Campus and Careers

November 17, 2011
By Russell Bar and Sandra Flores In what qualifies as surprising of news out of the liberal Campus and Careers community Ann Arbor, Michigan, someone who is not a Democrat recently won an election.  Jane Lumm, a well-known Republican running on the Independent ticket, garnered a spot on the City Council comprised of eleven Ann Arbor citizens for a two year term. This is the first time in the last six years that the council was not entirely blue and marks a small but important push for bipartisan politics in the city. As the council was configured prior to this election, there was a block of eight council members that almost always voted the same way; this block included the incumbent Lumm defeated, Stephen Rapundalo. The other three members are also Democrats, but they behave far more like Independents when it comes to voting. Lumm will join this small block of bipartisan voters and increase their numbers to four, and while Democrats still possess a majority if they vote...
October 31, 2011
AS THE 2012 election approaches, one question is on every candidate’s mind: What exactly are the American people thinking? The question has never seemed more pertinent. The recession has come to look more like a long-term reshuffling, the Tea Party is up in arms about spending, and economic inequality is growing. But the question has also never been so flawed. Because in 2012 the idea of following or understanding “the American people’’ has never been such an anachronism. The electorate is not a single thing, or something that can be sorted neatly with a couple of color codes — red on this side, blue on that side. It is an immensely complicated tapestry of thousands of communities experiencing different realities. And anyone — Democrat or Republican — who thinks they know where “it’’ is moving in 2012 is fooling themself. Since 2008 I’ve been traveling the country as director of Patchwork Nation, a journalism...
October 26, 2011
As the early stages of the 2012 campaign progress, a new question has come into play: Are the rich really different? Or, more specifically, should they be treated differently in the U.S. tax code? Flat-tax plans -- or flatter-tax plans -- are popular among those in the 2012 Republican presidential field. Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled his proposal to reform the tax code Tuesday adding the third major flat-tax proposal to come from GOP presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan and Newt Gingrich's proposal were already circulating. The idea behind a flat tax is simple. The tax code has gotten so complicated that it needs to be cut back down to size and a "flat tax" -- where there is one simple rate that everyone pays on income - is a quick and easy way to do that job. But behind all that ease is one big broad question: How exactly do Americans feel about everyone paying the same percentage of their income in taxes? After all, the current system may be...
October 21, 2011
It is all but impossible to pinpoint one key problem in the U.S. economy -- manufacturing declines, global competition and international economic tensions could all be cited. But the intractable housing mess clearly sits somewhere near the center of the larger problems. The September foreclosure numbers from the firm RealtyTrac show a housing problem that is stalled at best and far from recovery -- slightly better than August's overall numbers, but worse than July's. The numbers remain especially high in Patchwork Nation's Boom Town counties and in Latino-heavy Immigration Nation, but also above the national county average in the wealthy Monied Burbs. Those persistently high foreclosure numbers are keeping home prices low, and the low home prices are making owners less likely to sell. That helps create the latest problem in the system: a low inventory of homes on the market for those who actually want to buy. It is a difficult set of problems to fix and it is...
October 18, 2011
Ad Age magazine is working with Patchwork Nation on its new American Consumer Project. By combining Patchwork Nation's 12 county types with the esri's Tapestry demographic segmentation, Ad Age is looking at how consumers in different parts of the country are facing the country's troubled ecnomic times. The initial story from Ad Age is about the struggling, shrinking American Middle Class. We'll be posting more links to the Ad Age series as it progresses.
September 21, 2011
After months of declines, foreclosures were up again in August by about 7 percent compared to July. That's not good news to anyone hoping for an economic turnaround. But look closer at where those foreclosures were in Patchwork Nation's 12 county types and there is even more to be concerned about. Numbers from the firm RealtyTrac, analyzed by Patchwork Nation, find that some of the biggest increases were in the nation's wealthier places: The Monied Burbs and big city Industrial Metropolis counties saw bigger rises. The small town Service Worker Center counties, which have been hit hard in the recession, were also up sharply. The bumps represent different sets of problems, both disheartening. First, the increases in the wealthy communities suggest that people in those counties still may be leery of spending money in the months ahead - something they need to do if the economy is to turn around. Second, the rise in the poorer Service Worker counties suggest many in...
September 14, 2011
A group of American University government students is using Patchwork Nation’s county type breakdown to study different communities around the country. This blog looks at Washtenaw County in Michigan a Campus and Careers community that is home to the University of Michigan. By Russ Bar and Sandra Flores With a largeyoung and educated population, Ann Arbor predictably leans to the left of the political spectrum. As home of the sprawling University of Michigan, it attracts the stereotypical masses of young liberal voters.   On President Obama’s recent address to Congress, in which he put forth his American Jobs Act, the local populace as well as its representative, congressman John Dingell, seem highly supportive of the outlined legislation, but more skeptical of Republican cooperation, rather than hopeful for its fruition.  Dingell regarded the President’s plan as “a program the people have been waiting for and very much want” as well as...
September 9, 2011
Ten years later there can be little question that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have changed much in the United States -- everything from decisions on foreign policy to government spending priorities to airport security. And while those attacks came as a bolt from the blue, they also made fear of terrorism part of the collective American consciousness. As the 9/11 anniversary approaches, those fears are not the same everywhere, according to a Patchwork Nation analysis of a recent Pew Research Center Survey. The Pew survey was not large -- in some of the Patchwork Nation types is was not large enough to draw sharp conclusions -- but some patterns emerge in the data. Concerns about another terrorism attack linger, of course, but fears that an attack is "greater" now that it was on that fall day vary in our 12 county types. Also, the survey was published before the latest "specific, credible threat" came to light. Wealthier, better-educated counties...
September 1, 2011
Saying you like a candidate is one level of support. Putting a sign in your yard is a bit more. But when your support turns into dollars, ah, there's the real vote of confidence. So with the almighty dollar as a guide, what do the various bases of the top Republican contenders look like? Let's take a look at the financials of the top finishers in Iowa's straw poll. Sorting through the second quarter individual donations in for the top declared presidential candidates, Patchwork Nation is beginning to get a sense of the contours of Romney Country, Bachmann Land and Paul-topia. (Texas Gov. Rick Perry had not yet declared by this filing, so there was no national contributor base to check.) Individual contributions are only one way of giving, of course. Last year's Supreme Court ruling on campaign donations opened the door to unlimited giving to political actions committees. But individual gifts remain a measure of voter support for particular candidates....
August 17, 2011
In the two weeks since Washington passed an 11th-hour deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default by the federal government, some winners and losers have begun to emerge from the compromise to cut trillions of dollars from the U.S. budget. In Patchwork Nation, the high-tech university centers known as Campus and Careers are likely to take a series of hits and that could spell trouble for Democrats who rely on these counties for support. Few, but Crucial Counties for Democrats Although only 71 of these counties exist across 26 states, these reliably Democratic counties have played important roles for Democrats running statewide campaigns in parts of the Midwest, Northeast and along the Pacific, as we have noted in more in-depth reportage. These counties, with large populations of students and highly educated liberal voters, helped deliver wins for Democrats in 2008 like Baron Hill in Indiana and President Obama's Iowa victories in the Caucuses and general election...