Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Democratic gains in the suburbs

This article takes note of this paper, about which I’ll have more to say when I read the whole thing. At the moment, note this:

Democrats made large gains in suburbia in this month’s elections, pushing Republican turf to the outer edges of major population centers in a trend that could signal trouble for the GOP, an analysis shows.

Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

They received nearly 55% of the vote in the next ring of “mature” 20- and 30-year-old suburbs, with 45% going to Republicans and third-party candidates. In 2002, the last midterm election, Democrats received 50% of the vote there.

“Republicans are getting pushed to the fringes of the metropolis,” said sociologist Robert Lang, director of the institute. “They simply have to be more competitive in more suburbs,” he said, to win statewide and presidential races.

RCP’s John MacIntyre had this to say:

I think it is wise to be careful not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from the mid-term results, because of Iraq’s dominating influence over the election. There is no doubt that Republicans lost Independent and moderate voters, and that they lost voters in the suburbs. The real question is whether this is a one-time event or the beginning of a trend. Was 2006 more of a vote of no-confidence on U.S. Iraq policy, or was it the early stages of a real and sustained move among swing voters to the Democrats?

Sounds right to me, on first thought.

Update: I took a closer look at the paper and glanced at
this one comparing the 2000 and 2004 elections as well. There’s less new here than meets the eye. In 2000, Gore won 53.7% of the "top 50 metros’" vote; in 2004, Kerry won 53% of that vote; in 2006, Democratic Congressional candidates won 55% of it, a net gain of 1.3% since 2000. The change for various classifications of counties from 2006 to 2006 is as follows:

Core urban counties: 72.9% D (2000) to 76.4 D (2006)

Inner suburban counties: 56.3% D (2000) to 59.6% (2006)

Mature suburban counties: 51.7% D (2000) to 54.8% D (2006)

Emerging suburban counties: 44.4% D (2000) to 44.6% D (2006)

Exurbs: 40% D (2000) to 42.1% D (2006)

I’m inclined to think that the 2002 election understates typical Democratic support because of the lingering 9/11 effect. I’m also inclined to think that many of the Democratic gains in 2006 over 2000 are the result of the current unpopularity of the Iraq War, which I hope (but am not confident) will not have a lingering effect on the electoral prospects of the two parties. Bottom line: the "inner" and "mature" suburbs were already essentially Democratic in 2000, with only the inner really having become more so since then, and the mature only marginally Democratic in a year when "all things are equal" (as they clearly weren’t this year). It’s also worth noting that the population growth is almost all in the emerging suburbs and exurbs, which remain Republican strongholds, even in this relatively bad Republican year.

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