14 November 2018

Blue dot in a red state

Here's the county-by-county voting pattern in the Minnesota governor's race last week.  You wouldn't know from this image that the candidate who won was a Democrat (blue).  The explanation lies in the closeup of the Twin Cities area:

It's the same here in Wisconsin.  I live in Madison, which is one of several "blue dots" in a state whose counties are almost all "red."  You can find many other examples if you search Google Images for "blue dot" "red state."

This degree of polarity is not healthy.  It was discussed at length in an Atlantic article in 2012:
The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside. Not just some cities and some rural areas, either -- virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it...

The voting data suggest that people don't make cities liberal -- cities make people liberal...The gap is so stark that some of America's bluest cities are located in its reddest states. Every one of Texas' major cities -- Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio -- voted Democratic in 2012...

In due course, these populous bastions of urban liberalism have helped spur state legislation and court rulings to create new laws, such as those permitting same sex marriage, that are often in direct conflict with federal laws and with the majority of fellow state counties...

These state laws are the foundation for potential future federal laws, but the sudden, radical divergence between laws from state to state is leading to a dizzying decentralization...


  1. The political, economic, and cultural polarization between urban and rural Americans is becoming the defining issue of the times for the US, from which so many of our problems are stemming from. In particular, the disparity of economic gains between the urbanized coasts and middle America is driving a severe wedge between Americans that is only getting worse. It's why I was very disappointed to hear that Amazon was going to set up HQ2 in New York and the DC area. Economic interaction remains historically one of the best methods of forwarding mutual understanding between different cultures, and yet the relative isolation of the new economy in well-developed cities is causing no small amount of contempt between our two halves.

  2. in direct conflict with ... the majority of fellow state counties...

    But it's not "We, the counties" but "We, the people".

    The contrast between liberal cities and conservative rural areas exist all over the world.

    What is different about the US in comparison with the rest of the world is that the rural areas are geographically so enormous compared to the cities. This makes the "red" vote look much larger than it is. This contrast is not helped by a very, very stubborn two party system, fueled by very silly campaign finances laws that give a megaphone to the rich.

  3. This is NY state as well. I live in a rural, always red county. It doesn't matter how big the red looks, no matter how often it gets posted on my Facebook feed-numbers matter! Thank goodness for cities and the coasts!

  4. I am in total agreement with IronHorse. The economic recession in rural America has existed over the last 5 decades. Manufacturing left and nothing replaced it. The American worker with 3 jobs that President Bush thought "uniquely American" was not due to our industry but to our survival. Federal policy must change to encourage investment, bring steady employment and good-paying careers similar to how it brought electricity, phone and water to settle our rural areas.

    1. My father had 3 jobs back in the early 1950s. It's not a recent phenomenon. It's a quantifying difference in life-style options between the educated Alpha and under-educated Beta humans, or if you please warrior ants vs. drones. The Alphas tend to be urban/suburban dwellers and Betas rural. That's why Beta appealing Trump may be the last Republican president in history.

    2. Federal policy must change to encourage investment, bring steady employment and good-paying careers similar to how it brought electricity, phone and water to settle our rural areas.

      But this is what Democrats were doing with the ACA, green energy and free community college. Health care is the largest growing economic sector in states like WV. It's *adding* more jobs per year than there *are* in total in mining. That's because poor people can finally afford to go see a doctor. It's not that hard for a mining operator to be reschooled to install windmills or solar panels, especially if community college is free. Once you can operate one piece of heavy equipment, you can operate any other, as long as you learn where the buttons are.

  5. My state looks very similar to this. I live in Louisville, KY.

  6. I'm in Tarrant County, right next to Dallas. Tarrant County has voted Republican since 1952, except in 1964 for LBJ. That is until this last mid-term, which also happened to be the first mid-term for me to vote in. My Red State friends are getting a little nervous.

  7. The entire world is becoming increasingly urban. It doesn't take many workers to run a huge farming operation these days. Trying to stop the migration to the cities is like trying to stop the tides. The Republicans can gerrymander and suppress votes but this can only bring short term gain. Time and shifting demographics will win in the end. In order to survive Republicans will have to change and become more inclusive. Trump is not a Republican but he has managed to hijack the party and there are few willing to stand up to him.

  8. While it's true that there is a general rural/urban split when it comes to which party is dominant in election results, it's important to remember that the simple two color map can be misleading. A county with a vote split of 51%/49% will be colored red or blue, but the actual vote count would reflect a fairly balanced split.

    There are other ways of illustrating vote results that try to account for that, like the 'purple' map, or the 'neutralizing' map. Some others stretch or reduce the areas of counties to account for population differences:


    The maps above are not for the 2018 election, but they do show Minnesota at least is likely to be much more 'purple' across most of the state than the simple two color map would lead you to believe.

  9. empty land does not get a vote


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