Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blue State Boy

Perhaps some of you, like me, have become regular readers (i.e., hopeless addicts) of FiveThirtyEight.com, a sort of election meta-site that collects, criticises and combines polling data on this year's US election to try to get an accurate sense of what's going on.

I'd like to think, anyway, that I'm not the only one refreshing the site 10 times an hour to see if anything -- anything! -- new has appeared.

Along with presenting data, the site has a series called 'Road to 270' (that number referring to the magic majority in the electoral college) that looks at each state in some detail.

They have now done profiles of the two states in which I have lived (and voted), and I've learned a thing or two.

For instance, consider the state where I lived for nine years (as my last US residence, it will be the place where where my vote will count for the rest of my voting life).

Maryland, it turns out, is not only probably the most liberal state south of the Mason-Dixon Line -- which, given the competition, I could have guessed -- but...

This is one of the most liberal states in the nation, with every statewide office Democratic-held and both state legislatures holding Democratic super-majorities. Six of eight House seats are Democratic, with only the 1st and 6th CDs held by Republicans. After a series of four single digit elections (Carter '76, Carter '80, Reagan '84, and Bush '88), Maryland has broken Democratic by double digits each of the last four elections beginning with Bill Clinton.

...

It's also the 4th highest percentage of African-American vote, the 2d highest percentage of female vote, and the single most-educated state (good job hitting the books, Maryland). It ranks 10th most liberal on the Likert scale, and has the 2d most self-identifying Democrats. Same-sex households by percentage rank in the upper quartile, and there are many more Starbucks than Walmarts. The high education rates lead Maryland to be the 2d highest per capita income state, which doesn't directly correlate with Democratic voting.


I had no idea that Maryland was so well-educated and wealthy. (This might have to do with the places I lived in Maryland, which were not often either of these...)

The unbalanced Starbucks/Walmart ratio was a bit more obvious.

Today, a profile was added for my real home state, Illinois, concluding, somewhat dispiritingly, that it is 'among the least interesting places to be a voter in the entire country' due to becoming solidly Democratic.

But there has been one very interesting development. At least if you come from where I do.

The story of Illinois' political transformation is the story of the bluing of the Chicago suburbs, which now account for slightly more than 50 percent of the state's population. In 1988, Lake County, the wealthy area to Chicago's north that is featured in all those John Hughes movies, went for George Bush by 27.7 points, making it 20 points more Republican than the country as a whole. But every year since, that number has been pared down some. In 1992, Lake County was 13 points more Republican than the rest of the country; in 1996, 8 points more Republican; in 2000, 3 points more Republican, and then finally in 2004, John Kerry outperformed his national margins there, although still lost the country by a hair (Barack Obama won't have the same problem).

Even my home county -- anything but Democratic when I was there -- may be turning bluer. Back during the primaries, Chicago Tribune writer Eric Zorn noted:

Eight years ago in DuPage County, Republican voters outnumbered Democrats 3-1 in the presidential primary election.

Four years ago, the pro-GOP split in the traditionally Republican enclave was 55-45.

On Tuesday, Democratic voters [in the primaries] outnumbered Republican voters in DuPage County 54-46 percent (131,345 votes to 112,240 votes).

Now, if we could only get the same dynamic going in my family....

4 comments:

Francis Sedgemore said...

Greetings, unreal American!

"I had no idea that Maryland was so well-educated and wealthy."

And odd. How about the "Village of King's Contrivance"?

The election spectacle will thankfully soon be over, but I fear that the racists and religious nutjobs of the USA will emerge at the very last moment and sweep McCain and Palin into power. Either that, or GOP goons challenge every black and urban poor white citizen attempting to enter their polling place, and the McCain camp lets fly legal writs wherever the vote is close.

The safest thing in America right now is probably Barack Obama's head.

J. Carter Wood said...

Greetings, real-ale drinker!

Oh, the odd I was aware of. One of Baltimore's most famous native sons is, after all, John Waters.

I never went out to King's Contrivance, but it does give my home town, Downers Grove (the apostrophe got lost somewhere along the way, making it sound more like a drug reference than anything), competition in the category of oddest town names based upon a possessive-noun construction.

What are you trying to do, Francis, spoil my mood? I had a carefully constructed if somewhat fragile optimism going there.

Thanks for harshing my mellow.

Nice to hear from you. And to see that your blog lives on.

Francis Sedgemore said...

"I had a carefully constructed if somewhat fragile optimism going there."

We're all doomed, I tell thee.

J. Carter Wood said...

Probably not this time (in the sense of there is probably no God...)

I think it's about time Democratic voters like myself get over the Election Derangement Syndrome and just enjoyed winning for a change.

If you're right, on the other hand, I owe you a few real ales.

After the rage subsides.