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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In The Last Election:  Did You Vote The Same Way, Or Did You Change Your Voting Preference?


So, how did you vote for President in the November 4th election? But just as important as for whom you voted, did your preference for a political party change from the 2004 election? Interestingly, Senator Obama’s agricultural campaign policies were closer to a Republican platform of the past; and ironically, Senator McCain’s farm policies were closer to a Democratic platform of the past. Did your party allegiance switch with the issues? The votes have been counted, and there were quite a few political shifts in rural America.

The differences between Senator McCain and now President-elect Obama on agricultural issues were significant and may have caused many rural voters to focus on those differences as they decided whom to support in the election. The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) analyzed the shifts and trends in the non-metropolitan counties of the US.

Red and blue states have been the keystone for political strategy, in an attempt to gain electoral votes, which were cast yesterday around the nation. But many times the diversity of rural America is hard to quantify, and the campaign planners focus on metropolitan areas. RUPRI looked at 691 micropolitan counties, which have an urban population of 10,000 to 50,000 and 1,333 non-core counties, which have a smaller population.

RUPRI tallies 691 micropolitan counties, 175 of which were won by Obama, compared to 119 won by Senator Kerry in 2004. Of the 1333 non-core counties, Obama won 279, compared to 192 won by Senator Kerry in 2004. Of course, the gains made by Obama in 2008 were at the expense of Senator McCain, whose collection of micropolitan and non-core counties was a majority, but the number diminished compared to the 2004 election.

For the record:
1) 54.7% of metropolitan voters voted for Obama and 44.1% for McCain. However, McCain captured 675 metropolitan counties, compared to 414 for Obama.
2) 43.3% of micropolitan voters voted for Obama and 55.2% for McCain. McCain took 516 micropolitan counties, compared to 175 for Obama.
3) 41.3% of non-core county voters voted for Obama, compared to 57.1% for McCain, and McCain captured 1054 of those counties, compared to 279 for Obama.

RUPRI says the noteworthy issue is the shift between the 2004 and 2008 election.
• 44 counties shifted from Democrat in 2004 to Republican in 2008, and 34 of those were either micropolitan or non-core counties.
• 329 counties shifted from Republican in 2004 to Democrat in 2008, and 177 of those were either micropolitan or non-core counties.
• Of the 2,245 counties that voted Republican in the 2008 Presidential election, the percentage of Democrat votes increased in 1,559 counties and decreased in 686 counties.
• Of the 868 counties that voted Democrat in 2008, the percentage of Republican votes increased in 31 counties, and decreased in 837 counties.

RUPRI says the shifts from 2004 to 2008 do not indicate any long term trend, but some old political axioms are being challenged. The researchers say:
1) First, these maps show continuing Republican control in their historic rural strongholds, although these appear to be consolidating into a regional configuration across parts of Appalachia and the South.
2) Secondly, they also show increased Democratic strength in the rural areas of the Midwest, particularly in micropolitan regions.
3) Finally, the significant Democratic “trending,” whether a one-time anomaly or a developing reality in other historic Republican counties, indicates the rural vote will clearly be in play in the next mid-term and Presidential races.

A political demographic of growing importance is rural America, based on the dynamics of the November Presidential election. Although President-elect Obama received a substantial number of his majority of votes from metropolitan areas, over five times as many counties shifted from Republican in 2004 to Democrat in 2008 compared to the opposite of Democrat in 2004 switching to Republican in 2008. While traditional strongholds will continue to support their party and their candidate, there is a growing importance in rural counties will small urban populations to have a significant impact on the outcome of an election.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 12/16 at 01:02 AM | Permalink

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