This is part two of my series looking at the political geography of elections at the state level. In it, I present maps and data for the average of statewide races from 2004 to present by county for each state and by precinct where data is available. This is to give you a better visual idea of which parts of a state are more or less friendly to each party. Additionally, I compare Obama's 2008 performance to the average to see which areas he performs better or worse than would be expected by a local Democrat. You can find part 1 on the Northeast here.
Partisan average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and auditor.
In Alabama, Democratic strength lies along the black belt and in rural white areas in the north of the state. Obama drove up turnout in this first region, but cratered in the blue-dog friendly north of the state as well as other heavily white rural areas. This trend is pretty common, but especially so in the south.
Interesting to note is that Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, only voted Republican for president once before 1956 when Eisenhower won it, but Obama is the only Democrat to carry it since. That includes when Jimmy Carter won the state by double digits in 1976 and really goes to show that despite underperforming the typical Democrat in much of the south, there are areas where Obama performs just as well or better.
Finally, I tried loading the Obama-Average comparison by precinct in DRA from a .csv, but for no apparent reason it only partially loads the state and manually coloring several thousand precincts is a non-starter. Maybe one of you all can try it, but it unfortunately doesn't work for me.
Partisan average includes 2004 and 2010 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state, and 2006 treasurer and attorney general.
Democratic strength in Arkansas runs through a fairly similar coalition: the heavily black areas of the delta, rural whites in the delta and south Arkansas, and urban strength in cities such as Little Rock. However, there aren't as many large suburban areas such as Alabama has.
Obama underperformed significantly across much of Arkansas, but did so mostly in the white, rural areas that are key to local Dems winning. On the other hand, he held up fairly well in the more urban and heavily black areas, but also in the historically Republican northwest of the state.
Partisan average includes 2004 and 2006 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, CFO, and attorney general.
In Florida, Democrats have a somewhat different coalition since the state isn't entirely southern. Democrats do well in the Tallahassee region as well as heavily populated southeast Florida while the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Daytona Beach is the state's key swing region. This area has trended Democratic at a very fast pace, in part due to the 2000s housing boom. As such, Obama performed significantly better than the Dem average, especially in the Orlando metro area. On the other hand, Obama lagged significantly behind Dems in the much more culturally southern Panhandle region, particularly in the counties in what is the 2nd congressional district.
Partisan average includes 2004 and 2008 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, lt. governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and insurance commissioner.
In Georgia, Democrats have a coalition fairly similar to that of the typical southern state: winning the urban areas, rural black belt, and rural blue dog areas. Republicans are strong in the fast-growing Atlanta suburbs and the much whiter rural areas in the north and southeast of the state.
Like Florida though, Georgia also experienced strong growth in its major urban area and significant growth among minorities over the past decade. This caused Obama to perform much higher than the typical Democrat in urban and heavily Black Atlanta as well as the suburbs. That performance is counterbalanced by his lagging behind the average in most of the rural areas, particularly in the south-central part of the state and Appalachia.
Partisan average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate and 2007 and 2011 governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and auditor.
In contrast to the deep south states, the Democratic coalition in Kentucky is somewhat different. Dems still do well in larger urban areas such as Louisville, but also in the coal counties of eastern Kentucky where unionization rates are still relatively high, especially compared to the south as a whole.
In addition, Kentucky has a much smaller and almost entirely urban black population which causes the electorate to be much more elastic between how well local Democrats do and how poorly Obama does in comparison. Still, if you were to compare Obama to a local Democrat who loses Kentucky by a similar margin, Obama continues his trend of performing relatively better in urban areas such as Lexington and suburbs such as those south of Cincinnati. However, he underperforms more in the coal counties than in other rural ones.
Partisan average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate, 2007 and 2011 governor and insurance commissioner, and 2007 lt. governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.
Louisiana is the most politically and racially polarized state when you look at the precinct level. Democratic areas consist of heavily minority New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport as well as some other but less populous rural black areas. This was essentially the coalition Obama won, plus holding down the margins in heavily Republican suburbs of cities such as New Orleans. To win the state though, local Democrats have to be able to compete in Acadiana in the south of the state which is where Obama performs significantly worse.
Partisan average includes 2006, 2008, and 2008 special senate, 2007 and 2011 governor, treasurer, attorney general, and insurance commissioner, and 2007 lt. governor, secretary of state, and auditor.
Mississippi is probably the best example of how Obama performed much better with black voters and much worse with blue dog whites in the deep south. He runs ahead of local Dems by several points in the heavily black areas of the Delta while running several points behind in the much whiter northeast and south of the state. Seeing this data helps to make sense of how Gene Taylor and Travis Childress were able to win their old districts since Obama lagged a substantial amount behind what a white conservative would get. Additionally, it makes sense that Mississippi couldn't support a 2nd VRA district while other deep south states can since neither district would be Democratic enough to support a black candidate consistently. This is a state where I really wish I could take a look at the precinct level data.
Partisan average includes all statewide races from 2004-2010.
We finally get to my home state of North Carolina which has the single best data set to work with as it was the only state that already had every 2004-2010 race by precinct on DRA. Politically, the state's Democratic coalition is about what you would expect by looking at Obama's performance and keeping in mind it's in the south. Democrats do well in the rural and heavily black northeast, the inland southeast which contains large numbers of minorities and white blue dogs, as well as the fast growing cities of Charlotte, Raleigh, etc.
When comparing Obama to the average, the pattern is the same as with much of the south. Obama does better in the fast growing cities and suburbs in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte area, as well as the more urban and educated parts of Appalachia. On the other hand, he performs significantly worse in many of the whiter rural areas, particularly in eastern North Carolina which has long been home to the Jessecrat.
Partisan average includes 2004, 2008, and 2010 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor, lt. governor, treasurer, attorney general, auditor, and insurance commissioner.
Oklahoma is another state that doesn't quite fit the pattern of the more culturally southern ones. Like Kentucky, it's more Democratic rural areas such as Little Dixie are also very non-black and thus see Obama do horribly compared to local Democrats. On the other hand, Obama performed quite poorly almost across the board in Oklahoma. His political coalition was the much more typical in consisting of urban areas and doing better in the suburbs.
Partisan average includes 2004 and 2008 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor, lt. governor, secretary of state, and comptroller, 2006 treasurer, and 2010 attorney general.
Democrats in South Carolina perform strongly as would be expected in the rural black belt between the coast and Columbia, as well as in the state's urban centers. Obama runs fairly similarly to local Dems in the black belt while doing considerably worse with white rural voters. To make up for it, he overperforms along the coast and in fast-growing areas such as Charleston that saw large migration from outside the south over the past decade. He overperforms in the Charlotte suburbs as well despite underperforming in many of the rural counties that border swing state North Carolina.
Partisan average includes 2006 and 2008 senate and 2006 and 2010 governor.
Tennessee is an interesting state in that almost alone out of the rest of the south, it has regions that have long been Republican strongholds such as eastern Tennessee. Democrats predictably do well in urban areas and those with large minority populations, but also along the Tennessee River Valley and the counties east of the Nashville metro area.
Obama does significantly worse than average across most of the state, but particularly in the rural areas such as the Tennessee River where local Dems do well. On the other hand, increased black turnout and a stronger than average appeal to suburbs causes Obama to overperform with those demographics, particularly in Memphis and Nashville.
Partisan average includes 2006 and 2008 senate, 2006 and 2010 governor, lt. governor, and attorney general, and 2006 comptroller.
In Texas, the Democratic vote share is concentrated in urban areas such as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth as well as the heavily hispanic counties along the Mexican border. In addition, Democrats do well in some of the rural areas of east Texas.
Capturing the overall trend of the state, Obama overperforms the average in all of the major urban areas and does so tremendously along the border regions such as El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. Obama also improves significantly in suburban areas of Houston and Dallas while he lags considerably in rural eastern as well as north-central Texas.
Partisan average includes 2006 and 2008 senate and 2005 and 2009 governor, lt. governor, and attorney general.
In Virginia, Obama performs better than average in the growing and Democratic trending suburbs of Northern Virginia and as well as the more rural Southside by boosting black turnout. In addition he overperforms in Richmond and Hampton Roads. Much like neighboring West Virginia though, Obama does significantly worse in Appalachian western Virginia though not as much in the more historically Republican Shenandoah Valley.
In this last set of maps, I've combined several of the independent cities with their surrounding or adjacent county to present an alternate look at the state.
Partisan average includes 2006, 2008, and 2010 senate, 2004 and 2008 governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, 2004 treasurer and auditor, and 2011 governor.
West Virginia isn't entirely southern, but more culturally Appalachian and central Appalachian at that. As such, Democrats can't rely on winning rural blacks as part of their political coalition and instead focus on winning the handful of modest sized cities in the state as well as the more coal-heavy counties of southern and central West Virginia.
Obama performs worse than the average Democrat essentially across the whole state, with the few exceptions college town Morganton and the eastern Panhandle counties in the D.C. media market which would get exposure to Virginia campaign ads. Similarly to eastern Kentucky, Obama absolutely craters in the coal-dependent south of the state, but keep in mind he still does far better with those rural whites than he does in the rest of the south as West Virginia is much, much whiter than the rest of the south.
I hope you found these maps to be useful visualizations of the elections in each of these states. As the purpose of this series is mostly to provide data and graphics, I welcome discussion as to why certain regions in states favor Democrats or Republicans and particularly why Obama's electoral performance diverges from local Democrats. Part 3 will cover the Midwestern United States.