The Senate’s Rural Skew Makes It Very Hard For Democrats To Win The Supreme Court

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The Senate’s Rural Skew Makes It Very Hard For Democrats To Win The Supreme Court

I don’t have a particularly strong idea of ​​how the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will affect the presidential election or the race for control of the U.S. Senate. And I would like to encourage you not to place too much emphasis on welcoming others for the time being. The very earliest indication is President Trump’s desire to move Full throttle ahead The naming of Ginsburg’s replacement might be unpopular, but that’s just based on a poll.

But here’s what I know: The Senate is a huge problem for Democrats given the current political coalitions where Democrats dominate in cities while Republicans triumph in rural areas. And because the Senate is responsible for confirming the Supreme Court rulings, it means the Supreme Court is also a big problem for Democrats. Sure Democrats Power win back the Senate this year – in fact, they were easy favorites to do before the Ginsburg News. But in the long run, they’re likely to lose it more often than not.

Emergency podcast: The SCOTUS office | Thirty-five

You can probably intuit that a legislature that is just as strong in Wyoming (population: 580,000), as California (39.5 million inhabitants) prefers rural areas. But it’s a bigger effect than you might think. So let’s put in some numbers. At FiveThirtyEight, our preferred method of distinguishing between urban and rural areas is based on using census data to estimate how many people are within 5 miles of you. Based on this, we can divide every person in the country into four buckets:

  • Rural: Less than 25,000 people live within an 8 km radius of you.
  • Suburb or small town: Between 25,000 and 100,000 people within a radius of 8 km;
  • Suburban or small town: Between 100,000 and 250,000 people within a radius of 8 km;
  • City center or big city: More than 250,000 people within a radius of 8 km.

Coincidentally, the total US population (including Washington DC and Puerto Rico) is almost exactly evenly distributed among these areas: 25 percent rural, 23 percent suburban / small town, 27 percent suburban / small town, and 25 percent urban core / large city.

But what does the representation in the Senate look like? Since every state has the same number of senators, this is easy to calculate. We can take the urban / rural split for each state and average the 50 states together as shown in the following table:

The Senate has a large bias towards rural voters

Proportion of Population by Territory in the United States as a whole, in each individual state, and in the average state (i.e. as stated in the Senate)

StatusRuralExurban / small townSuburb / small townCity center / big city
Total US population *25%23%27%25%
Average condition3526th25th14th
StatusRuralExurban / small townSuburb / small townCity center / big city
Alaska53%18%28%0%
Alabama5133160
Arkansas583660
Arizona17th19th2935
California8th1326th54
Colorado21st18th30th31
Connecticut8th354511
Delaware2427490
Florida13273526th
Georgia3129327th
Hawaii2322nd3519th
Iowa522919th0
Idaho423622nd0
Illinois19thfifteen2838
Indiana3727332
Kansas4125th313
Kentucky5220th235
Louisiana4130th20th9
Massachusetts6323527
Maryland1322nd2936
Maine6925th60
Michigan30th232819th
Minnesota3619th25th20th
Missouri4119th319
Mississippi652960
Montana594110
North Carolina373625th1
North Dakota4939120
Nebraska3617th398th
New Hampshire394218th0
New Jersey518th3344
New Mexico412826th5
Nevada13925th53
new York14th14thfifteen57
Ohio26th293312
Oklahoma4423321
Oregon2921st2426th
Pennsylvania233125th21st
Rhode Island8th3122nd39
South carolina404118th0
South Dakota6519th160
Tennessee4131280
Texas21st17th3427
Utah21st19th4119th
Virginia2822nd3417th
Vermont7921st00
Washington20th22nd3919th
Wisconsin412719th13
West Virginia643600
Wyoming663400

* The totals for the United States as a whole include Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico

Since there are many largely rural, low-population states, the average state – reflecting the composition of the Senate – has 35 percent of its population in rural areas and only 14 percent in core urban areas, despite the country as a whole – including dense, populous states like New York, Texas, and California – has about 25 percent of the population in each group. That’s a pretty serious offset. This means that the Senate has, in fact, two or three times as many rural representatives as core urban representations … even though there are roughly the same number of voters in every bucket nationwide.

And of course that has all sorts of other downstream consequences. Since rural areas tend to be whiter, it means that the Senate also represents a whiter population. In the United States as a whole, 60 percent of the population is non-Hispanic and 40 percent of the population is non-white. But in the average state, 68 percent of people are white and 32 percent are not white. It’s almost like the Senate turned the clock back 20 years on the country’s racial demographics. (In 2000 at 69 percent of the US population consisted of non-Hispanic whites.)

This also means that the median states – those that would be decisive in the event of a 50:50 tie in the Senate – are considerably redder than the whole country. In the next table, I’ve ranked the states from top to bottom based on how much more or less Republicans they were than the national average in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections.

A red state will most likely decide on the Senate

Republican margin or deficit in the last two presidential elections relative to the national average by state and a mixed average (corresponds to current party-political bias)

rankStatus20162012Mixed*
1Wyoming+48.4+44.7+47.5
2West Virginia+43.8+30.5+40.5
3Oklahoma+38.5+37.4+38.2
4thIdaho+33.9+35.5+34.3
5North Dakota+37.8+23.5+34.2
6Kentucky+31.9+26.5+30.6
7thSouth Dakota+31.9+21.9+29.4
8thAlabama+29.8+26.0+28.9
9Arkansas+29.0+27.5+28.6
10Utah+20.0+51.7+27.9
11Tennessee+28.1+24.2+27.1
12Nebraska+27.1+25.6+26.8
13Kansas+22.5+25.4+23.2
14thLouisiana+21.7+21.1+21.6
fifteenMontana+22.3+17.5+21.1
16Indiana+21.1+14.1+19.3
17thMississippi+19.9+15.4+18.8
18thMissouri+20.6+13.2+18.8
19thAlaska+16.8+17.8+17.1
20thSouth carolina+16.4+14.3+15.9
21stTexas+11.1+19.6+13.2
22ndGeorgia+7.2+11.7+8.3
23Iowa+11.5-2.0+8.1
24Ohio+10.2+0.9+7.8
25thArizona+5.6+12.9+7.4
MEDIAN+6.6
26thNorth Carolina+5.7+5.9+5.8
27Florida+3.3+3.0+3.2
28Pennsylvania+2.8-1.5+1.7
29Wisconsin+2.9-3.1+1.4
30thNew Hampshire+1.7-1.7+0.9
31Michigan+2.3-5.6+0.3
32Minnesota+0.6-3.8-0.5
33Nevada-0.3-2.8-1.0
34Virginia-3.2-0.0-2.4
35Colorado-2.8-1.5-2.5
36Maine-0.9-11.4-3.5
37New Mexico-6.1-6.3-6.2
38Oregon-8.9-8.2-8.7
39Delaware-9.3-14.8-10.7
40Connecticut-11.5-13.5-12.0
41New Jersey-11.9-13.9-12.4
42Washington-13.6-10.9-12.9
43Illinois-14.8-13.0-14.3
44Rhode Island-13.4-23.6-16.0
45new York-20.4-24.3-21.4
46Massachusetts-25.1-19.3-23.7
47Maryland-24.3-22.2-23.8
48California-27.9-19.2-25.7
49Vermont-24.3-31.7-26.2
50Hawaii-30.1-38.8-32.3

* Based on a combination of 75 percent 2016 and 25 percent 2012. This is a simplified version of the FiveThirtyEight Partisan Lean Index calculation.

The median is between Arizona and North Carolina, which are, on average, 6.6 percentage points more Republican than the whole country. Democrats can and do compete in these states this year, but they do so in a general political environment that opposes Democrats by 6 to 7 percentage points, based on the general congressional vote and national presidential polls.

So in a strong national Democratic environment, the Senate can be competitive. At least in general. A democratically oriented environment was not enough to overcome the Senate’s GOP Lean base and a bad map in 2018. Democrats lost Seats. And in an average year – and certainly a year like 2014 when Republicans have the edge – Senate Democrats face dire prospects.

In fact, despite their current 47-53 deficit in the Senate, Democratic Senators represent slightly more people than Republicans. If you divide the U.S. population by which the party represents it in the Senate – 50-50 credits for states like Ohio that have a Senator from each party – you get 167 million Americans represented by Democratic Senators, and 160 million Republicans.

Could the nascent election card – with states like Texas, Arizona, and Georgia turning purple – help Senate Democrats? While changing politics in these states could have a massive impact on the electoral college, they don’t help Senate Democrats that much because they still only have two senators each.

What Democrats really need in order to negate their disadvantage in the Senate is to find some small population states to approach them. Apart from Nevada, they haven’t had any of these lately. (Montana and Alaska are probably the least implausible candidates, though Montana’s presidential election has actually turned redder.) There’s also the possibility that New England’s small, predominantly white, working-class states – like Maine, New Hampshire, and even Rhode Island – could move versus Democrats who could make their Senate problems worse, despite Maine asking heavily about Joe Biden this year.

Democrats might also consider adding states to the union. If both Washington D.C. as well as Puerto Rico would become solid democratic states (not necessarily a safe assumption in the case of Puerto Rico) the Republican bias of the Senate would be reduced from 6.6 points to 4.5 points. When D.C. and joined Puerto Rico and California was divided into three states That ranged from democratic to solid blue and would drop further to 2.5 points. But that also shows you just how robust the Republican advantage is. You could add four Democratic States (D.C., Puerto Rico, California / A, and California / B) and the Senate would still have a slight republican inclination.

Obviously, political coalitions can change over time. You might be reading this article in 2036 and it seems incredibly silly because Mormons have become a super-democratic group and Montana, Utah and Idaho are all blue states … who knows. But for now is the Senate effectively 6 to 7 percentage points redder than the whole countryThis means that only in the event of a landslide, Democrats will likely win it in their favor at the national level. That should make the Republican majority in the Supreme Court pretty permanent.

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