OK, here’s a fascinating analysis of the electoral map of the United States that you won’t find anywhere else. When one looks at an electoral college map like the one you’ll find with the above link, you can’t help but be struck by how the vast majority of the U.S., at least in terms of surface area, is solidly in Romney’s camp. Yet, Obama leads in electoral votes. How can this be?
Population density seems to be playing a critical role. Of the 16 blue states on this map (those Obama is expected to win), the average population density is 928 people per square mile. Of the 20 red states – those Romney is expected to win, the average population density is only 60. The average population density of the six states leaning one way or another is 130. The average population density of the 9 states considered “toss-ups” is 149.
In other words, those states favoring Obama are 15 times as densely populated (on average) than those states favoring Romney. The states that are toss-ups or leaning one way or the other fall in between in terms of population density.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. As populations become more crowded, it’s an inescapable fact that government must play an ever-greater role in maintaining an orderly society. What’s less obvious to most (but not to those who understand the relationship between population density and unemployment) is that the government must play a greater role in providing a social safety net as populations grow more crowded. I doubt that many people in the blue states really understand this. But it seems that they sense it. At the same time, the theme of smaller government plays well in sparsely populated states where people don’t sense the need for more government because they’ve never experienced living in crowded conditions.
Sadly, this is a bad omen for the Republican Party. I say “sadly” because all people would be far better off living in less crowded conditions where there is less need for government involvement in our lives. The Republican philosophy will slowly resonate with fewer and fewer people. It may explain why President Obama continues to enjoy as much support as he does in spite of the terrible economy and high unemployment. Only a few decades ago, when the country was less crowded and more prosperous, he’d have been swept out of office in a landslide. Today, however, a growing number of people sense that the laissez faire capitalism and globalization advocated by Republicans in this ever-more-crowded, dog-eat-dog world actually offers little hope of a better life. While Democrats advocate the same things, at least they also favor maintaining a strong safety net (but at a cost that can’t be sustained).
If Republicans want to prevent their electoral map from slowly shrinking as more states grow more crowded, they’d be wise to wake up to the role of population density in driving unemployment and poverty, and to the fact that the population growth they promote as a source of economic growth is actually choking the life out of their party.