Post-election analysis explores urban-rural split, underscoring need to expand opportunity and shared prosperity

Analysts continue to pore over the results of the November general election. One aspect of the analysis that we’ve discussed before is the growing economic and political divide between urban and rural communities. 

Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton writes of the political divide, noting that prosperous, tech-centric states like Washington were in the blue column.

Having an economy based on advanced industries and located at the headwaters of technology matters more than ever. These are the regions more likely to produce good jobs and wages.

States, of course, have their internal divisions.

For example, the unemployment rates are exceptionally high in Washington counties carried by Trump, such as Ferry (9.4 percent), Pend Oreille (8 percent) and Grays Harbor (8.5 percent). By contrast, blue King County’s October jobless rate was 3.7 percent.

We have also explored the intrastate divisions, citing Bill Bishop’s outstanding 2008 analysis, The Big Sort.

In the Daily Yonder, Bishop takes a deeper look at the election results, concluding the divide may be even sharper than it first appears to be.

Two facts stand out in this extremely close election:

  • Votes continued to shift from Democrats to Republicans in the nation’s small cities and rural counties.
  • There was an astounding increase in the percentage of American voters who live in a county where this extremely close election was decided in a landslide.

In other words, the red is redder; the blue, bluer.

The Chicago Tribune reported on the urban-rural division in Illinois, one which plays out in most states with dominant metro centers. As Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic, 

This election thus carved a divide between cities and non-metropolitan areas as stark as American politics has produced since the years just before and after 1920. That year marked a turning point: It was the first time the Census recorded that more people lived in urban than non-urban areas. 

He looks at the blue-red split in counties across the nation, finding King County, Washington ranked No. 20 in the vote share going to the Democrat in the presidential race.


Reuters‘ Nick Carey comments,

A country once defined by regional voting now is more clearly divided by the differences between rural and urban voters. 

The differences between voters may be largely explained in terms of the economic divide and voters’ perceptions of the opportunities available to them and their children.

We’ll conclude this post, as we did previously:

It’s important to understand the divisions. But the goal of that understanding should be to gain insight into how to transcend the divide. That’s what Opportunity Washington has attempted to do in developing a positive and unifying set of priorities for prosperity, priorities that resonates in every part of the state: Achieve (education), Connect (transportation), and Employ (economic vitality).

As we move into 2017 and a new political era, we remain committed to the goal of strengthening the state economy, expanding opportunities in all corners of the state to reduce the divisions and create shared prosperity. In pursuing that goal, we recognize that it’s great to be able to build from the platform of Washington’s extraordinary economic vitality.