Local colors

Cross-posted on OrangePolitics.org.

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 this micro-geographic level.

proportional map 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?

illustration 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 kind of neighborhood you live in when you comment, thanks!

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