Romney Continues Exurban/Rural Slide

Mitt Romney continues to do well in urban counties, but fails in exurban and rural communities. That meant he lost to Rick Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi, which both had a majority of votes coming from outside the cities.

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More than half the ballots (53.3%) in the Republican presidential primary in Mississippi yesterday came from rural communities and their votes pushed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to a narrow victory.

Santorum lost to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in urban and exurban counties, according to a Daily Yonder analysis. But he won 34 percent of the large rural vote in Mississippi compared to Romney’s 28.4 percent.

Santorum won rural and exurban votes in both Alabama and Mississippi yesterday — and, as a result, he won both primaries. The differences among rural, urban and exurban voters, however, was not large in either state.

For example, in Mississippi, Santorum won 34 percent of the rural vote and 32.1% of the urban vote. Romney won 28.4 percent of the rural vote and 33.5 percent of the urban vote.

There was a consistency in the outcomes. Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did better in rural and exurban counties while Romney did best in the cities. But the gaps weren’t very wide.

(Click to the next page to see charts for both the Mississippi and Alabama primaries.)

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Gingrich, who was counting on good showings in these southern states to boost his campaign, failed to convince urban voters. The Georgian did worst among urban voters in both states.

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Exurban voters in Mississippi — those living in counties within metropolitan areas but with a strong rural character — voted evenly for the three top Republicans. One out of four votes in Mississippi came from an exurban county.

But in Alabama, exurban voters showed a pronounced preference for Santorum.

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The gap between Romney and Santorum in Alabama exurban counties was the largest in Tuesday’s primaries. (See chart above.) About a third of Alabama’s voters lived in exurban counties and 37.3 percent voted for Santorum. Romney received only 26 percent of the votes from exurban Alabama.

This continues a trend. Mitt Romney has had particular trouble winning exurban voters. He does well in urban counties, but fails in rural and, particularly, exurban counties.

As in other states, Romney won in urban Alabama — though just barely.

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And in rural Alabama, which accounted for 27.6% of yesterday’s vote, Santorum beat Romney by 8 percentage points.

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