This week’s lot of informational emails brought in two conflicting stories. On the one hand, Linked In’s “The Big Idea has a post from Glenn Kelman entitled “The Texasization of America”, in which he promotes the idea, with some enthusiasm, that America should be more like Texas – with its low tax rates, low-density suburban car-oriented living and business-friendly environment. He believes that Texas will become even more Republican, despite substantial evidence to the contrary – such as Micah Cohen’s March 2013 New York Times blog post.
Curiously, Kelman appears to misquote research that shows that denser areas are becoming more and more Democratic in their voting. As Richard Florida points out, the increasing Democratic voting trend has been apparent for more than nine years now: a 2004 book entitled The Emerging Democratic Majority by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira predicted this some time ago. The authors consciously copied the name of the book The Emerging Republican Majority by Kevin Phillips; I read it while in college in the early 1970s. Here is a copy of the original New York Times review of that older book, published on September 21, 1969 – and written by Warren Weaver, Jr. Wait long enough and some things change dramatically, even inverting our original theories and conclusions. But who knew then?
But the real insights on this phenomenon come from entrepreneur Dave Troy, who has carefully analysed the density versus voting patterns in the November 2012 Presidential election. He definitively concludes:
98% of the 50 most dense counties voted Obama; 98% of the 50 least dense counties voted for Romney.
At about 800 people per square mile, people switch from voting primarily Republican to voting primarily Democratic. Put another way, below 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Republican. Above 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Democrat. A 66% preference is a clear, dominant majority. (See the graph below.)
There are very few cities in red states…. The few dense cities that do exist in red states voted overwhelmingly Democratic.
Red state voters generally prefer low-density housing, prefer to drive cars, and are sensitive to gas prices. Once population density gets to a certain level, behaviors switch: high-density housing is the norm, public transit becomes more common, and gas use (and price sensitivity) drops. Red state values are simply incompatible with density.
For those of us living in Australia, the question is: how much does this phenomenon translate here? Does it? Partially yes, but partially … no. (Anyone checked the voting intentions of some of Sydney’s dense eastern suburbs recently?) But the patterns – and their cultural preferences – are distinctive. Food for thought.