Republicans in Orange County are not the same as Republicans in Nebraska
October 28, 2010 5:47 PM   Subscribe

With the U.S. Midterm elections less than a week away, we can expect to hear more about the Red State/Blue State dichotomy. Journalist Dante Chinni and political scientist James Gimpel are among those who maintain that it's not that simple. They say we are a patchwork nation and divided U.S. counties into 12 categories: Boom Towns, Campus & Careers, Emptying Nests, Evangelical Epicenters, Immigration Nation, Industrial Metropolis, Military Bastions, Minority Central, Monied 'Burbs, Morman Outposts, Service Worker Centers, and Tractor Country. Find out how they classified your county.

There is of course more detail on the methodology and descriptions of the categories in the book. They also came up with a separate set of categories for congressional districts Also, an NPR interview with Chinni where the topic of the post title is brought up.
posted by weathergal (39 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. I also live in Orange County, but way over in Vermont (Tractor Country!) where there's a real schism between old school Republicans [into small government, don't care what you do in your home at all] and noveau Republicans who are all into everyone's business and into social control as well as fiscal control. We are getting rid of our (old school, more or less) Republican governor and are looking at a new Republican option who is much more negative and creepy. This is an interesting set of links, thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Morman outposts are lousy with peasant Frenchmen and the living conditions are downright medieval. Yuck.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not that simple, but, it might as well be, given that the election method used in the U.S. tends to lead to two party dominance.
posted by smcameron at 5:54 PM on October 28, 2010

I needn't click through to find out how they classified my area. Something like 1 in every 2 dollars earned in the area comes from the military. Makes all the anti-government teabagging types around here even more hypocritical when they scream about command closures.
posted by indubitable at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

How come Mormons get their own kind of county?
posted by LiteOpera at 6:25 PM on October 28, 2010

Fort Wayne may be growing, but it isn't diversifying much. 75% white, 17% black, and 5.8% Hispanic/Latino doesn't strike me as being particularly diverse. There are more black people in South Bend than in Fort Wayne, and the latter has almost three times as many people.

Can't say I get this.
posted by valkyryn at 6:42 PM on October 28, 2010

How come Mormons get their own kind of county?

Cuz dey git der own bybel!
posted by delmoi at 6:43 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

interesting. my county is classified as Moneyed Burbs. i guess the western half of the Des Moines metro would count, but go east of the river and things are quite a bit different.

my hometown is classified as Campus and Careers. also interesting. yes, there's been three colleges there for years, but my memories of the town were of factories closing and people fleeing. it almost became another rust belt casualty. a lot has changed in 20 years.

anyway, i will be so glad when this election season is over. i tried to watch the world series tonight, but after sitting through 3 teabag-approved political ads, i shut the tv off and cracked open a bottle of wine.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:43 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Intriguing, but San Joaquin is not a boom town county, I don't care how rigorous their methodology is.
posted by blucevalo at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2010

Everywhere I've ever lived in my life is considered a 'monied burb.'
posted by crunchland at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2010

I apparently live in a Minority Central county, next door to a Military Bastion one. I can buy the Military Bastion...but really, the only thing that defines us as a voting bloc is the fact that we're 60% white and 40% black? You'd think our politics would be more interesting, then.
posted by mittens at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2010

I live in "Monied Burbs" which seems fair enough, but our politics are still quite different from the average for this type: overall MB had 54% voting Democratic in 2008, whereas we had 74% Democratic (a slim majority compared to overwhelmingly, unassailably Democratic). But thats why geography still matters: the "Monied Burbs" of San Francisco are going to be different from the MB of Atlanta or Dallas.

But I'm not entirely clear from the website what you are supposed to do with the classification (is it meant as a political predictor?).
posted by wildcrdj at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2010

Reminds me of the work of the Claritas corporation.
posted by box at 7:03 PM on October 28, 2010

Apparently, I live in Dipshit Central. No wonder I feel right at home then.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:04 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I live in San Antonio, TX. I know a lot of Republicans here to credit our (relatively) decent economy to Texan's penchant for low taxes and low government interference in our daily lives (with the exception of blacks, Mexicans and gays, of course).

What they forget is that San Antonio is home to three military bases and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines, not counting some tens of thousands of well-paid defense contractors and other professions who congregate here to keep our military locked, cocked and ready to rock. Also not to mention all the other secondary industries (fast food restaurants, bars, grocery stores, whore houses, etc.) that likewise serve our military.

If I had to pull a number out of my ass I'd say maybe 50% of San Antonio's GDP (including my own salary) comes directly from the US Federal Government. I honestly don't know anyone here who doesn't work for the military, the FedGov, a Federal contractor or a company that services those three.

But we have low taxes to thank for our economy, you see.
posted by Avenger at 7:22 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure how these are supposed to be connected to politics. Of the three most densely populated counties in the Austin (TX) metro area, all three are considered "boom town" in this estimation, but Williamson County is solidly Republican, Travis County is solidly Democratic, and Hays County swings between the two. Also, I'm not sure how another county in the area with a population of less than 5,000 can count as "monied 'burbs."
posted by djlynch at 7:23 PM on October 28, 2010

So, even if the majority of Latinos in your state are multigenerational Americans, they are classified as "immigrants"?
posted by Pants McCracky at 7:38 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My county is "campus and careers," which: fine, if that's an indicator of left-leaning politics, I guess 50/50 is pretty liberal for central Pennsylvania.

They lose me with the counties to the east of us. Lock Haven is no Ann Arbor.
posted by jackflaps at 7:39 PM on October 28, 2010

So, even if the majority of Latinos in your state are multigenerational Americans, they are classified as "immigrants"?

My 4th-generation-American BIL got questioned by the Border Patrol the last time we drove through New Mexico (this summer). He only speaks English and listens to rock music, but he is dark skinned. They stopped us at the checkpoint and asked him questions until they were satisfied that he could speak English properly.

So, yeah.
posted by Avenger at 7:43 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

How does Las Vegas only have a 42/100 in the "hardship index". We're number one in... And its not looking any better...
posted by SirOmega at 7:48 PM on October 28, 2010

I get what they're trying to do here, but Boston and San Francisco are hardly "'Burbs".
posted by Jugwine at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2010

I thought this looked really intriguing, and thought it made perfect sense that my area would be classed as "monied burbs." But when it classed my Mom's home in Bedford County, Va., as "monied burbs" as well, then it lost all credibility.

Trust me... Just wrong on every level.
posted by Naberius at 8:08 PM on October 28, 2010

I get what they're trying to do here, but Boston and San Francisco are hardly "'Burbs".

San Francisco County coincides with the city of San Francisco, though, so that's quite amusing. Alameda County, on the other hand, is "Immigration Nation", despite having a slightly higher average income and actual suburbs. (They don't give race or country of origin data. I wouldn't think they're that different, but maybe they are.)

Hennepin County, MN is also "Monied Burbs". That makes a bit more sense--Minneapolis isn't the whole county. (I have no idea if Minneapolis should count as monied on its own, but, if nothing else, it's not exactly suburban.)
posted by hoyland at 8:12 PM on October 28, 2010

Yeah, the Monied 'Burbs are all over the place politically. By my math, of the 285 counties in the category, 12% were 70%+ for Bush in 2004, 31% were 60-70% Bush, 29% were 50-60% Bush, 16% were 40-50% for Bush, and 9% were less than 40% Bush. (Whereas among all 3141 counties, 22% were 70%+ for Bush in 2004, 30% were 60-70% Bush, 28% were 50-60% Bush, 13% were 40-50% for Bush, and 6% were less than 40% Bush.)

I've lived in a "Monied 'Burbs" county that's 2/3 Republican (and about 95% white, with a population density around 200, and a couple hours from the nearest city) and another "Monied 'Burbs" county that's 2/3 Democratic (and about 70% white, with a population density about 2000, bordering a big city.) I dunno if the other categories hang together better than this, but by the time you're using 12 categories I was kind of expecting a bit more similarity within a single category... especially considering this one oddball category covers 68 million people.

Nerds who like playing with spreadsheets, your data is here.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:22 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmm, just checked outside, my 'burb still doesn't look very moneyed.
posted by chaff at 8:30 PM on October 28, 2010

So Baltimore City is an Industrial Metropolis and Baltimore County is a Monied 'Burb. While this is definitely true for parts of the city and county, when you get down to the neighborhood level it's easy to find Campus and Careers, Minority Central, Immigration Nation, Service Worker Centers and even Tractor Country. I question the usefulness of these conclusions.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:34 PM on October 28, 2010

My county is a Monied Burb? Of what? Only handfuls of the people here commute to Madison or Rockford, and aside from the Hendricks family, there really isn't anyone here I'd call "monied". The cities are shabby industrial (not thriving, but substantially stable with nominal growth until the recession), the non-cities are absolute Tractor Country.

I don't feel this system captures anything about my county worth knowing.

This reminds me a bit of a pollster (LA Times, maybe?) that from around 1985-1995 publicized results among arbitrarily chosen demographic clusters, representing (say) granola hipsters or evangelicals or old-school urban Catholics. While I found it accessible, I eventually learned that statisticians scorned such ad hoc slicing because it changed so frequently and was really only for, essentially, entertainment purposes.
posted by dhartung at 10:24 PM on October 28, 2010

Intriguing, but San Joaquin is not a boom town county, I don't care how rigorous their methodology is.

bluecevalo, I think it has to do with the population, rather than economic growth. There's a lot of people, but there's not enough infrastructure to support everyone. (And the whole armpit of the valley thing...)
posted by shinyshiny at 11:18 PM on October 28, 2010

I get what they're trying to do here, but Boston and San Francisco are hardly "'Burbs".

Nor are Cambridge, Lowell, and Somerville, for that matter. I don't know how many counties are as unhomogenous as Middlesex (which includes those cities as well as suburban and rural towns), but to pretend that one label applies to the whole district is a mistake.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 AM on October 29, 2010

Betcha $5 that on the 3rd of November we'll get the "hurf durf, seccession!" noise all over again anyway.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:20 AM on October 29, 2010

This seems like the right place to ask something that I've found curious for a long while...why has Arkansas continued to elect Democrats to pretty much every statewide office long after the "Solid South" broke down? There wasn't even a Republican on the ballot for the 2008 Senate election, I believe. (And yes, I know that Blanche Lincoln is pretty much toast next week.)
posted by kittyprecious at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2010

Nor are Cambridge, Lowell, and Somerville, for that matter.

True, but Middlesex has a lot more of those communities that I would think of as Moneyed 'Burbs -- your Newtons, Concords, Arlingtons, Lexingtons, Westons, Winchesters and such.

Suffolk county is pretty much just Boston, which does have some suburban-living sections but it would be a stretch to call it a suburb. What would it be a suburb of, anyway? New York? That'd go over real well with the locals.
posted by Jugwine at 7:50 AM on October 29, 2010

How are there entire counties that are "burbs"? The way we do things around here, counties are centered on rusted out former industrial zones (the cities), and filled out with 'burbs, except in the boonies where things are centered on a hardware store and a McDonalds and filled out with farmland. "Detroit" spills into multiple counties, but the county seats in those 'burbs' are usually about comparable to Flint or Saginaw (or at least something like Grand Rapids). Am I wrong?
posted by LiteOpera at 8:18 AM on October 29, 2010

The direct-marketing people have refined it to ZIP+4--I feel sure that, if the money or support or whatever is there, these folks will do the same.
posted by box at 9:09 AM on October 29, 2010

I think everyone might be being a bit too granular. They're trying to loosely categorize entire counties; there are only about 3,000 in the US. The results are supposed to be an average of the available stats for the whole county, so a little bit of mischaracterization is to be expected.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:37 AM on October 29, 2010

My county is apparently a boom town. The two biggest employers are the university and the hospital (so, Campus and Careers you'd think) and number three is the military (Military Bastions). It's a farming county with lots and lots of rural areas and yes, there's a lot of tractors on the road (but yet it's not Tractor Country). It's also one of the wealthier and more educated areas of the state (but it's not Monied 'burbs). I can think of so many categories that my county would belong in, but I have to say Boom Town is not one of them. And since their explanation pages are light on words and heavy on ambiguous graphs, I'm left unenlightened.
posted by librarylis at 9:51 AM on October 29, 2010

I'm thinking that some of the western US counties are tricky, because they're so huge. Mine is listed as "Military Bastion," which I totally get on the one hand -- and on the one side of the county -- but my actual city, not so much. I can see King County (WA) or Riverside County (CA) or SF County being similarly problematic just by virtue of size. (I was surprised to see the last county that I lived in being listed as a Boom Town.)
posted by epersonae at 10:30 AM on October 29, 2010

Lutherans aren't Mainline Protestants?
posted by NortonDC at 11:19 AM on October 29, 2010

I live in Salt Lake and we're a Boom Town, not Morman (sic) Outpost? Color me pleasantly surprised.
posted by msbutah at 11:45 AM on October 29, 2010

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