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Sprawl turns to the Right

April 14, 2014

From The Dish – “The Politics of Sprawl.”


Richard Florida compared “rankings of sprawling and compact development to voting patterns, as well as other significant economic and demographic variables” …

Our correlations suggest that sprawled America is Red America (Republican), while Blue America (Democrat) takes on a much more compact geography.  …  Researchers have identified a tipping point of roughly 800 people per square mile where counties shift from Red to Blue …

Princeton historian Kevin Kruse similarly explained this spatial link between a spread-out landscape and Republican political positions to the New Republic. “There are certain things in which the physical nature of a city, the fact the people are piled on top of each other, requires some notion of the public good,” he said. “Conservative ideology works beautifully in the suburbs, because it makes sense spatially.”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2014 9:52 am

    As one can see in Vancouver, or even more conservative Calgary or Edmonton, cities vote more NDP or left of center parties. People who have less money, on average, tend to vote themselves handouts, and as such vote left. People with money have more choices, such as a car and bigger yards and as such exist in greater numbers, on average, in suburbs.

    I don’t like the world “sprawl”. The term is not neutral enough. It implies it being negative. A better term could be “leafy suburbs” or ” more spacious less dangerous less homeless invaded less theft prone suburbs” or just ” suburbs ” or “outer neighborhoods”.

    Any city ought to offer choices, namely choices of dense living, mid rise buildings and spacious estates, and everything in between. City planners ought to not prefer one form over another like the left often do ! It ought to price roads and sewer pipes and schools accordingly though, and perhaps in some cities that is mispriced.

    Bigger government is usually preferred by those that can benefit from taxation of others, ie NDP and left leaning Liberals in Canada, or Democrats in the US.

    Don’t pretend living in a suburb is better or worse than in a dense downtown neighborhood. It is just a different choice people make.

    Cities, politicians ought to support those choices.

    • April 14, 2014 1:55 pm

      I’d be interested to understand your definition of “support” in the final sentence, in the context of the mispricing of roads, sewers (and fire and police service, garbage collection, snow-plowing and street sweeping, and others) that you mention a couple of paragraphs earlier.

    • Tessa permalink
      April 14, 2014 2:14 pm

      I think personally that this is a false reading of why suburbs vote more conservative and cities vote more left-wing. There is research to show that passive tolerance increases as we live in more cosmopolitan, diverse areas and come into contact with other people who are different than us. Naturally people in cities come into contact with many different kinds of people who suburbanites don’t: because they live in such close proximity, often in multi-family dwellings, and because they walk and take transit more than auto-dependent suburbanites. I expect this also plays a major role: that is, rather than looking at it as a selfish action of some group of “others,” maybe it’s solidarity, people who are willing to accept that other people need help for reasons that are important and that they are not simply asking for a handout. Maybe it’s trust and social capital, especially given to those who are different from us.

      It’s that quality that I believe conservatives lack the most, as the rich are always happy to accept a handout for themselves from conservative governments (i.e. special tax breaks and exemptions, income splitting, etc.) They’re just not willing to give the government license to provide solutions that help everyone, believing, I believe highly unjustly, that those others are undeserving of anything, that they are greedy, that they are parasites. It’s that sort of divisive language that I believe doesn’t work in cities so well, that really is relegated to the suburbs, whatever you wish to call them.

      • April 14, 2014 3:47 pm

        So, urbanites (aka Democrats and NDPers) are more enlightened, thus vote less ?

        Or perhaps: they care less, thus have less education, have less social impact, work less and have less money .. thus ask for more handouts or just don’t vote ?

        • Tessa permalink
          April 14, 2014 4:37 pm

          I’m confused. I’m not sure how you measure caring less, but education is measured in polling data, which consistently shows that those with “some university” or “university degree” are more likely to vote liberal/NDP than those with less education. I just pulled a random survey here: There are many others.

          You confuse me though. In one thread on Point Grey Road, you defend urban values – then in this thread, you chastise urban dwellers themselves as uneducated sheep who care for nothing other than handouts and don’t work. This makes no sense to me, and seems to have no basis in reality whatsoever.

          Even your argument that city dwellers have less money doesn’t hold water. It seems like a giant bias against city dwellers. Which brings me back to my confusion: why defend urbanism in one post and insult urbanists in the next?

  2. April 14, 2014 1:52 pm

    1. Sidewalks vote democrat, from 2012 and earlier

    2. Suburbanites as proto-fascists, Bertrand Russell in 1936:

    An important element in the causation of the revolt against reason is that many able and energetic men have no outlet for their love of power, and therefore become subversive.

    Small States, formerly, gave more men political power, and small businesses gave more men economic power.

    Consider the huge population that sleeps in suburbs and works in great cities. Coming into London by train, one passes through great regions of small villas, inhabited by families which feel no solidarity with the working class; the man of the family has no part in local affairs, since he is absent all day submitting to the orders of his employers; his only outlet for initiative is the cultivation of his back garden at the week-end.

    Politically, he is envious of all that is done for the working classes, but, though he feels poor, snobbery prevents him from adopting the methods of Socialism and trade unionism.

    His suburb may be as populous as many a famous city of antiquity, but its collective life is languid, and he has no time to be interested in it.

    To such a man, if he has enough spirit for discontent, a Fascist movement may well appear as deliverance.

    • Bob permalink
      April 14, 2014 8:18 pm

      Thank you neil21 for that non-polarizing viewpoint. Not.

  3. April 15, 2014 11:12 am

    I appreciate Neil’s counterbalance to the troll-like comments he was responding to, which are divisive and insulting in the extreme. At least Neil was quoting somebody who knew a thing or two of which he spoke.

    Back on topic and just for fun doing some quick math with Florida’s tipping point of about 800 persons per sq. mile, this results in about 1.5 to 2 dwelling units per gross acre, depending on family size. Maybe 3-4 units per net (subdivided, with roads, etc.) acre. Still single family residential, just on smaller lots than the exurban fringe.

  4. April 15, 2014 11:45 am

    @Tessa: I don’t defend or criticize or judge urbanism. It is what it is. I am making an observation. Urban dwellers, on average, vote more left/NDP/democrat. You said they care less. I did not. I just drew your (possibly wrong) statement into its extreme ..

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