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Why are the shores of the Mississippi blue - politically?

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 06:29 pm
Hi all

Back last November, with the Congressional elections, I was looking at results by congressional district, rather than just by state. Thanks to the wonderful maps that the Congressional Quarterly and the NYT had (and still have) online, you could compare prospects for the outcome of the 2006 elections with the results of the previous Congressional elections and the presidential election results from 2004, and combine it with a bunch of district-specific data about demographics, past elections history, workforce info.

(I had all kinds of things noted down about that too - all gone now since my laptop was stolen.)

One thing struck me: how especially in the South, but also further upstream, there was a concentration of the Democratic vote along the shores of the Mississippi.

Here, this map shows it quite clearly. It's a map of the results of the 2004 Presidential elections, showing the winner by county (source: Wikipedia).

http://img185.imageshack.us/img185/8067/2004resultsbycountydk4.jpg



This map (source: Robert J. Vanderbei) indicates the same pattern, if more "softly": it shows the 2004 Presidential results by county in shades of purple (with red 100% Republican and blue 100% Democratic).

http://img329.imageshack.us/img329/2231/election2004inpurplemisgp9.png

OK, so why?

What is the demographical background that makes the populations on the shores of the river relatively Democratic-minded, and those further inland relatively Republican-minded?

And what is the historical background of how those demographics came to be? Is there a specific historical background to the shores of the river leaning left?

It's not just urban/rural - judging on the maps in the atlas, many of the Democratic-leaning counties on the banks of the river are as rural as the Republican-leaning ones inland.

Is it to do with race? More African-Americans on the banks than inland? (And if so, how did that come to be?)

I'm always very interested in the nexus of political geography, demography and history, and would love to hear more about this case.

Thanks!
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Swimpy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 06:41 pm
That's a good question. I'm bookmarking in case someone's got a good answer. (I suspect it is because of the urbanization along the river, but what do I know? I just live here.)
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Vietnamnurse
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 07:26 pm
I'll go along with Swimpy and also add that with urbanization comes high tech and good schools. Look at the the tech triangle around Raleigh/Durheim in NC...notably more liberal/democratic as the educational base increases. Laughing I think there is a trend here that others have noted before me.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:16 pm
In the South, the Mississippi delta region was the location of the largest cotton plantations, and thus the largest concentration of slaves. After the Civil War, the freed blacks remained as sharecroppers, and so that region retained a large black population. And I need not mention that blacks vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.

As for the Mississippi north of the Ohio, the blue areas tend to be urban areas: St. Louis, the Quad Cities, Dubuque, Minneapolis-St. Paul. As Swimpy noted, urban areas, as a general rule, tend to vote Democratic. Wisconsin and Iowa are also have more blue rural counties because Wisconsin and Iowa have trended more liberal in recent elections (although Iowa still went for Bush, very narrowly, in 2004).
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:28 pm
Vietnamnurse wrote:
I'll go along with Swimpy and also add that with urbanization comes high tech and good schools. Look at the the tech triangle around Raleigh/Durheim in NC...notably more liberal/democratic as the educational base increases. Laughing I think there is a trend here that others have noted before me.

Hm. The pattern that the more educated people are, the more prone they are to vote Democratic, is relatively new, and still mostly only applicable locally. Traditionally, the Democrats actually do better among the lowest-educated (and poorer) people, and the Republicans better among the higher-educated (and richer). Only the top-educated (postgrads) turn Democratic again.

This pattern is reversed in parts of the South, it's true, which was of course deeply Democratic but collectively turned conservative Republican since the 60s. It's there, for example in NC as you mention - or in Virginia - that the Democrats do better in high-ed high-tech places. Mostly because those places actually pull people in from outside the South, who are more likely to be Democratic voters.

But nationally, its still the other way round. The exit polls for the 2000 elections show a stark example. Al Gore beat Bush a stunning 59% to 39% among those who had no high school degree. Among high school graduates Bush narrowly led (49% to 48%), and it was among those with some college education and college graduates that Bush's lead jumped to six points (51% to 45% both). Only at the very top of the educational level, among postgrads, did the preference swing back to Gore again.

The same held true in the 2004 exit polls, though admittedly less starkly. Still, Kerry beat Bush among those who didnt finish high school, 50% to 49% - and dropped to 47% against 52% for Bush among high school graduates - and an even worse 46% against 54% for Bush amongst those with some college. Kerry's share of the vote remained 46% among college graduates and only shot back up to 55% among postgrads.

So no, in general, places do not become "more liberal/democratic as the educational base increases". It applies to states like NC and VA only because those are conservative areas, which have seen an influx of higher-educated people who migrated in from more liberal states.

Could that be true at least for the Mississippi banks in the South? Are there towns or areas near the Mississippi river in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri that have seen an influx of liberal outsiders moving in?

Swimpy wrote:
(I suspect it is because of the urbanization along the river, but what do I know? I just live here.)

It's an interesting thought, but judging on the maps in the atlas at least, many of the Democratic-leaning counties on the banks of the river seem as rural as the Republican-leaning ones inland.

In fact, here's a demographic map. It doesnt look like the Mississippi banks are particularly urbanised, apart from the separate centers of New Orleans, Memphis and St Louis, and up north Minneapolis/St Paul.

http://img179.imageshack.us/img179/4801/uspopdens2pv8.gif

So .. <squints at electoral map, at the population map, at the electoral map> ..

Yeah, exactly. The most heavily Democratic stretch of the Mississippi river spans about the entire length that it serves as the Western border of Mississippi state (with LA and AR, respectively, on the other shore). And there's not a city of note the length of it.

Then there is a bit of a break, in which both shores are majority Republican except for the environs of St Louis;

And then you have the second concentration of Democratic votes in the section stretching along the state borders of Iowa and Minnesota (with a bit of Illinois and then Wisconsin on the other side). Culminating in the liberal bulwark of Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior.

And again, apart from Minneapolis, there's no cities bigger than, say, Davenport, the length of it.

Hhmmmm.. so what is it, then?
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:33 pm
In addition to the points Swimpy and Joefromchicago made, I would have to guess that many of the people along the Mississippi are from families that migrated there and they were considered "outsiders" wherever they settled. The Mississippi was a major immigration route with people coming in through the port of New Orleans and migrating upriver as well as many heading downstream from Canada.

The racial/ethnic diversity along the river is probably much more mixed than in towns farther away from it.
0 Replies
 
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:33 pm
It's the mud.

Joe(I'll explain later because I really don't know what I mean by that.)Nation
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:52 pm
The area around ar Harbor Me and Newport RI are greenish, they are "other" I never realized that there were many libertarians, Greens, or Naderites around there.
0 Replies
 
Swimpy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 May, 2007 08:54 pm
I can only speak from what I see as a person living in an Iowa city on the Mississippi River. When I look at your first map, I note that all of the blue squares are in the locations of urban areas. They are not large urban areas, granted. The largest in eastern Iowa only has 150,000 people. We are also well educated in this state, ranking consitently in the top two or three states in the nation.

I'm not sure what those two facts have to do with voting paterns, but I throw them in for consideration.
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JPB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 04:14 am
nimh, are you able to cross reference any of your data/maps with labor union strength? I wouldn't be surprised to see the northern urban areas along the river be highly correlated with a strong influence by unions.
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Vietnamnurse
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 04:56 am
Nimh,

In an issue of the New Yorker Magazine shortly after the "selection" of GWB by the Supremes was an article written by Nicholas Lehmann. He had interviewed Karl Rove about education of minorities, blacks and Hispanics and Karl told him that the goal was to educate, but not educate TOO MUCH, because then THEY WOULD VOTE DEMOCRATIC! I have posted this before.

Technology corridors were prime areas for grazing for Dem votes according to Donkey Rising writer Roy Texeira.

Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post had a humerous study done but was also factual...the more book stores an area had the more likely that areas votes would have gone to Gore. Laughing
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 06:11 am
Swimpy and Joe have made good points--but i would point out that the banks of the river are not exclusively "blue," and that if one looks in particular at the Illinois and Missouri banks of the river, it is rather red. Illinois has long been a stronghold of the Republicans (Lincoln, the first Republican President, was elected from Illinois), outside Chicago and southern Illinois (both traditional Democratic Party strongholds). What i find interesting about these contentions is that, first, in Habibi's maps, southern Illinois is not solidly Democratic, which is a departure from tradition. Furthermore, despite the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the banks of the river weren't particularly "blue" in Minnesota, where the river rises.

Correlation is not evidence of causation. An interesting exercise, but probably meaningless.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 02:30 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
In the South, the Mississippi delta region was the location of the largest cotton plantations, and thus the largest concentration of slaves. After the Civil War, the freed blacks remained as sharecroppers, and so that region retained a large black population.

Oooh that makes sense. The cotton plantations were especially concentrated down around the river? That's definitively a persuasive explanation, then, why there would now still be a concentration of rural black Democratic constituencies along its banks.

<goes to check the demographic numbers for the Democratic-voting Congressional districts along the lower Mississippi>

Yep - House district MS 2, which stretches along most of the western, Mississippi-shore border of the state of Mississippi, is 63% black.

It doesnt hold up for the districts that border the Mississippi river a little upriver in Arkansas and Tennessee though; AR 4 is 71% white, AR 1 is 80% white, and TN 8 is 74% white. Still, in two out of those three, blacks are clearly overrepresented in the population, plus all three districts veer off far inland as well, so their demographics might not reflect those of the immediate riverbank counties well.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 02:35 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
As for the Mississippi north of the Ohio, the blue areas tend to be urban areas: St. Louis, the Quad Cities, Dubuque, Minneapolis-St. Paul. As Swimpy noted, urban areas, as a general rule, tend to vote Democratic.

Hhmm, this part I still dont really see.. <eyes the demographic map again>. The upper Mississippi banks dont look particularly urban to me, on this map..

Hmm.. it's true that, if you squint, you can see that in the Iowan part of the Mississippi at least, riverside county populations - however dwarfed by cities like St Louis and Minneapolis/St Paul they are - are still larger than in most of the inland counties.. They're tiny red circles rather than grey dots. Yeah, I see that Swimpy already said this: "They are not large urban areas, granted, [but they're] urban areas."

So the Democrats benefit from a clear advantage in small cities along the Mississippi, then? Thats interesting, because nationally, Bush and Kerry ran roughly equal in smaller cities (49%/49%, according to the exit polls) and small towns (50%/48%).

So there still must be something specific about these towns, then.. are they more industrial (or post-industrial), perhaps? With - just a wild guess - a tradition of harbour- and transport-related manual work that has seen hard times?

By the way, you mention the Ohio river - which is interesting - because the banks of the Ohio River in turn were a main target of Democratic take-over attempts in the 2006 Congressional elections. Crossing state borders, the Ohio river was the 'connector' between several seats the Dems picked up: Indiana 8 (from Hostettler), Indiana 9 (from Sodrel), Kentucky 3 (from Northup) and Ohio 18 (from Ney).

The WaPo had a team of roving reporters travelling across the region during the campaign: Ohio River Ramble. I admit that I only followed an occasional installment, so I didnt come away with a good grasp of why that area is trending Democratic either.

joefromchicago wrote:
Wisconsin and Iowa are also have more blue rural counties because Wisconsin and Iowa have trended more liberal in recent elections (although Iowa still went for Bush, very narrowly, in 2004).

Its a little off-topic, but thats actually not true - if anything, both have been trending Republican somewhat. Bush's 2004 results in Wisconsin and Iowa were both the best a Republican had gotten in the state since Reagan in 1984. Whereas Kerry's result in both states was worse than how Dukakis had done in '88.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 02:36 pm
fishin wrote:
I would have to guess that many of the people along the Mississippi are from families that migrated there and they were considered "outsiders" wherever they settled. The Mississippi was a major immigration route with people coming in through the port of New Orleans and migrating upriver as well as many heading downstream from Canada. The racial/ethnic diversity along the river is probably much more mixed than in towns farther away from it.

Oh that sounds like a really good explanation too. That would make a great lot of sense.

Does anyone know a little more about this? The Mississippi as migration route, and engenderer of diverse waterside communities?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 03:11 pm
farmerman wrote:
The area around ar Harbor Me and Newport RI are greenish, they are "other" I never realized that there were many libertarians, Greens, or Naderites around there.

Smile I think that what you are seeing is grey - the grey of the shoreline, which kind of goes in and out and around in the eastern section of RI.

However, I was kind of surprised to find a band of greenish in central Mississippi in the equivalent map for the 2006 Congressional elections (see here, top of the page). Surely there's no Naderites in Mississippi?

That mystery was easily solved though: the band in question is Congressional district MS 3, in which no Democrat bothered to challenge incumbent Republican Charles "Chip" Pickering Jr., and his only opponents were thus two third-party candidates: Independent Jim Giles and Reform Party candidate Lamonica Magee. Giles, a white supremacist farmer, got 16% of the vote, and Magee got 6%, says Wikipedia.
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Chai
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 03:16 pm
nimh wrote:
[It doesnt hold up for the districts that border the Mississippi river a little upriver in Arkansas and Tennessee though; AR 4 is 71% white, AR 1 is 80% white, and TN 8 is 74% white. Still, in two out of those three, blacks are clearly overrepresented in the population, plus all three districts veer off far inland as well, so their demographics might not reflect those of the immediate riverbank counties well.


I think the Whites in those regions are primarily blue too, and traditionally have been that way since plantation times.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 03:36 pm
nimh wrote:
Hhmm, this part I still dont really see.. <eyes>. The upper Mississippi banks dont look particularly urban to me, on this map..

They're "urban" according to the census definition of "urban." More to the point, they're "urban" in that they're cities larger than 50,000 people. Dubuque, for instance, may not be as big as St. Louis or Memphis, but it is at the center of an urban area of close to 100,000 people, which looks pretty urban when you're in eastern Iowa or southwestern Wisconsin.

Furthermore, your first election map just colors counties blue or red depending on which party got the most votes. Dubuque County isn't very large, and the city of Dubuqe accounts for over half of the county's population. So it's little surprise that Dubuque County appears blue.

nimh wrote:
So there still must be something specific about these towns, then.. are they more industrial (or post-industrial), perhaps? With - just a wild guess - a tradition of harbour- and transport-related manual work that has seen hard times?

I don't think there's one economic sector that dominates life along the entire length of the Mississippi, except maybe agriculture.

nimh wrote:
Its a little off-topic, but thats actually not true - if anything, both have been trending Republican somewhat. Bush's 2004 results in Wisconsin and Iowa were both the best a Republican had gotten in the state since Reagan in 1984. Whereas Kerry's result in both states was worse than how Dukakis had done in '88.

If all politics were presidential politics, then you might be right. But state politics in Iowa and Wisconsin have been more Democratic in recent years than in the past, as is witnessed by the fact that both states have Democratic governors, three of the four state legislative houses have Democratic majorities, and both states have Democratic majorities in their congressional delegations.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 03:47 pm
Well water makes you vote Republican.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 May, 2007 03:50 pm
How would you know whether or not your water were unwell?
0 Replies
 
 

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