It has long been established that urban areas heavily lean blue and the countryside bends to the right. Explanations for this phenomenon usually rely on demographics: cities tend to house more minorities, educated white-collar workers, and young people—all demographics that tend to be more liberal.
Yet data from the Pew Research Center released last week showed a stark divide in living preferences between conservatives and liberals. 75 percent of people rated as consistently conservative said that they prefer to live in communities where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away.” At the same time, 77 percent of consistent liberals said that they prefer to live in a walkable, urban community, even if it means having less house space.
This research reveals that it is not the case that liberals constituencies simply cluster in cities. This poll presents evidence that liberals seek out urban areas as conservatives look to stay in the rural areas.
But the researchers at Pew offer another explanation. In the same survey, respondents were asked about what community they would like to live in: “Nearly four times as many liberals as conservatives say it is important that their community has racial and ethnic diversity; about three times as many conservatives as liberals say it is important that many in the community share their religious faith.”
As I have lamented before, the needs of cities are ignored and politicians praise “small town America” as wholesome and virtuous, even though most Americans don’t live there. Maybe we’re finally seeing the impact of that toxic rhetoric. The popular perception of cities is changing, but not fast enough and not among everyone. My older relatives view DC as a den of corruption and sin, even though a comparable city, like Ft. Worth has neutral connotations. The needs of cities aren’t contrary to the needs of rural areas. Healthy cities benefit everyone, but, with the recent trend of polarization in America, at least half of the country won’t be able to see that.
Photo: Andy Arthur via Flickr