Boom Towns

January 22, 2013
By most any measure President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday will be different from the first. It will be smaller and less rousing. And like most every incumbent, he’ll be facing a much more skeptical electorate. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows a big dip in the number of voters who feel optimistic about how Mr. Obama will do in his second term compared to how voters felt four years ago about his first term. Only 51% of those surveyed are “optimistic or satisfied” that “he will do a good job,” down from a remarkable 66% in January of 2009. But the feelings are far from uniform. While the bloom is off the rose for Mr. Obama with some people and places, others are feeling pretty good about four more years. There’s a clear split along racial lines. Less than half of white Americans, 48%, say they feel good about a second Obama term. In 2009 60% of whites were optimistic. Meanwhile, nearly nine in 10...
January 11, 2013
As Washington debates how to fix the economy, one essential piece of the puzzle, the housing market, remains a drag. At its go-go peak in 2005, the residential housing industry made up about 19% of the national gross domestic product. After the housing crunch and the foreclosures that poured into banks, the industry’s percentage of GDP dropped sharply. In 2010, the industry was down to about 15% of GDP. It has improved since, but is still limping along. This week saw a few more pieces in the housing turnaround effort fall into place, including the billion-dollar settlement of some banks over their housing practices and new rules for mortgage lenders from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But despite the best efforts of policy makers, greasing the skids for a housing recovery presents some unique challenges for Congress and the Obama Administration. And a big part of any turnaround equation may simply involve waiting. The housing collapse wasn’t just a...
December 19, 2012
The Republican Party’s “Hispanic problem” is common knowledge to anyone who has looked at the presidential election results. It’s become a crucial part of the 2012 narrative. But despite all the ink, airtime and pixels given to the topic since Election Day, you can’t fully appreciate the depths of the problem until you match those results up against Hispanic population growth patterns. The impact of the GOP’s Hispanic gap could be bigger than many realize. The size of the Republicans’ challenge becomes clear when the growth in the nation’s Hispanic population through Patchwork Nation’s 12 county types. The Hispanic population had been growing across the board, but the increases in some county types in particular – the Immigration Nation counties, Monied Burbs and Boom Towns – look to have far-reaching impacts. The Only Places Obama Did Better It was always going to be difficult for President Obama to...
December 18, 2012
The election is behind them and the holidays are here, but Americans are in a dour mood about the future, particularly where the economy is concerned. More than half of them, 53%, think the country is headed in the “wrong direction” and more than a quarter, 28%, say they expect the economy will be worse next year than it is now, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers won’t likely bring smiles to the White House, but what they actually mean and represent requires a little digging. Four years of economic ups and (mostly) downs seem to have taken a toll on the traditionally sunny American perspective. And, as one might expect, there is subdued enthusiasm for a year ahead that essentially returns an unpopular status quo to Washington to govern. But there are also deep partisan divides in evidence in this poll. And there is at least some evidence that those attitudes are having an exaggerated effect on how those people perceive the...
November 29, 2012
As the votes from the 2012 election have trickled in, the size of President Obama’s victory has grown – it’s now more than 4 million votes. That count should signify two things to Republicans who wanted to portray President Obama’s win as a squeaker. One, while this margin is no mandate, it is bigger than either of George W. Bush’s presidential wins in 2000 (in which he actually lost the popular vote) or 2004. Two, despite some GOP critiques that Mr. Obama won by capturing small slices of the electorate, the net result was a pretty broad win. But looked at through Patchwork Nation, there is one larger overriding concern for the Republicans in the 2012 election results: despite all the talk of minority voters and demographic segments, there are signs they are losing the political middle. That shift reveals itself when you look at the 2012 vote counts and margins compared to previous elections, particularly 2004, in the wealthy Monied Burbs, the...
November 7, 2012
Elections produce many things, from balloon drops to new elected officials, but they also produce mountains of data. Analysts will spend weeks going through the 2012 results and exit polls pulling out bits and strands of numbers that explain what this state or that county did. Those facts and indicators will be what future campaigns are made of. But a quick rundown of the 2012 numbers reveals a few big trends of particularly significant note. They are important not only because of what they say about what happened on Tuesday, but also about what they say about the elections to come. And they exist at some important hinge points in American society: race and ethnicity, income and education and the urban/rural divide. Race and Ethnicity Through the most basic prism, political analysts had a very good sense of how the election was going to break last night simply by looking at who voted. Before the big states were decided the exit polls showed the national electorate was...
November 6, 2012
As we have often noted here at Patchwork Nation, when you look at national elections at the county level it’s not usually about different types of communities swinging from one party to the other, it’s about changes in margins of support. As Election Day 2012 arrives that appears to be as true as ever. A Patchwork Nation analysis of two new surveys, coming in just before the polls open, finds complete agreement about which presidential candidate is going to win in each of our 12 county/community types. The differences in the numbers, from the Pew Research Center and the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, are in the margins. Some of those differences are big, but the end result of both seems to be the same, an edge to President Barack Obama. To be clear the numbers are not the same. Mr. Obama seems to be in better shape with the Pew figures – nationally he leads in that poll by 3 points and that lead manifests itself in the crucial Monied Burbs in their data. And Mr...
October 15, 2012
By most every account, Republican nominee Mitt Romney shook up the presidential race last week with a strong showing in the first presidential debate. By early last week, polls from Gallup to Pew seemed to indicate the race had changed.  The question is how much? To help answer that question Patchwork Nation broke down the data inside the most recent Pew Research Center poll using its 12 types of counties to get a sense of where the Romney surge is most visible. Repeating a method of analysis we have used on previous Pew polls. The breakdown, released here in conjunction with American University, shows a big surge in the exurbs for Romney (counties called Boom Towns) and some growth of support in the big cities (counties called the Industrial Metropolis). President Obama, meanwhile, still appears to hold the lead in the crucial suburban counties (counties called the Monied Burbs) and to hold great strength in the counties that are a heavy with college students (counties...
October 15, 2012
Last week, we discussed state-by-state differences in online conversations around the issue of unemployment. That analysis of millions of words from news posts, blogs and user comments showed how the conversation in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia varies greatly because of cultural and socioeconomic factors. But we also found big differences within the same state — Florida — over how people talk about the biggest issue of the 2012 campaign. This kind of information could be important to President Obama and Mitt Romney in how they shape their messages while visiting the state and in advertisements. But it's not clear that they're tailoring their messages to take advantage of this kind of distinction. We looked at the online "unemployment" conversations in two very different Florida counties: Citrus, a growing but still not densely populated county near the state's Interstate 4 corridor; and Miami-Dade, the bustling, diverse,...
October 15, 2012
Every few years America’s major political parties get very interested in getting people registered to vote – or maybe more accurately, in getting the “right” people registered to vote. It’s a lot easier to come up with a winning hand on Election Day when the deck is stacked in your favor. So, for months now, supporters of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have been knocking on doors and standing corners trying to register like-minded people. In a close election every vote may count, particularly in the swing states. To get an idea of who’s ahead in the registration game, Politics Counts looked at the tallies in key states where voters register as Democrats or Republicans – Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. We then compared those figures to previous voter registration counts in 2008 and 2004. Who’s winning? That depends on the state you look at and the...