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