Monday, October 24, 2016

Democratic clusters of population in urban areas keeping party from turning red states blue

Democrats don't want to live in the rural regions they need to populate to get enough votes to turn red states blue, Alec MacGillis reports for The New York Times. "Democrats today are sorting themselves into geographic clusters where many of their votes have been rendered all but superfluous, especially in elections for the Senate, House and state government. This has long been a problem for the party, but it has grown worse in recent years."

Bill Bishop, co-founding editor of the Daily Yonder, chronicled this phenomenon eight years ago in "The Big Sort," MacGillis writes. Bishop's theory helped "explain why red-blue maps of so many states consist of dark-blue islands in the cities surrounded by red exurbs and rural areas, a distribution that is also driven by urban concentrations of racial minorities and by the decades-long shift in allegiance from Democratic to Republican among working-class white voters." (Big Sort map: Presidential election by county in 1976)
"That hyper-concentration of Democratic votes has long hurt the party in the House and state legislatures," MacGillis writes. He notes that in Ohio Republicans won 75 percent of the U.S. House seats in 2012 despite winning only 51 percent of the total votes. (Big Sort map: Presidential election by county in 2004)
"That imbalance can be explained partly by Republican gerrymandering," MacGillis writes. "But even if district lines were drawn in rational, nonpartisan ways, a disproportionate share of Democratic votes would still be clustered in urban districts, giving Republicans a larger share of seats than their share of the overall vote. Winning back control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania and Michigan could help Democrats in redistricting after 2020. But it would help more if their voters were not so concentrated in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Detroit and Ann Arbor."

He sites three reasons for changes: geographic mobility, education and economic gaps. While lower income people once migrated for better opportunities, those more likely to migrate now are highly educated, typically moving to metro areas, MacGillis writes. Also, higher educated people are more likely to vote Democratic. Currently, Democrats hold a 12-point edge in party identification among those with a college degree or more, when the parties were even on that score in 2004. Also, the U.S. economic gap between the wealthiest cities and the rest of the country has grown considerably, with economically dominant cities tending to be in deep-blue states. (Read more)

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