“Suburbs are now the most diverse areas in America”

Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the suburbs can lead to tension:

Photo by Daniel Ellis on Pexels.com

For a long time, the phrase suburban voter has been code for white voter. But suburbs are now among the most diverse spaces in American life, and tension is growing over who belongs in suburbia as NPR’s Sandhya Dirks reports.

The primary arena for conflict in this report involves politics:

DIRKS: Last year, white parents and some white folks who weren’t parents screamed at local school board meetings over teaching kids about racism or having diversity and inclusion programs. Most of the places where those fights flared were suburbs, and they were suburbs that are changing, suburbs that have grown more diverse. In some cases, like in Gwinnett County, they are also suburbs where Black people have started to get elected to local seats, like school boards.

KERNODLE: The difference between now and then is that we have power too.

DIRKS: Because as suburbs change, so does the power of the suburban vote.

This tension extends to numerous other areas including neighborhoods, housing, jobs, and schooling.

More broadly, this part of the process of “complex suburbia” where suburbs are changing. Some communities are changing faster than others, with these rates likely tied to social factors and patterns of resources and influence.

Why might suburban leaders head up legal challenge to IL law ending cash bail?

A lawsuit led by suburban officials challenges a new Illinois law in court:

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When more than half of Illinois’ state’s attorneys go to court in Kankakee County next month in a last-ditch effort to block the controversial SAFE-T Act, the proceedings will have a distinctly suburban flavor.

The offices of McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow have been chosen to serve as lead counsel in a lawsuit they and 61 of their peers have filed seeking to have the massive criminal justice reform bill ruled unconstitutional…

The state’s attorneys argue that violates several parts of the state constitution, including the Separation of Powers Clause by stripping judges of their full authority to detain defendants, set monetary bail and revoke bail. They also argue that a portion of the Act that gives police discretion to release defendants without bail on low-level offenses unlawfully takes that authority away from the courts…

The state’s attorneys argue that violates several parts of the state constitution, including the Separation of Powers Clause by stripping judges of their full authority to detain defendants, set monetary bail and revoke bail. They also argue that a portion of the Act that gives police discretion to release defendants without bail on low-level offenses unlawfully takes that authority away from the courts.

Suburban counties are not the only ones party to this lawsuit, but is it meaningful that they are leading the effort? A few general patterns scholars might point to:

  1. The image and ideology of suburbs suggests they are safe places relatively free of crime.
  2. Where does crime happen? It is viewed as a problem of cities and urban centers.
  3. The first two points are connected to long-term suburban patterns of exclusion by race/ethnicity and social class. Who commits crime? Not the typical suburbanite.
  4. Suburbs have a long history of fear of crime. And they act regularly in their suburban communities regarding crime, ranging from creating gated communities to supporting police efforts to choices about development and amenities.
  5. A suburban fear of crime is linked to particular political patterns and activity, including Nixon and the Republican Party’s “Southern strategy” to then-President Trump’s 2020 claim that the suburbs are under threat.

Put these factors together and suburban leadership on this issue may be no surprise.

Suburban voters were split in 2022

As the data trickles out from the midterm elections, here is one summary about how suburbanites voted:

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

In 2018, independents went for Democrats 54 percent to 42 percent. Moderates broke for Democrats by a 26-point margin, and the suburbs split. In 2020, according to the national exit poll, independents went for Democrats 54 percent to 41 percent, moderates broke for Democrats by a 30-point margin, and Democrats won the suburbs 50 to 48 percent. Fox had similar results.

This year, independents went for Democrats narrowly. Moderates broke for Democrats by 15 points. And the suburbs narrowly went for Republicans in the national exit poll, while narrowly going for Democrats in the Fox voter analysis. Our national stalemate continued.

In the current state of national politics, both parties want the suburbs to break their way. It appears suburbanites were fairly split this year, meaning that not a whole lot changed. Will either party have a platform or message in 2024 that is more appealing to suburbanites than the other side?

Seeing these results also got me thinking about redistricting, gerrymandering, and how suburban areas are incorporated in districts. Given their volatility and patterns (suburbs closer to big cities lean one way, those on the metropolitan edges lean another way), do party leaders want to consolidate suburban votes or break them up? I would be very interested to see an analysis on this.

UPDATE: In at least one metropolitan region, Democrats continued to make inroads in the suburbs. Referring to DuPage County and the Chicago region as a whole:

The once-impenetrable GOP stronghold was considered purple territory in recent election cycles. But in a watershed moment, Democrats captured the county board chair seat and appeared to hold onto their board majority Tuesday.

The shift in DuPage is part of a political evolution in suburban areas. Four years after Democrats made significant gains in the region, several of the collar counties turned a darker shade of blue on Tuesday.

Democrats flipped key state House districts in the Northwest suburbs. They solidified control of the Lake County Board. The GOP has no representation in Congress from northeastern Illinois. And in DuPage, Democratic state Rep. Deb Conroy became the first woman elected county board chair.

As noted in the article, this is a significant change over the course of several decades.

I received no shortage of political mailers this year and the only thing they may have helped with was name recognition

Our home mailbox has been filled for weeks with mailers for candidates at the national, state, and local level. What have I learned from all of these mailers? Very little.

Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios on Pexels.com

However, the one use they may have is for candidates’ names to catch my attention. I consider myself a fairly informed voter yet I cannot keep up with all of the local races. In a state with so many taxing bodies, there are numerous races for the Forest Preserve, County Board, municipal positions, and more. Who has the time to look at all of the positions of those candidates? I will enter the voting booth today with limited knowledge about dozens of names for positions that the average suburbanite has little knowledge about.

Thus, a mailer might catch my eye with a name in a way that another medium might not. All those texts from candidates in recent weeks? Most were automatically marked as spam by my phone and the others I did not look at. Political ads on television or radio? Easy to avoid by switching stations or using streaming services. News broadcasts about candidates? Can click past or avoid reading.

At the least, I took each of those mailers out of the mailbox, looked at them quickly, and then recycled them. Could they have planted a name or idea in my head? Perhaps.

The % of polling places in churches by state

An infographic in Christianity Today highlights how many polling places are in churches:

If I am reading this correctly, here are two patterns:

  1. The percent of polling places that are churches can differ quite a bit from state to state. Generally, some of the Northwest and Northeast are less likely to have churches as polling place. The highest percentages are in more “heartland” states with some interesting exceptions (Arizona, Florida).
  2. Which religious groups host the most polling places can differ as well. It would be interesting to see more fine-grained data/ do these patterns of particular traditions hold up across states or is it because certain states have higher concentrations of certain traditions?

I imagine there might be all sorts of additional factors to consider when examining this.

Given the current political sentiments regarding the role or involvement of religious groups in politics, do these figures go up or down significantly in the coming years? And among which groups and locations?

The sentiments of suburbanites ahead of the 2022 midterm elections

As the 2022 midterm elections near, what are suburban voters thinking? Here is one report from the suburbs of Los Angeles:

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

No matter where you venture along the northern fringe of metro Los Angeles, whether it’s the bustling suburbs of the Democratic-leaning San Fernando Valley or the more conservative towns that nestle in the russet-hued canyons to the north and east, you’ll find people who say they have good reason to sing the blues for their country.

They’re feeling weighed down by the onslaught of inflation, cultural conflicts and assaults on the electoral process. They fear that Americans — left, right and center — have given up trying to understand or sympathize with one another.

And they hold elected officials and political candidates responsible for sowing distrust among Americans and eroding faith in democratic institutions.

Who exactly will these suburbanites vote for at the national and local levels or will they choose not to vote? One poll suggests some change among white suburban women:

The GOP has seen a shift in its favor among several voter groups, including Latino voters and women, and particularly white suburban women. That group, which the pollsters said makes up 20% of the electorate, shifted 26 percentage points away from Democrats since the Journal’s August poll and now favors the GOP by 15 percentage points.

As in previous elections, suburbanites might sway the outcomes. Both parties have aimed their messages, at least in part, toward suburban voters who are both a sizable percentage of the electorate and where more voters might be open to shifting their votes.

Americans may move close to home to be near politically like-minded residents

How far are Americans willing to move to be in a political environment they are comfortable with? Fewer may move to other countries or other states compared to those who move within a county or region to find residents or communities with similar political views:

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

“This idea of ‘red state versus blue state’ misses a great deal of heterogeneity within states, as well as clusters and spatial patterns that occur within states,” said Ryan Strickler, a political scientist at Colorado State University, Pueblo. “Instead, we’re seeing more of a micro level of political sorting.” …

[E]xperts say the more significant phenomenon is people moving within the same state where they can find others who are politically like-minded. These migrations aren’t about specific political outcomes like the Dobbs decision. Instead, they’re linked to social polarization. “There’s a lot of local reshuffling,” said Alexander Bendeck, a Ph.D. student in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing.

In one of his current projects, Bendeck explores U.S. relocation patterns in the 2010s, using population migration data from the IRS to track the number of migrants between counties nationwide. Bendeck recognized the shift in migration from the coasts to the South or Midwest but also emphasized the effects of moving within metropolitan areas. Many natives of major Southern cities have moved out to the suburbs or to smaller cities. And the locals of those suburbs or cities move to more rural areas or even smaller cities.

But there’s a huge caveat to any migration data: It is impossible to attribute all instances of relocation, even within the same state, to politics. In fact, politics has not been a major factor why most Americans have moved in recent history, Strickler said. Instead, migration is more financially driven, whether people are seeking out a lower cost of living, better job prospects or proximity to family. 

I would be very interested in seeing more data on this micro-sorting within region. As noted in this piece, regions are often broken up this way: denser cities at the core vote more Democratic, far-flung suburbs vote more Republican, and in-between suburbs are more mixed. When people move within a region, how often do they end up in a community that aligns with their political sensibilities compared to their previous home?

One way to interpret this is that people are more tied to finances, jobs, and family within local places or geographies than to politics. Another way to put this is that Americans may express concerns about political trends, but they can often find more agreeable conditions not too far from where they currently live.

This highlights the importance of local government and politics even as there is a lot of attention paid to national politics. Even as state or national patterns may not be what individuals desire, they can rest assured that local communities or representatives share their positions. This could be related to the pattern where more Americans approve of their local Congressional representative than they approve of Congress as a whole.

Is it possible to get convincing data on whether the media is covering a story or not?

A strike is threatening the operation of railroads in the United States. Is the media coverage of the story sufficient or appropriate to the scale of the issue? How could this be measured?

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Media stories and/or reports can be counted in multiple ways. Count articles, headlines, the number of words written, social media posts, time spent on it during television broadcasts. Look at where and when stories are reported or not; does it lead the news or come later? Is it buried on a webpage or a newspaper page? How many resources are devoted to the topic could involve looking at how many reporters are on a story or the length of stories and reports.

But, this measurement question is complicated by the issue of knowing when the coverage is enough or not. My sense of most of the Internet arguments about this is that one political side feels for one reason or another that a story is not getting sufficient attention. Would an accurate count or measurement of coverage be convincing? What is an appropriate level of coverage depends on who is asking.

Additionally, the media has its own logics and pressures regarding what stories it covers and how it displays them. Not everything can be the top headline. Resources for covering the news are limited.

This might just be a perfect kind of argument for our politicized and fragmented current age. For those who really care about an issue, no level of media coverage might be enough. For those who are less interested or less aware, they might not care or know what they are missing. Media sources will provide information but not so do necessarily evenly across all news stories. And social media, the Internet, and politics provides space to express concern or outrage about the coverage or lack thereof.

How much the big city mayor needs to fight to keep the major league team

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has publicly stated what the city could do to keep the Chicago Bears:

Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

Via Sports Business Journal, a Chicago mayoral committee will recommend that the city consider the feasibility of putting a dome over Soldier Field.

A dome, as reported by Crain’s Chicago Business, could cost between $400 million and $1.5 billion.

Other possibilities include upgrades to the stadium (including significant rebuilding of certain parts of it) and selling naming rights to generate revenue for improvements.

The Bears are most interested in pursuing plans for suburban Arlington Heights.

In the long run, it is not probably not worth it for the city and the others to spend hundreds of millions to keep the Bears. The team would benefit the most from new arrangements. The money spent on eight Bears home games a year will be spent elsewhere in the city. The team is not leaving for another market but just for the suburbs.

At the same time, losing the biggest team in town to a suburb is not a good look for leaders. The Bears have played in the city for a century. They are the most popular sports team in town. Soldier Field hosts other events but it has been the home of the Bears for decades. The loss of the Bears could be added to the narrative of losing companies and residents.

Discounting whether the offer from the city is a viable one – putting a dome on Soldier Field is no easy task – I think this is a necessary political move. The mayor and city leaders need to make a good offer to save face. The big city leader cannot let the big team leave without a fight. And ten years from now, when the Bears are playing in a suburban property that earns the team even more money and the city of Chicago has moved on, there may still be lingering blame for those who let the Bears leave no matter what offer or public statements they made.

Primary suburban voter turnout in Illinois under 20%

Experts suggest the turnout for Illinois’ primary earlier this week will be under 20% in the Chicago suburbs:

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

When the votes are certified by the Illinois State Board of Elections late next month, officials believe fewer than 20% of the state’s registered voters will have cast ballots…

In the suburbs, only DuPage County reported more than 20% voter turnout, according to unofficial results on the county clerk’s website.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough is still reporting one uncounted precinct late Wednesday, but just 19.1% of suburban Cook County voters cast ballots, according to her website.

Unofficial results show voter turnout in McHenry County at 19.4%, 18.2% in Kane County and 18.7% in Will County.

The suburbs are where the political action in the United States is today, yet Chicago suburbanites did not vote in large numbers for the primaries ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Given the congressional redistricting in Illinois and an impending gubernatorial race, where the stakes not high enough for suburban voters?

The article goes on to discuss reasons why voters may not have felt very motivated to vote in this primary. How many of these reasons – summer voting, lack of interesting races, limited midterm turnout – explicitly affect suburbanites? Summer vacations are a marker of middle-class and above suburban lives but how many of them overlap with the late June 28 voting day? Do suburbanites need more contested races than other voters? Do suburbanites not feel the pressure of midterms or only pay attention in the presidential cycles when there is more at stake amid their busy day-to-day suburban life?

Those candidates and actors that can inspire suburbanites to get to the polls and vote may just get the winning edge.