Local colors

This week on OP we have discussed issues related to the physical center of our community such as transit, sidewalks, redevelopment, realignment, Carrboro's wireless internet, and Chapel Hill's downtown development corporation. All of these "downtown" issues truly affect our entire community. I have been thinking a lot lately about the politics of place, on a neighborhood level.

In the aftermath of this year's presidential election, no-one could escape discussion of the division between "red" and "blue" states. Some analyses went further showing results by state population, which showed that the most populated parts of the country were frequently the bluest. Maps by county even more clearly showed the political difference between more and less populated parts of the country.

This correlation between population density and political ideology might reflect that people's values about where they live are tied to their personal politics. Of course this is a broad generalization, but it's not too much of a stretch to think that people who live in greater proximity to each other are more likely to be concerned with collective social issues, and therefore more "blue" voters.

I have even seen examples of this dynamic on a smaller scale. For example in Chapel Hill elections, you can sometimes see a marked difference between voter preferences in the center of town as opposed to those in the northern and northeastern (more suburban) precincts. This leads me to wonder, are there indigo (bluer) and violet (relatively redder) parts of our very blue county?

In the recent discussions over Carrboro's annexation area, the outliers claimed to have different "values" than those in town. And the Sunrise Coalition claims that its only objection to a nearby affordable housing development is it's "density." Could it really be that the idea of families living in closer proximity is what offends their neighbors with larger lots? (True, living closer together is sometimes simply a neccesity due to lack of resources. But surely, the Sunrise Coalition doesn't object simply because their new neighbors would be less wealthy than themselves...)

Admitedly, I am oversimplifying with this indigo-violet phenomenon (and the map is just an illustration). But the nature of politics is that we try to put people into categories to try to understand mass behavior. I know there are exceptions. And of course there are other factors at work, especially class and income, but perhaps those can be explained by this model as well.

So what do you think? For the purposes of this discussion, please state what neighborhood you live in when you comment, thanks!



I'm not a member of the Sunrise Coalition. In fact, I don't agree with them.

But I think you're dismissing the density argument pretty quickly. It isn't merely a question of houses closer together. It's also a question of secondary effects, like traffic congestion. (Unless I'm radically misunderstanding them.)


I am one tiny redspot in an ocean of blue: near Calvander.

My parents were conservative Democrats in the likeness of Mike Mansfield.

I like Gov. Easley although I didn't vote for him. I think he should run for President.

I consider myself a compassionate conservative/classic liberal. We all are a mix of conservative/liberal;
blue/red. But, I'm proud to be a right-winger!

Best, Jack

No red and Blue up here in the Great White North of Orange County, just Libertarian bliss for miles and miles. I feel sorry for the folks in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The Politbloc One Party system is as functional as a three wheeled wagon full of bricks.

I live in Heritage Hills, within Carrboro's EJT, soon to be overwhelmed by Chatham County. My observation is that Orange County politics are personal. Unlike Ruby, I don't see a liberal/conservative values slant to the divide. But I do agree that where/how we live impacts our values, or that which we hold dear. For example, the Sunrise/annex areas folks value open space, peace and quiet, privacy, and the environment. I don't see those as conservative values. Ruby and other town dwellers value high density, lively social opportunities, and alternative transporation. I don't see those as liberal values. The overlap I see in both groups is environmentalism, even though it is expressed differently.

I don't really see the value in following the big media fixation on categorization (that was the point of showing the purple in the first place). It's interesting but it's also reductive. My personal preference is for more inclusive dialogues, free of labelling.

Terri wrote: " where/how we live impacts our values"

Or maybe reflects our values?

For me personally, it's impact rather than reflect. I feel differently as a suburban dweller than I did when I lived in town. In the city, I loved street lights because they made me feel safe. In fact, a lot of my beliefs then related to safety whereas now I think more about privacy. In the city, I wasn't always aware of the noise or the grime while now I am totally in love with the sounds of birds, rain, etc. Those may sound like small changes, but they have caused me to think differently about city/county planning. Impact to me means change while reflect sounds more ingrained.

I live in the NTA in an isolated house on 21/2 acres. I live here because I have a hard time with restrictive covenants, I like the woods and I want to be close to town and schools.

I am a Democrat but I try not to fixate on it and drive people away with my politics. I have seen enough to know that true social heroes can look like anything. They can be of any political, religious, social, or racial group. Throwing labels on people is interesting and fun, but it's not productive.

Having said that, I don't think it's a stretch to guess that inner Carrboro is politically more liberal than other parts of town. I do perceive that there is a growing number of educated people with similar politics in the town. They are fed up with individualism and want to move more towards community again.

Probably many places that are being designed with fostering community in mind attract people with similar politics. While Carrboro attracts the decidedly liberal, other places like Carpenter Village in Cary (great comparison, huh?), attract more conservative types. I don't think that you can really peg a person's politics because they are looking for social connectedness. I am sure that there are just as many right-wingers looking for connectedness, as there are left-wingers.

In theory I love community. In practice it frightens me. I admire people who are willing to take the leap into community. I completely understand why some people crave community and live in places like Arcadia. But I'm not there yet…too much social anxiety…

PS~ For what it's worth, if the mock presidential election at Seawell Elementary was an accurate representation of politics up this way (Seawell gets most of its students from the NTA and neighborhoods on the left side of Airport Rd. north of Homestead Rd.), then about 1/4th voted for Bush and 3/4ths went for Kerry.

I live in the Cedar Falls Precinct, on the East Side. Many of the people who live in my apartment complex do not have the right to vote because of their immigration status (and, I would add, they are not particularly well represented in political debate at the national, state, or local level). I would reverse your approach and say population density has a liberalizing effect on people--in dense areas, you typically see a more diverse group of people. At the very least, you see people besides your family and immediate neighbors in contexts besides shopping at the mall. You consider collective solutions to problems like public transit and free wireless zones. You get used to seeing people with different skin colors, and different attitudes towards sexuality. 'Exurban' areas (like North Raleigh) are quite conservative. People are encouraged by the low density to focus on their families. Its a world of SUVs, mortage rates, demands for lower taxes (because of the perception that they aren't using much services anyway, and they need to save for their kids). Worst of all are probably the pseudo-communities encouraged by private developers, which provide some degree of community, but strictly with a class selected group that is ever more autonomous from the larger local and national community. Republicans, who are much more focused politically these days than Democrats, are undoubtedly aware of this, and thus will try to foster exurbia and cause the cities to wither. If you want a bluer US, you should probably support cities, and encourage higher density--the ecologically responsible, diversity-encouraging way to live.

I agree that pretty much every American is much more purple than either party seems willing to admit. But with so many voting "abnormaliies" seeming to favor only one candidate - I'm not willing to accept the color maps as they stand right now.

Jack, interesting article, but the conclusions are very shaky. Two things occurring together do not establish causality. From the author's statistics, one could just as easily start with the premise that voting for Bush makes white women have more babies, and pull together anticdotal evidence of that.

I think it is more likely that rural families are more likely to be larger than urban families, and that happens to correlate with voting patterns. But it does not prove one is the cause of the other.

The baby connection is a theory based on the theory that states/voters are red or blue. If the red-blue theory is weak, which all of the posts I have shared above indicate, then the baby connection doesn't hold much water. You can look at the numbers in the babygap article and see that fertility rates of 1.9 to 1.86 (9 states) are all red states except for 1. Similar inconsistencies are replicated betwen 1.78 and 1.84. If this author had looked at the stats without a preconceived theory that he wanted to prove, he would see a bell curve--which provides additional evidence in support of the purple theory.

Ya'll too smart for this country boy!

Jack--someone (Mark Twain? Will Rogers? Too lazy to go look it up...) once said about statistics:

"Figures never lie--but liars figure."

Luckily we have people ont he board who are well-versed in the PROPER use of statistics and statistical analysis. Thanks Terry!


Agree, but many questions come to my mind.

1. Are you in charge of the liBeral N&O?

2. Am I the only pro=life poster on this forum?

3. What is Terry's statistical training?


Finally, I contacted the author & he is a black belt in 6 sigma---does this diminish his article?


Jack--no, I'm not in charge of the "liberal N&O."

As to your being the only pro-lifer on the board--haven't a clue. Idon't pretend to know people's stances on abortion--unless they've commented directly. Is it germane to the conversation?

Terry's statistical training? I don't know about TRAINING--I believe I said "well versed in the "proper' use of statistics"--and I based my description on the accuracy of her statement above. Clearly she knows what she's talking about. The stats DO indicate a Bell curve...even I can see that. And I ran it by my math-guy husband to make certain I my English-major brain wasn't mistaken.

And I have a friend who is mother to five children, who voted for Kerry. Of course, three of the five are boys...


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