Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Posts Tagged ‘Political Science

Weather and turnout

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I think everybody seems to agree turnout is a critical factor tomorrow. I’ve heard one or two comments to the effect that the sloppy weather predicted for Tuesday across most of the state favors Brown, by holding down turnout.

But I think bad weather clearly favors Coakley, myself. As a Massachusetts resident following this race very closely, my sense is there’s a huge spike in interest and enthusiasm from a lot of independent (we call them “unenrolled” here in Massachusetts) voters. I could be wrong, but the bulks of these voters strike me as being usually not particularly involved in politics. Brown needs a healthy turnout from these people to counter what I expect to be a larger than expected turnout of committed (and scared!) Democrats and liberal independents. I can imagine many a low information Brown supporter getting up tomorrow with the intention of hitting the polls on the way to work, and then realizing the roads are pretty crappy and thinking “Hmmm, maybe I should go to work first and vote on the way home.” Not all of them will make it — especially if they’re overconfident in the porn star’s chances. City lefties like me can walk to the polls even in a blizzard.

Martha could still pull this thing out. The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the right wing would be enough to stave off my seasonal depression for the remainder of the winter.

Written by Jasper

January 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Progressive Hicks in the New England Sticks

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Via Yglesias, here’s a cool map demonstrating granular county level voting patterns. Matt writes:

…the Republican parts of the country form a largely contiguous bloc while Obamaland is an incredibly fragment archipelego…it’s an interesting dramatization of the Democrats’ base in cities and inner suburbs. I wonder if anyone’s familiar with any good work on what accounts for the anomalously progressive views of rural New England. What’s the matter with Maine?

I think one way to answer that question is to look into who really is “rural” in New England and who isn’t. Maine certainly seems a pretty rural place when you’re driving through it, but Portland, Augusta, Lewiston, Bangor etc are perhaps more accurately described as urban — even though individually they’re pretty small urban areas. Heck, I suspect something like half of Maine’s population is within plausible commuting distance to greater Boston (not downtown Boston, mind you, but an office park in Andover, MA is a feasible commute for someone living near Kittery or York). This is doubly true for New Hampshire, whose southern portion — where nearly everybody lives — really is a bonafide extension of the Boston suburbs.

My point is, northern New England appears rural, but its genuinely rural parts are home to vanishingly small numbers of voters. The vast majority of voters in the region actually reside in small cities, or liberal college towns, or in the exurban spillover of Boston.

Even highly dense Massachusetts is a good example. The portion of the state west of Worcester makes up something like half the land area, but something like 10-15% of the population. If you remove Pittsfield, Northampton, Springfield and Amherst, you’re down to what, two or three percent of the state’s population? You’ll no doubt find a decent number of Limbaugh fans from amongst this small cohort, but they’re not sufficiently numerous to nudge Western Massachusetts’s political culture rightwards.

I know the image of the reasonable, centrist/liberal, libertarian Yankee living in the wilds of New England is a comforting one to us liberals, but as a life long New Englander, I doubt it’s a very real image.

Written by Jasper

November 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm