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Stephen Wolf published an awe-inspiring, comprehensive diary here last month about what an Appalachian state would look like, demographically and politically speaking.

Substantively, I have nothing to add. But when I was reading the diary, at times I wished there were some simple line charts as well as all the awesome maps, so I could get a somewhat clearer grasp of the overall trends involved. So I made a couple myself. Might as well share them here - see below the fold.

Population of Appalachia

Stephen Wolf's diary has a neat little table of the population changes of Appalachia from 1900 to 2010. That was the first thing I wanted to see as a chart, to better see the development from decade to decade in proportion. Additionally, I wanted to see at one glance how Appalachia's population growth compared with that of the US overall. Here we go:

Population of Appalachia, 1900-2010, in comparison with national population of US
Interesting to see that Appalachia's population growth already started weakening in the 1940s, and dropped to practically zero in the 1950s, right when national population growth hit a peak. Stagnation continued in the 60s and the 80s, but there was renewed growth in between, in the 70s. Anyone know why? I was also surprised that in comparison with those years of stagnation, population growth since 1990 has actually been relatively robust.

I wanted to chart out the proportions between Appalachian and national US growth more directly, so I also did an indexed version, where 1900 populations = 100:

Indexed population growth in Appalachia and the US, 1900-2010
That one seems self-explanatory.

Politics of Appalachia

Stephen's diary has this amazing run-down of electoral maps of Appalachia for every presidential election since 1960. The descriptions for each map mention the results for every Democratic and Republican candidate, and it's clear that the Democrats, at least in terms of presidential races, became increasingly fucked in this region. But what I needed was some kind of table or chart to see at a glance how the parties' shares of the electorate developed over time. Here's the chart:

Results of the Democratic and GOP presidential candidates in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960.
Results of the Democratic and GOP presidential candidates in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960.
I first only included the Democrats, and the first thing that struck me was that their results have actually been surprisingly stable! For almost thirty years, from the 1980 elections through to the 2008 elections, every Democrat who ran got 41-46% of the vote. (Oddly, Dukakis was the second best performer, after Carter in '80, in this list, despite his distinct lack of red-state flair.)

There was a gradual slide, but it was very gradual indeed ... not the kind of escalating collapse you might imagine when thinking of federal Democrats in Appalachia. Obama's reelection last year was the first time the Democratic score dropped underneath this level, but even so the chart does not invoke some kind of bottom falling out.

In comparison with the drastic fluctuations of 1960-1976, maybe this also suggests that the state's electorates have become much more inelastic.

The Republican score, to be fair, was much more up and down, suggesting that, at least in Appalachia, Ross Perot mostly pulled voters who otherwise would have gone GOP. (It doesn't have to mean that, of course, as there could have been a more complex to and fro explaining this pattern; I realize that at least on a national level exit polls suggested that Perot took from both candidates equally, at least in '92.)

Looking at the two scores in direct comparison makes things look gloomier:

Presidential election results in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960: Margin between Democratic and GOP candidates
Presidential election results in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960: Margin between Democratic and GOP candidates
Charted out like this, the trendline of Democratic decline is more immediately visible. It's just interesting to keep in mind that the leaps forward in the GOP's victorious margins in 1984, 2000 and 2004 involved the Republican candidate gaining more ground than the Democrat was losing, with the balance coming at the expense of the third party camp. (I'm obviously not suggesting that Nader voters switched to Bush, but rather that the Democrats were able to hold steadier than Bush's gains might suggest, in part perhaps by taking back Nader voters, or by variations in turnout.)

The most immediately depressing chart emerges when you compare the Democratic presidential candidates' results in Appalachia directly with what they received nationwide:

Presidential election results in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960: Difference between Democratic candidates' result in Appalachia and their nationwide result
Presidential election results in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia since 1960: Difference between Democratic candidates' result in Appalachia and their nationwide result
In this chart, the ups and downs of the previous chart, associated with Perot's and the GOP's fluctuating presidential fortunes, are gone. So is the stability of the Democratic scores in absolute terms that was shown in the second chart up. Instead, when mapping out the Democratic scores in Appalachia relative to their national fortunes, we see the consistent, ongoing, and drastic collapse that you might have expected, ever since 1980. And we see that, in these relative/comparative terms, even McGovern in '72 did better than every Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

A few more minor details that caught my eye in that chart and the first one in this section:

(1) McGovern did horribly, of course, getting just 34% of the vote in Appalachia, which is the lowest share of the vote any Dem presidential candidate got there since 1960; but McGovern didn't do much worse in Appalachia than nationally than Humphrey had done four years earlier.
(2) Clinton's run in 1992 was the only time, after Mondale, that the Democrat did better in Appalachia than nationally. But the difference with Dukakis, that very Northeastern politician who'd preceded him, was actually rather minute. Clinton did just 0.4% better in Appalachia than nationally, whereas Dukakis had done 0.2% worse in Appalachia than nationally.
(3) In 1996, when Perot lost over half his vote, on a national level Clinton benefited much more (+6.2%) than Dole (+3.2%). Not so in Appalachia, where the roles were reversed (+1.9%/+4.3%).
(4) While Obama improved on Kerry's Appalachian score slightly (41.4% vs 40.9%) in 2008, in relative terms that was the year, if there was any, that the bottom fell out, with the difference between how the Democrat did in Appalachia vs nationally jumping by over 4%.

EDIT: OK, I'm adding one more, sixth, chart to further compare Democratic presidential results in Appalachia and nationwide results:

Democratic score in presidential elections since 1960 in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia and nationwide.
Democratic score in presidential elections since 1960 in Stephen Wolf's fictional state of Appalachia and nationwide.
*

Anyway, for me it was helpful to chart out some of this data, when I was studying Stephen's uber-informative post; I thought it might be for some of you too.

Originally posted to nimh on Fri Dec 06, 2013 at 10:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Math and Statistics Geeks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow thanks for all of the kind words (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nimh, plf515

    and this diary is amazing... I figured adding charts like this would be data overload in my diary so didn't even bother making them but these look really cool!

    I especially love the 2nd one showing population growth with 1900 set as 100. I bet you would see an incredibly stark difference with 1940 set as 100 since that's when the divergent growth rates really started to happen. I also love the last chart since it shows you just how close a swing state it would have been for decades until the last 20 years or so.

    Just a minor note, my data excluded minor party and no-party candidates for pres in years like 2004, 2008, 2012, etc where they won very little of the vote. The ones I included were 1968, 1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000. I think it's quite interesting though that in every single year 3rd party candidates did considerably worse in Appalachia than nationwide, or especially for George Wallace compared to the rest of the South.

  •  Awesome (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nimh

    Takeaway: something happened in the first Clinton administration. Arguably, the "culture wars" finally began to have an impact here. Paula Jones? Guns? Others might point to trade agreements, but I don't really see how that makes much sense. It seems improbably that voters would switch from "bad" to "worse."

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Mon Dec 09, 2013 at 04:15:34 PM PST

    •  Not sure (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure if that should be the take-away. The Dem result, by itself, stayed stable during that time - like, really, roughly speaking, throughout the 80s and 90s. The Dem margin vis-a-vis the GOP improved a bit under Clinton, but maybe that was just thanks to Perot taking away GOP votes. The Dem score in Appalachia compared to the US overall did take a nose dive between '92 and '96, and I think the reasons you mention may have been a big part of that: Appalachia was probably one of the few regions that would look particularly askance at Clinton's sexual shenanigans where the Dems still had a lot to lose. But it's no more than a moderate acceleration of a downward trend that had started in 1980 and keeps going on now, just like 2008 was.

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