In the News

February 28, 2012
There are two primaries Tuesday, but the majority of the attention is going to be on the Michigan primary where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has surprisingly found himself in a real fight with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rock Santorum. Watch the Michigan Primary results come in live using Patchwork Nation's county breakdown HERE on WNYC'S site - polls close at 8pm Arizona also holds a contest, but the ballots have been streaming in for weeks there under that state’s rules and based on polling the belief is Romney has an insurmountable lead. Michigan, however, is Romney’s “home state” – or at least where he was born – and it was assumed it would be safe territory for him. He won Michigan in 2008, beating Sen. John McCain by 9 percentage points. That was a long time ago and Romney is in a very different campaign now. First, in 2008 Romney ran as the conservative alternative to McCain, that is territory Santorum has staked...
February 6, 2012
With January in the books, the GOP nominating contest sits where many thought it would be — including Politics Counts. Two wins for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and two wins for conservative alternatives to him – former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in Iowa and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. Mr. Romney’s got the delegate lead, the front-runner status and the momentum, but judging by all the movement of the past six months it’s hard  to tell what that means. The campaign now enters what many are describing as an interstitial period between the exciting early contests and the jam-packed primary calendar of March. But seven states hold nominating contests in February (Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Arizona and Michigan) and they should not be ignored. Six of them will have convention delegates up for grabs. The vote from them will show us a lot about what the Republican field will look like come March 6,...
January 21, 2012
Suddenly the numbers have moved and polls show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to the front of pack in South Carolina primary. The change may have been sudden but it was not fully unexpected. It just goes to show something political analysts know and Patchwork Nation has documented – South Carolina is a very different place from New Hampshire. NOTE: You can follow the South Carolina returns LIVE at WNYC’s website. A few weeks ago – or a million years in terms of the politics of this year’s GOP presidential race – Patchwork Nation noted that New Hampshire, with its wealthier, less ideological populace, was a great fit for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And the results proved that out. Romney won a larger percentage of the vote than Sen. John McCain won in 2008 – 39 percent to 37 percent for McCain. And using Patchwork Nation’s demographic/geographic breakdown of counties, Romney won in all of the state’s...
January 3, 2012
It’s easy to beat up on Iowa, to criticize the power it has in the presidential selection process every four years. It’s not representative of the nation at large in terms of demography. And the influence of agriculture on the state economy often means it’s out of step with what’s happening nationally. But there are also lessons and insights out of the quadrennial caucus vote – particularly if you go beyond who wins and losses and look at what happens in a broader context. Patchwork Nation's 12 demographic/geographic types offer some insights in this live map. The map on this page, created by John Keefe and the good people at WNYC who are also covering the results there, will fill with live results as they come in from Iowa through Google. It shows not only who’s in winning in each of the state’s 99 counties, but, using Patchwork Nation, it shows how the candidates are doing in each of Iowa’s eight types of county – from...
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 10, 2011
Tuesday was a good day to be a Democrat. A year after a massive electoral defeat and months of polls showing their president is in for a tough fight for re-election, a string of wins in states raging from Maine to Ohio to Mississippi gave the party faithful reason to smile. Even in Virginia, where it seemed all-but-certain Republicans would capture the state senate, the margins were perilously tight and a recount left things undetermined as of Wednesday morning. What it all means for 2012, is far from clear. There is always a danger in reading too much into any election – and that’s doubly true in an off year when voter attention and turnout are low. Tuesday may seem like ancient history 12 months from now. But looking closer at the results from Ohio’s proposal to tighten rules on public-sector unions and earlier results this year from a similar measure in Wisconsin, there may be a trend forming in the vote in small-town rural America and the...
October 3, 2011
If you are looking, there are any number of reasons not to raise taxes on various groups of Americans right now. The poor continue to have it rough. The middle class is still trying to dig out. And the wealthy are the engines of growth. They are “job creators.” And when unemployment is high who wants to hike taxes on those who create jobs? That last point in particular has become a key one in Washington. As Congress looks to find ways to chip away at the debt, President Barack Obama has said he wants to increase taxes on families with incomes of over $250,000. Republicans say no, any increase like that would hit at small business owners who create jobs. Patchwork Nation has spent the last few days looking at this argument and thinks there are a few points missing from it. First, that $250,000 mark is really close to the stratosphere of American incomes. Only about 4 percent of households make $200,000 or more a year and in the framework of America’s 12 county...
August 26, 2011
In every election there are a few issues that shape the look and feel of the campaign, and even in the earliest stages of the 2012 race, one issue has emerged: the economy versus the environment. Much of the Republican presidential field has already made a point of talking about the two voter concerns as a choice -- the economy and jobs or environmental regulation. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann calls the Environmental Protection Agency "job killing." Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called for a moratorium on all federal regulations, especially those from the EPA. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said he supports some of what the EPA does, but he opposes regulations relating to carbon pollution. As the economy slumps along, those positions may resonate with voters. After years of down economic news, anything that hits at the economy may be anathema. But the issue is not cut and dried according to an analysis of our 12 Patchwork Nation county types. County types...
March 22, 2011
The short essay here appears on the New York Times Room For Debate webpage. It comes from Patchwork Nation Director Dante Chinni and was one of seven responses to the question: Why do Americans seem unperturbed about the growing gap between the rich and the poor? Please stop by the Times' page and read all the responses and feel free to add your comments there or here. Anger Is Growing A better question is: Why do Americans seem relatively unperturbed about growing wealth inequality, so far? The journalism project I lead, Patchwork Nation, uses demographic and economic data to break the nation’s 3,141 counties into 12 types of communities, from wealthy suburban areas to small-town service centers. We recently looked at median family incomes in 1980 and 2010 in those communities, and the findings were troubling. Seven of the 12 county types actually had a lower median family income in 2010 than they did 30 years before in inflation-adjusted dollars. Not only had they...