Why the Urban-Rural Voting Divide Matters – Politics – The Atlantic Cities
Starting before the Civil War era, America’s political dividing lines were drawn along state and regional borders. Cities and the then-extensive rural areas shared a worldview North and South of the Mason-Dixon line. While there was always tension within states, they were bound by a common politics. The city of Charleston, for example, was as rabidly anti-North as some inland plantation areas. Economic engines, ways of life, and moral philosophies changed at the 36th parallel, where the North began.
Today, that divide has vanished. The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside. Not just some cities and some rural areas, either — virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.
The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal. Here, courtesy of Princeton’s Robert Vanderbai, is an electoral map that captures the divisions: