Republican secret to success: “a rich-poor alliance of affluent suburbs and poor rural counties”

In discussing the outcome of the recall election in Wisconsin, one analyst argues Republican electoral success is based on combining votes from two geographic areas:

McCabe argues the secret behind Walker and decades of Republican success nationwide is “a rich-poor alliance of affluent suburbs and poor rural counties.” In the recall election, Walker swept Milwaukee’s suburbs by huge margins and dominated the countryside. McCabe says in 2010, “Walker carried the 10 poorest counties in the state by a 13% margin”; these counties used to be reliably Democratic. He elaborates:

“Republicans use powerful economic wedge issues to great impact. They go into rural counties and say, do you have pensions? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs, referring to public sector workers. Do you have healthcare? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs? Do you get wage increases? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs.”

The scenario was far different 50 years ago, explains McCabe:

“The Democrats were identified with programs like Social Security, the G.I. Bill and rural electrification. People could see tangible benefits. Today, they ask, ‘Is government working for us?’ And often their answer is no. They see government as crooked and corrupt. They figure if the government is not working for us, let’s keep it as small as possible.”

Another way to look at this would be to say that Democrats tend to get votes from large cities and less affluent suburbs. This is not the first time this suggestion has been made: Joel Kotkin has discussed how Republicans appeal to suburban voters  and others noted in the 2004 election how George Bush won a clear majority of votes in fast-growing exurban counties.

In the lead-up to the November 2012 elections, when there is commentary about geography, it tends to be about which states are toss-ups between the two candidates. But you can rest assured that the advisers for the candidates are looking at much finer-grained data and how to get more votes from more specific geographic areas like inner-ring suburbs, monied burbs, and the metropolitan fringe. States are too large to analyze quickly: think of Illinois and the differences between Chicago, Chicago suburb, and downstate voters. The analysis in the media could at least be about the areas in the states where there are greater population concentrations. Will Mitt Romney primarily campaign in “affluent suburbs and poor rural suburbs” while Obama will stick to the big cities and middle to lower-class suburbs? Is Romney making a suburban/rural pitch in a majority suburban nation while Obama is promoting a more urban campaign?

Cities ranked by the “Trick or Treat Index”

Richard Florida has put some of his data to use to answer an important question: what are the best cities in the united States for trick or treating on Halloween?

According to National Retail Federation projections, Americans will spend $6.86 billion on Halloween this year, up from $3.3 billion in 2005 when a lot fewer of us were out of work. But even as Halloween edges up on Christmas as a shopping opportunity, the trick-or-treating experience is a lot less universal than it was. In some towns, you see hardly any unsupervised trick-or-treaters after dark; in other places—Brooklyn Heights or my neighborhood in Toronto leap to mind—there are more kids than you can imagine.

Herewith the 2011 edition of the Trick-or-Treater Index developed with the ever-able number-crunching of my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague, Charlotta Mellander. The 2011 Index is based on the following five metrics: the share of children aged 5 to 14; median household income (figuring the haul will be better in more affluent metros), population density, walkability (measured as the percentage of people who walk or bike to work) and creative spirit (which we measured as the percentage of artists, designers, and other cultural creatives). The data are from the American Community Survey and cover all U.S. metro areas, both their cores and suburbs…

As for the top ranking metros, Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut, comes in first again this year. Greater New York has moved up to second place, followed by Chicago, greater Washington, D.C., and the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Los Angeles, last year’s runner-up, has dropped to 7th place. Big metros dominate the top spots, but Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has moved all the way up from 16th last year to 6th on our 2011 rankings. And college towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan, Boulder, Colorado, and New Haven, Connecticut, also rank among the top 25.

This reminds me of another recent odd use of data that ranked the luckiest cities. So people with more money, who are more creative, and live in more walkable areas necessarily give more or better candy? Might they also be the people who are more likely to give substitutes to candy? Could this also be related to health measures, like obesity or life expectancy? This seems like opportunistic, atheoretical data mining meant to get a few page clicks (like me).

And since there are probably few people who would go to a whole new metropolitan area just to get candy, wouldn’t this be a better analysis if it was at a zip code, community, or census block level?