Monday, October 4, 2010

Strange maps

All results of a nationwide election in the US can usually be translated into a ‘binary’ map, divided into red states (Republican, mainly in the middle) and blue states (Democratic, mostly on the coasts). In January of 2004, the Boston Globe newspaper issued an original variation on the theme of political preferences in America: it divided the country into 10 distinct, but not necessarily contiguous areas.

The regions were based on election results, demographic data and certain geographic features. Each one represents about 10% of the electorate (i.e. approximately 10,5 million votes in the 2000 presidential election).

Northeast Corridor: the richest, best-educated and most densely populated region of the US. A traditionally Democrat-leaning area, it delivered 62% of the vote to Al Gore in 2000. That’s better than any Democrat in any region since LBJ.

Upper Coasts: anchored by Boston (on the east coast) and San Francisco (on the west coast), this region is relatively affluent and well-educated. Arguably more liberal than the Northeast Corridor, it is less reliably Democratic: third-party candidates do well.

Farm Belt: has the smallest non-white population, with lower than average population growth. Ranks first in percentage of people who finish high school, but don’t get a higher education. Solidly Republican.

Big River: has been the most closely contested area in presidential elections for over 30 years. And the region isn’t easily wooed, never giving either candidate more than 55% during this period.

Appalachia: the poorest and most rural region, but catching up economically. Showed a dramatic swing towards the Republicans in 1980 and stayed that way ever since.

Sagebrush: named after the anti-bureaucratic Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, this region occupies almost 50% of the US land area. The fastest growing region, it was also Al Gore’s worst region in 2000.

Great Lakes: centered around Chicago, and suffering from population loss in smaller cities, it has Democrats chasing votes in more rural areas – the suburban counties have been tilting their way, anyway.

Southern Comfort: fast-growing and average as to income and education, this was part of the ‘Solid South’ that squarely supported the Democratic party around 50 years ago. It has since turned into the most Republican region of the US.

Southern Lowlands: the largest percentage of African-American voters, who reliably vote Democratic. This voting bloc is matched by some of the most Republican areas in the US, making it a swing area.

El Norte: the youngest and most Hispanic region, it was carried by Gore in 2000. It is however not solidly Democratic, having recently sent conservative Republicans to Congress (from Florida and Texas).

Why I have chosen this map:
Although this map was put together to represent the way people vote politically, I think it says more about the 'types' of people who live in certain regions, and the extent of diversity (or lack of it?). The most interesting areas to me are the El Norte, Southern lowlands, Southern Comfort, and Upper coasts.

El Norte: California is included as part of this region, and it is well-known for its diverse and multi-cultural population. It is not suprising that this area contains the most Hispanic people for this reason, however I would have initally expected it to be Democratic, but the researchers of this map claim it is mixed. The mixed views on voting prehaps reflecting the diversity and interests of the multicultural population?

Southern Lowlands: This area has the largest percentage of African American voters and is therefore largely Democratic- a reflection of the policies and aims of the more 'liberal' party. This may be ill-informed but I didn't seem very surprised that the largest African-American population still lived within the Southern states. After the civil war and the 'turfing-out' of slaves by their owners, many settled in nearby or neighbouring areas due to lack of transport, money and resources. In the 21st century most people have the ability to move if they wish, but prehaps links to their history or cultural roots mean that African Americans have settled and remain in the Southern states.

Southern Comfort: Continuing with the theme that views, ideologies and effects of the civil war are still visable within todays society, the most Southern areas (Southern comfort on the map) are heavily republican. The republicans are deemed to be the most right-wing and less liberal party, reflecting that areas of the south still oppose left-wing politics and feel 'comforted' by traditions and conservatism. that has run through its history.

Upper coasts: The upper coasts are described as "more liberal" and "reliably democratic". The reasons for this stated being that those in these states are usually affluent and highly educated. If this is so, what would that suggest about the less liberal Republican areas- such as the 'Southern comfort' region? The GDP (Gross Domestic product- average income earned in a year) is still lowest in the Southern states of American- especially when compared with the East coast.

It can be seen on the map that though there are some 'mid-range' states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisianna, Mississipi, and Arkansas are still at the bottom of the wealth scale. Compare that to the West Coast- where each state is atleast mid-range or bright red, or the East Coast- which has pockets of medium and dark red. The GDP spread of the South matches most to the mid-west 'great plains' states of Arizona, Utah and Idaho. The 'Upper Coasts' region would also be influenced by it's border states and neighbours. The notoriously more liberal Canada is above Washington and Oregon- deemed by this grouping to be Democratic, and Calafornias diversity means that it too would be included in and influence the surrounding states in the 'Upper Coast'.
The map as a whole/summary:
The map as a whole suggests that people live in clusters and that the ideologies of one sub-culture or region may affect and flow into another. States in the mid-west appear to have least certainty and 'swing' over politics and ideals, and those states are also the least populated, supporting the idea that ideologies and views 'spread'. The clustering of liberals or Democrats in the wealthiest and more educated areas raises debate about the different demographics and psycographics of the followers of both parties. The map also raises questions about how 'forward' and changed certain regions or racial groups have moved post-civil war. The areas considered to be most noteable or defineable are the coasts, suggesting that the costal states have more regional identities and 'clusters' of similar people than the more sparcely populated mid-west.

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