The Hill Pundits Blog—November 15, 2012


The disappearing rural vote
By Peter Fenn – 11/15/12 04:16 PM ET

There was a lot of talk before the elections about the rural, urban and suburban vote.

Michael Barone wrote that the suburbs were going to carry Romney to a landslide victory … oops, he won with 50.2 percent. No big numbers there for Mitt.

The rural vote was going to be huge and also propel Mitt to a win. You can see from all the maps out there how a vast number of counties went Republican, by a big sea of red. Romney did receive 59 percent of the rural vote, 5 percentage points higher than John McCain did four years ago. But what did this mean?

My friend, Hill Pundit Cheri Jacobus, cited a Republican study that said you could drive 3,000 miles across country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and only go through Romney Republican counties.

Yes, but the increasing problem for your team, Cheri, is that nobody lives there anymore! We worked with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and I confess to having my eyes opened by these very smart people.

What I learned was that 83 percent of America lives in metropolitan areas and the number is continuing to grow. In fact, for the first time in 90 years, cities grew faster than the suburbs last year.

So, just as voters have gone from 87 percent white when Bill Clinton was elected to 72 percent white in 2012, we have seen demographics of the rural/urban-suburban-exurban vote change.

The rural population in America was 44 percent in 1940, 30 percent by 1960, 25 percent in 1990 and less that 20 percent today. We aren’t a bucolic, pastoral nation of small towns anymore. I am not arguing whether that is a good thing or a bad thing but simply stating the fact that you can win 60 percent of the rural vote, look at a nice big red map on your computer, and still get your clock cleaned.