard called Greater Appalachia; Romney won 69 percent of the vote in an area where Democrats have a tough time making inroads.
  • Working Class Country: About 8.5 million people live in 337 counties that are among the poorest in the country. Many of these counties are rural outposts in Appalachia, though they dot the Ozarks and parts of the Smoky Mountains, too.
  • College Towns: More than a third of the 17.9 million people in these 154 counties, clustered around college campuses outside big cities, have bachelor’s degrees or higher. They are less diverse than the nation as a whole.
  • Military Posts: The concentration of troops and bases mean the 9.7 million people who live in these 89 counties are younger and more diverse than they might otherwise be. They are also more educated than the average county; Romney won by 14 points here in 2012.
We can see some implications for the politics of the future. I assume that the country will become still more urban. Hispanics will increase as a percentage of the population and will come to vote more. (No wonder Republican state parties seem to be trying to disenfranchise African-Americans and Hispanics, or to gerrymander them into relative electoral irrelevance.) I suppose that we will see groups within the major parties seeking control of their parties, even as each major partiy seek to reach out to cultural groups on the fringes of the other.

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