For 2012 election-related commentary, please see these recent posts :
- Forget Ohio, it’s all about Virginia…and demographics
- Virginia Votes 2012
- Virginia Votes 2012: Turnout across localities
- Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008
As part of my larger work on the 2012 election in Virginia (which I plan to release as a Cooper Center publication very soon), I have been wading through Virginia’s historical election data looking for meaningful trends and patterns that might offer some clues for what might happen this November. The most striking trend over the past 50 years is the growing influence of Northern Virginia in electoral outcomes.Many are aware of the phenomenon of the “Two Virginias,” but not as many fully appreciate the magnitude of the differences between NoVa (Northern Virginia) and RoVa (The Rest of Virginia). In many demographic analyses it is often not entirely inappropriate to treat the two as two separate states. On almost all measures of economic status, racial and ethnic diversity, or even basic demographics such as age or sex, NoVa stands apart. The counties that make up NoVa (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and the smaller independent cities within) are some of the richest and most educated in the country.NoVa is also growing increasingly Democratic in its political disposition compared to RoVa, thanks in part to growing minority populations in the region. Obama’s victory in NoVa was perhaps the biggest contributing factor to his sizable victory in the Old Dominion, a state that has not voted for a Democratic candidate since Johnson in 1964. This seismic shift goes unnoticed when looking at a traditional county results map.The nine counties and independent cities of NoVa accounted for 28 percent of all votes in the commonwealth in 2008. So, despite the sea of red that is RoVa, the blue metro areas of Virginia were more than enough to propel Obama to victory. A better way to visualize the impact of NoVa on electoral outcomes in the commonwealth would be to add another dimension. The map below represents the number of voters in each county as an elevation. Overlaid are the individual precinct results as a heat map. The dark blue regions represent areas of the state with large Democratic margins of victory while the red areas are Republican Country. As one can see, both parties laid claim to several peaks in 2008, but the light blue, Democratic Fairfax County stands out. In short, if voters were mountains, then NoVa would be Everest. Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service where he conducts research on topics that lie at the intersection of demographics, politics, and public policy.