The Two Americas: Urban Versus Rural

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Sen. John Edwards (D-SC) got a lot of mileage out of his "Two Americas" stump speech in 2004. I will give these "two Americas" a different context.

There is a lot of talk today from pundits about a Red America and a Blue America, each of whom possesses a different socio-economic political ideology. Some of these pundits are defining this as a white America versus a minority America. And some of these pundits are defining this as the "47 percent" takers versus the "one percent" makers. This of course fits their ideological predisposition and focuses on thin slices of the far more complex socio-economic political "pie."

There has been some very good research done in recent years about what really divides America, and it is not what you might imagine. It is an "urban versus rural divide" (do a Google search for this term).

More Americans lived in urban areas than in rural areas for the first time in the 1920 Census. That trend has only intensified. This population shift represented more than a demographic change.
Economic, social, and political changes accompanied Americans' migration
to the cities.

Take a look at this map of the popular vote for the 2012 election.


See those dark red counties in the Great Plains and the Mountain West? This is what I like to call the "big empty" — vast tracts of sparsely populated areas where few people live. If a handful of farmers or rachers in the local co-op get together and vote Republican, they paint their county a dark red.

One problem. One city block in an urban community has more voters than that entire county in the "big empty." Take a look at the map again. In general, those blue counties mostly represent urbanized areas, with few exceptions (some counties are where colleges and universities are located). And there are major urban areas, for example Maricopa County, which does not appear blue on this map. There are Republican-leaning urban counties.

A cartography map for the county map above is not yet available, but the cartography map for the electoral college map is at Election maps:

Here is a typical
map of the results of the 2012 election:


[This] map fails to take
account of the population distribution. It fails to allow for the fact
that the population of the red states is on average significantly lower
than that of the blue ones. The blue may be small in area, but they
represent a large number of voters, which is what matters in an election.
We can correct for this by making use of a cartogram, a map in which
the sizes of states are rescaled according to their population. That is,
states are drawn with size proportional not to their acreage but to the
number of their inhabitants, states with more people appearing larger than
states with fewer, regardless of their actual area on the ground.

Here are the 2012 presidential election results on a population cartogram of this type:


In principle, one could also make similar maps of the county-by-county
election returns, but the county results are not yet available for the 2012
election. Watch this space in the next day or two for new county-level

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