Biden’s Support Grows as Voters Become Less Urban
Bernie Sanders’ performance was relatively stable across the board, with a noticeable increase in Super Tuesday’s most remote rural counties.
Joe Biden’s popularity extended from the nation’s largest cities to its smallest rural counties Tuesday. A Daily Yonder analysis of the Super Tuesday returns does find a bump for the former vice president as the vote moved farther from the nation’s largest urban areas and into small cities and nearby rural areas.
Bernie Sanders had a relatively even performance across the board. His biggest support came from the core areas of the largest cities, where he earned 31 percent of the vote. Biden had his lowest levels of support in these core urban counties, but he still bested Sanders there by 2 points.
The chart above breaks the Super Tuesday counties into seven categories, moving roughly from most urban to most rural left to right.
- Major Metro Core: The core counties of metropolitan statistical areas of 1 million residents or more.
- Major Metro Suburbs: Major metro counties outside the urban core.
- Medium Metro Core: The core counties of metropolitan statistical areas of 250,000 to under 1 million residents.
- Medium Metro Suburbs: Medium metro counties outside the urban core.
- Small Metro: Metropolitan statistical areas with under 250,000 residents.
- Nonmetro Adjacent: Nonmetropolitan counties that are adjacent to a metropolitan area.
- Nonmetro Nonadjacent: Nonmetropolitan counties that are not adjacent to a metropolitan area.
Biden’s support (shown in the blue bars) tends to rise from urban to rural, with a dip in the final and most remote category of county.
Sanders’ support, shown in the orange bars, didn’t show an obvious geographic trend. He did slightly better in urban cores than he did in the suburbs of major and medium-sized metros. His lowest level of support was in nonmetropolitan (rural) counties that are adjacent to metros. But he turned around to improve his performance in the most remote category of county, on the far right of graph.
One thing to keep in mind is the relative size of the voting bloc in each of these county types. More than half the voters were in major metropolitan areas (areas with a population of over 1 million), either in the core counties or suburbs. Medium sized metros made up another 20 percent of the vote. Small metros and rural areas constituted 16 percent of the Democratic electorate.
Another factor in voter preference appeared to be education levels. Biden’s support tended to be higher in counties where fewer people held a bachelor’s degree. And Sanders’ support tended to increase as the percentage of college-educated residents increased.
To make this chart, below, we broke counties into four categories or quartiles based on the percentage of residents who hold a bachelor’s degree. As college education levels increased, Biden’s support dropped slightly. (The blue bar gets smaller from left to right.) Sanders’ support was roughly the reverse. (The orange bar increases from left to right.) The trend breaks in the final category of county, where more than 40 percent of the population holds bachelor’s degrees.