Monied 'Burbs

December 14, 2011
Like a very, very long episode of the TV series 24, the White House website's We Can't Wait clock ticks down. The clock, which displays the amount of time left before the current payroll tax cut expires, is meant to apply pressure on Congress to extend the current tax cuts or, possibly, increase them. It's a clever tool for the White House's argument -- it even includes a handy embed button to share your countdown tension with your friends and neighbors -- and it's aimed squarely at the political battle over the fate of the tax. President Obama and Democrats are daring Republicans to let the tax break expire. And Republicans are demanding cuts in government spending part of their requirement to extend it. It's a high-stakes political fight going into an election year. But there is also the more basic question of the tax cut itself. Just what is the significance of the 2 percent tax cut? It's tempting to say the significance is simply 2 percent of...
December 12, 2011
As Mitt Romney has jogged through the early stages of the Republican primary campaign, he has offered one big argument to propel him: electability. Through challenges by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain, the former Massachusetts governor has held that he has the best chance for the Republican Party to unseat President Barack Obama in 2012 in large part because he is the most palatable GOP option for moderates and swing voters. Polls, including those we have looked at through Patchwork Nation’s geo-demographic county breakdown, have generally shown Mr. Romney’s admittedly self-serving analysis has been correct. In moderate, swing voting areas he does do better than his opponents. Now that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has emerged as the front-runner for the nomination, however, Mr. Romney’s main claim is being tested. Quinnipiac polls in three key states – Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio – showed Mr. Gingrich doing fairly well...
December 7, 2011
This October Patchwork Nation Director Dante Chinni spoke at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011. His presentation ‘You Don`t Know America, Or How Community Triumphs Over Soccer Moms and Red and Blue States in the 21st Century U.S.’ explored how the U.S. news media often misunderstand and mischaracterize American communities.  Chinni talked about how his experience as a reporter travelling to various communities around the country had led him to create Patchwork Nation to gain a more nuanced perspective on the many different kinds of communities and subcultures within the United States. The work led to the creation of this site and the book Our Patchwork Nation.. The project was noticed TEDx organizers who chose Chinni to discuss it at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC on October 29. The presentation can be seen in the video below. Dante Chinni at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 from Jefferson Institute on Vimeo. TED conferences bring together the...
December 5, 2011
By: Matt Carmichael, Ad Age   Consumers are saving less again. And while that might not be great for their retirement accounts, it may be good news for marketers.   Historically, Americans save about 4% of their income, but in 2008 the recession changed behavior. Between January and May of that year, the savings rate shot to 8.3% from 3.7%. That's part of the reason recovery has been so slow to come: More savings equals less spending. But in the past three months for which Bureau of Economic Analysis data are available, consumers are saving less again -- just 3.5% in October -- freeing up more cash for spending. The trends aren't universal. As we look at the counties in Ad Age's American Consumer Project -- and the consumer segments they represent -- we see different types of areas are saving and spending in different ways. To uncover those differences, Experian Simmons used our two county-classification frameworks, Patchwork Nation and Esri...
December 5, 2011
Since this summer, it has become clear that there are really two serious candidates in the race for the Republican nomination: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and whoever is up in the polls at any particular moment. Texas Gov. Rick Perry had his moment at the top, then came businessman Herman Cain and now former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The question is what will happen to that someone-versus-Romney dynamic once the voting begins. The Iowa Caucuses are now a month away and January will be critical for the field. The contests that month – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida – won’t give us a nominee, but we’ll likely know whether we are in for a long, drawn-out fight or a quick knock out. Looking at the cultural and political lay of the land in the first four contests through Patchwork Nation, our geo-demographic breakdown of America’s counties, don’t expect a sudden victory. The states involved not only represent...
December 4, 2011
There have been Rick Perry's "What's number three?" gaffe and the allegations against Herman Cain. But the biggest story in the 2012 campaign may be unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It's tempting to look over at the current European debt crisis and simply see a problem for Greece or Italy or Germany. After all, the United States has its own set of economic troubles. But Europe's current economic drama is intricately tied to American politics. And if things go bad in Europe -- really bad -- voters and candidates will suddenly be getting acquainted with talking points centered on the fate of the euro. There are the long-term economic implications of a collapse -- in areas like currency exchange and European geopolitics -- and there are the more basic American political calculations. Simply put, if Europe's debt crisis gets too big it will rattle the investment portfolios of wealthy swing-voting communities -- places we call the...
November 29, 2011
By Graham Brookie and Jack Doherty Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign brought New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to Nashua, a Monied Burb in Patchwork Nation, to campaign for him. Christie praised Romney for working with Democrats as Governor in Massachusetts and blasted President Obama for his alleged pessimism and class warfare. Christie’s fire breathing rhetoric may help Romney with conservatives who are skeptical of Romney and his moderate record can appeal to independents.    Rick Perry got some bad press after a video of him giving a speech in the Granite State went viral recently.  The speech showed a fired up Perry delivered red meat to the crowd in a giddy and slightly eccentric manner and caused beltway elites to mock the Governor. Though the speech was mocked outside of New Hampshire, it played well in person with Nashua resident Paul Thoman saying that if Perry spoke like that in front of every American he would win....
November 27, 2011
With all the uncertainties around the 2012 presidential race there seems to be one sure thing: The fight for the White House will be about the economy. After four years of recession, a stalled recovery and growing tensions, it is issue No. 1 with the voters – and probably issues Nos. 2 and 3 as well. Generally, when elections are about the economy, the system for determining a winner is not complicated. When times are bad, the sitting president and party take a hit. Voters tend to see troubles occurring on their watch as their responsibility and punish them at the ballot box. But as primary season nears, the game looks a bit different for 2012. Not even President Barack Obama, would argue that times are good – sluggish economic growth, an unemployment rate of 9% and the still-troubled housing market dominate the news. And yet, despite all the problems, Mr. Obama sits in a fairly comfortable position. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 45% of...
November 21, 2011
For anyone with an eye on 2012, President Barack Obama’s poll problems are not new. Survey after survey shows Mr. Obama with job approval numbers below 50% and a difficult re-election bid ahead. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll finds Mr. Obama’s approval rating at 44%. But poke a bit deeper into the “internals” and the numbers look even worse – particularly when you examine breakdowns based on age, education and the communities where people live. When you compare those voter breakdowns now to where the president sat two years ago, you can see how much ground he has lost. Young and old, rural and urban, there are many different views and experiences in those demographic slices, but their feelings about Mr. Obama’s performance in the last few years overwhelmingly lean in one direction: downward. If you are a member of Mr. Obama’s re-election team there isn’t a lot to like in that chart, but three things in...
November 19, 2011
Over the last four years, scanning the nation's business headlines has become something best done with a pack of Tums at the ready. From housing to unemployment, looking at the numbers has become a test of intestinal fortitude. But the last few days have brought some bright spots. The stock market has risen recently as Europe looks to be getting its financial house in order. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported October economic growth had exceeded expectations. And around the country, Patchwork Nation finds that since June unemployment is falling in all of the 12 types of county that we examine. In September, some of our county types saw the lowest unemployment rate they have seen for months (county unemployment figures are collected differently than national numbers and lag by a month). And even some of the hardest-hit locales saw a much better fall than they would have imagined this summer. The news couldn't have come at a better time for retailers as the...