Rural South Breaks Strongly for Clinton

Bernie Sanders pulls four wins out of Super Tuesday, but Hillary Clinton is establishing a pattern of landslide support in rural areas on top of significant advantages with urban voters in the South.

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Rural voters in the Super Tuesday primaries liked Hillary Clinton the first time they had a chance to vote for her as Democratic presidential nominee back in 2008.

And they liked her again this year in the Southern states the Daily Yonder analyzed using county-level election returns.

This time around, however, urban voters were also on board with the former secretary of state, making the results of this year’s Super Tuesday the inverse of Clinton’s fortunes in 2008.

Clinton won seven of 11 contests in Tuesday’s primaries. In 2008 she lost 10 of 23 contests to then Senator Barack Obama.

In 2008, Clinton found some traction with rural voters in the early February primary, helping prolong the Democratic nomination contest into the spring. This year, she expanded her popularity with rural voters, with leads as big as 40 and 50 percentage points over her challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Add to that the 25 and 30 point margins she maintained in large cities in some states, and it didn’t take a political scientist to do the math.

In the Virginia Democratic primary, for example (see the chart at the top of this post), Clinton beat Sanders by 40 or more points among voters in counties with small cities and rural counties. In metropolitan areas (counties with a city of 50,000 or greater or strong economic ties to such a county), her margin was still in landslide territory with 28 points.

The story was similar in Georgia – 50 point leads outside large cities and 40 points in metropolitan areas. That’s a big difference from 2008, when the African-American vote helped Obama beat Clinton among urban Democrats by 72 percent to 27 percent. Clinton narrowed Obama’s lead to 9 points among nonmetropolitan voters.

In Texas, Clinton (blue bars) beat Sanders by 31 points in cities, 44 points in small cities, and 40 points in rural areas.

In Texas this year, Clinton won small cities and rural areas by about 40 points. She beat Sanders by 31 points among urban voters in the Lone Star State.

Of the four states where Sanders took more delegates, we have complete county-level data only for Oklahoma (Colorado, Minnesota, and Vermont were the other Sanders states).

The Sooners reversed the trend of rural voters leaning stronger for Clinton. There, Sanders took metropolitan voters by 6 points over Clinton, and expanded his support to an 18 point lead with small-city voters and 21 points with rural voters.

The folks over at Sabato’s Chrystal Ball say some of Sanders’ popularity in Oklahoma was likely a protest vote against President Obama by conservative Democrats, who broke for Sanders 54% to 22%, according to polling. Sabato’s also notes that liberal support for Sanders fits with Oklahoma’s “strong though ancient Socialist tradition” dating from the early 20th century.

Clinton squeezed past Sanders in Massachusetts, giving the Vermont senator a loss in his home region of New England. We don’t have county-level data to analyze, but maps showing township voting in other media point toward Clinton getting strong support in and around Boston, while Sanders performed better in the state’s interior.

How this story defines rural. This story uses the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) system to define cities, small cities, and rural areas. Metropolitan areas (cities) are counties that 1) have a city of 50,000 or more or 2) are adjacent to a county with a city that size and have strong economic ties to that county.  Small cities (micropolitan areas) are outside an MSA and have a city of 10,000 to less than 50,000 residents. Rural areas (noncore) are counties that are not part of a MSA and do not have a city of 10,000 or greater. There’s more (lots more!) on this topic over at the USDA Economic Research Service website.


Topics: Election 2016

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