Emptying Nests

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 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...
November 2, 2012
As the 2012 presidential race heads for the home stretch, poll after poll shows it's a dead heat. Some pollsters and analysts have even suggested that one candidate might win the popular vote while the captures the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. A new analysis of the latest Pew Research Center presidential poll using Patchwork Nation's demographic/geographic breakdown of U.S. counties suggests that split decision is a very real possibility – with Republican nominee Mitt Romney carrying the popular vote and President Barack Obama winning the electoral college, with the help of the Emptying Nest counties. While the overall PRC polling numbers show a nail-biting  47% to 47% tie, the candidates have strengths in different types of counties. And the way those counties are spread across the remaining battleground states – particularly in the Great Lakes region – suggests an electoral college advantage for President Obama. To be...
October 30, 2012
As the presidential race has narrowed to become a dead heat, one state in particular has risen to the top of the most important battlegrounds: Ohio. Both campaigns see it as the linchpin to securing 270 electoral votes and both candidates and their surrogates are racking up the frequent flier miles to the Buckeye State. As we have noted in this space before, Ohio is a complicated terrain, with different regions holding different kinds of voters – it is big cities and suburbs, college hubs and small towns. It’s difficult to get a handle on, which is one reason why is always seems to be a battleground. In the last five presidential elections, its vote has gone with the Democratic candidate three times and the Republican twice – and always, with the winner. But when you look closely at the state, there may be five counties that are particularly worth watching: three in the corridor between Cleveland and Toledo (Wood, Ottawa and Sandusky), one in the state...
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...
October 10, 2012
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, unemployment has driven much of the national conversation, and with good reason. Even as the stock market has recovered, the struggles of ordinary Americans in the job market continues, with the latest unemployment report showing the jobless rate finally dipping below 8 percent for the first time since early 2009. But what does the unemployment conversation look like? While the national media and campaign rhetoric often boil the issue down to numbers or anecdotes, it is a much broader topic that carries with it a host of different concerns and fears in people — losing one's pension, losing one's home, losing one's future. To get an understanding of just how different those conversations are, the Jefferson Institute analyzed 20 months' worth of blogs, news stories and story comments in communities around the country, focusing on three crucial presidential swing states: Florida, Ohio and Virginia. We combed...
September 6, 2012
CHARLOTTE, NC - This city may be filled with Democrats this week, but the border region offers some good news for Mitt Romney. As Patchwork Nation noted in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, drive just a half hour west on Interstate 85 and you will run into Gastonia (and Gaston County), where his support runs very deep. We can’t share that full piece on the Patchwork Nation site because the Journal charges a subscription fee. But a few of the most relevant paragraphs and points: In 2008, Mr. Obama won 62% of the vote in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, on the way to carrying North Carolina by 0.3 percentage points. To win again, Mr. Obama is looking to Mecklenburg and other North Carolina counties like it—such as Wake and Durham—with similar growth, income levels and relatively high educational attainment. Mr. Obama's 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain, carried 62% of the vote in Gaston County, which includes Gastonia. But in 2004, then-...
August 31, 2012
With one convention down and one to go, the great game of bounce analysis is afoot. Over the next few days and weeks the media will scour polls to try to figure who “won” the political convention battle. The better question may be how much it all matters in the end. Conventions are important events in presidential campaigns. They provide each of the two major parties the chance to have the media largely to themselves and lay out their beliefs, as they see them, to the public. And they give the major candidates at least one night where can have an hour or so to speak directly to the American people in a presidential setting – or at least a semi-presidential setting, an arena filled with supporters cheering him on. And, as we noted on Thursday in this space, when you get inside the numbers using the geographic/demographic Patchwork Nationbreakdown of counties, there are some post-convention trends worth watching. In the coming weeks one critical...
August 30, 2012
You are Mitt Romney. Your presidential run has survived early apathy, a nasty primary campaign and a hurricane. On Thursday, you get your one big night alone on stage to lay out who you are and what you believe. What do you say? Despite the steady stream of talk about humanizing Mr. Romney or warming up his image, the numbers suggest that what he really may need is specifics. Throughout this election season Patchwork Nation has used its demographic/geographic breakdown of counties to examine the numbers from The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers show some hopeful signs for Mr. Romney and some concerns. But, more to the point, they suggest Mr. Romney’s most important sales job may be on his economic plan particularly for the middle class.  When you look closely at the poll numbers there would seem to be some communities that are just waiting for a reason to vote for Mr. Romney. Consider the small-town rural Service Worker Center counties (in red on the...
August 20, 2012
In the week since Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, the choice has been described as everything from risky to gutsy, from desperate to inspired. The adjective selected had a lot to do with the person offering the comments. Those on the left see a big mistake for the presumptive GOP nominee. Those on the right see a better chance for winning in the fall. Who’s right? The formula that goes into a successful vice presidential pick is always complicated and depends a lot on what that particular cycle requires. It may be anything from geographic help to an ideological counter-weight. But in the case of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney — where the goal was to be bold and shake up the race — the next few weeks will provide some clarity on whether Mr. Romney got it right. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in recent months has indicated there are a few concerns for Mr. Romney; in particular, he has struggled in the small-town rural...