- Cecilia Barría *
- BBC World News
The political division between the country and the city of the United States is one of the great fractures that were evidenced by the elections of November 3.
In the projections that Democratic candidate Joe Biden won against President Donald Trump, rural areas, towns and small cities were dyed red in support of the Republicans, large cities and their suburbs leaned for the democrat blue.
And although this polarization is not something new in the history of the American elections, yes It is a crack that makes a great difference between two opposing visions about the future of the country.
Trump gained a wide advantage among uneducated white voters living in less densely populated areas, a fiefdom that has proven loyal to him, even in the midst of the country’s worst economic crisis since World War II.
In contrast, the president-elect, Joe Biden, barely reached 25% of support in rural areas, in contrast to the 68% of the votes that he dragged in the big cities.
“Trump is really a rural president,” William Frey, a researcher at the Brookings Institution study center specializing in political demography and analysis of US electoral results, tells BBC Mundo.
Despite the existence of these two antagonistic worlds, Frey believes that the line that politically separates the countryside from the city showed in these elections that it is not as rigid as was believed.
“Trump lost votes in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, especially in the key states that were in dispute,” he says.
That turn of some Republicans who shifted their vote to Biden in parts of the so-called “belt of rust” (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and the “belt of the sun” (all of the South) made an important difference, he adds.
Looking to the future, the demographer and sociologist argues that the population of rural areas where Trump has a large part of his electoral base (and which represents about 16% of all Americans) is aging and its expansion is less than other segments of the population.
In contrast, there are other groups that grow up such as millennials or generation Z.
Added to this are phenomena such as a progressive increase in the educational level of the general population and an increase in the number of women in university, changes that will probably have an impact on voting.
What happens in the middle?
A vote that is fiercely disputed is that of the intermediate areas that are neither the countryside nor the big city.
“We know that Biden wins in cities like New York or Philadelphia, and that Trump wins in the field. That’s why it is important to observe what happens in the suburbs, in medium-sized and small cities, “Charles H. Stewart, professor of Political Science and director of the Laboratory of Data and Science of Elections at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, tells BBC Mundo.
The Republican Party, he explains, is heavily dominated by evangelical Christians, villagers, people who live in areas where industrial activity has declined, small towns in the Midwest.
From a historical perspective, that party has had two wings: Wall Street and the street. “What we have seen is the progressive decline of the Wall Street wing,” Stewart notes.
And conversely, the working-class part in small towns and villages is the one that has become more republican, as the electoral results continue to show.
Results that also showed how these elections, surpassing the votes that the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton got in 2016.
Anthony Zurcher, a BBC journalist specializing in American politics, argues that if the partisan country-city divide persists, “there are some systemic imbalances that will become more pronounced.”
Because the US system of government was designed to try to balance the power of the states within the federal system, there are predominantly rural states that have the same number of US senators as the largest and most populous states.
For example, California’s 40 million people have two senators, the same as Wyoming’s 580,000, recalls Zurcher.
“Because the influence of a state in presidential elections is determined by the size of its representation in Congress, this imbalance also has an effect on who wins the White House,” he says.
The “culture war”
What the analysis of the electoral results and the surveys (by exit of the exit and by telephone) has yielded is that the inhabitants of large cities tend to be more secular, to be in favor of the non-criminalization of abortion and to be racially more various.
In contrast, rural dwellers tend to be more religious, anti-abortion, predominantly white, do not see racism as a structural problem in the country, and tend to oppose gun control.
Some analysts speak of a kind of “culture war” where the whitest and most conservative areas are opposed to metropolitan regions where there is greater acceptance of gender diversity and where racism is condemned.
Economist Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, described what often happens in impoverished areas.
“Communities where good jobs disappear pay a price that goes beyond the economy. Drug addiction, family disruption and crime increase. People become more attached to traditional values, less tolerant of foreigners and more willing to support authoritarian strongmen, “says Rodrik.
“Economic insecurity triggers or exacerbates cultural and racial divisions“.
For this reason, as long as there are no deeper socio-economic transformations, the chances are that bridges will be built between voters on one side and the other.
The vote of women
When analyzing the results by gender, 56% of the women’s vote went to Biden and 43% to Trump.
That’s why many analysts say that women were crucial in bringing the Democrat the victory.
Especially black women and suburban women (those who live in the suburbs of cities), because they had a higher incidence to tip the balance.
However, Trump performed well among women with no higher education.
And although expectations were that in these elections the gender division would be much greater, the truth is that remained basically the same compared to previous elections, including the 2016 elections.
Myths about the Latino vote
Looking at the ethnic component of voters, 57% of whites voted for Trump, while 87% of blacks voted for Biden.
And in the case of Hispanics, 66% of the votes went to Biden, while 32% supported Trump.
“I was surprised by Trump’s high appeal among Hispanicssays Charles H. Stewart.
Compared to the 2016 election, the Latino vote for Trump increased four percentage points, something that was not on the radar of pre-election projections.
And the fact is that the narrative of the “Latino vote” that has accompanied electoral cycles for decades has been collapsing.
Among the myths that have fallen is the idea that it is a uniform bloc that only cares about immigration issues, or that they are determining votes only in states like Florida or California.
How the youth voted
The youngest voted for Biden. Among citizens under the age of 30, the president-elect got 62% of the votes.
Abby Kiesa, deputy director of the Center for Information and Research on Learning and Civic Participation at Tufts University in Massachusetts, explains that there was more youth participation in these elections than in other years.
“We saw that the voter registration of young people increased, that they became more directly involved in the campaigns and that especially young blacks participated more.”
An important factor in this regard was the large youth mobilizations of 2020 to protest against police abuses directed at the black population.
“If I worked in a political campaign I would not ignore the power of the vote of the younger people“, says the specialist in dialogue with BBC Mundo.
Another important division among voters was regarding their educational level.
The data shows that 55% of people with higher education voted for Biden and 42% for Trump, while voters without a college education were divided similarly.
Jennifer Lawless and Paul Freedman, professors in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, published a study of the election results in which they note that this year there was an educational divide among voters quite similar to that which occurred in 2016.
However, they warn that crack is much more pronounced among white voters.
64% of whites without college education supported Trump, while blacks opted for Biden regardless of their level of education, experts say.
An analysis of The Economist Regarding this gap between voters, he argues that it is not clear how much of the predilection for Trump among whites with less education is a phenomenon directly associated with the president or if it is an inclination for the party.
The Republican challenge, the publication notes, will be to keep those supporters but, at the same time, to become an attractive political alternative for white college voters.
Voters’ contribution to the economy
After an analysis of the electoral data, Mark Muro, a researcher at the Brookings Institution think tank, concluded that the counties that voted for Biden contribute 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States.
“This is an image of a nation where the two parties inhabit radically different economies“, Muro tells BBC Mundo.
While Biden won the support of nearly every county with the nation’s largest economies, Trump won thousands of counties in small towns and rural communities that contribute much less to GDP.
So what is produced, explains Muro, is that there is still a blue economy that is more diverse and where there is a greater number of university professionals and people who work in occupations related to digital services.
At the same time, there is a red economy, dominated by white Trump voters, less educated and more dependent on “traditional” industries and trades.
This gigantic economic gap that continues to divide the country, Muro says, “is important because it is an image of deep crossed political purposes.”
And that economic division creates the conditions for the confrontations between the political parties to continue, causes stagnation and makes it more difficult for the country to advance with a common objective.
* Graphics were made by Cecilia Tombesi.
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