America’s 10 political regions redefined


UPDATE: November 2008 results. Also see my pre-election preview in America magazine.

UPDATE: See charts on the voting history of each of the regions from 1948 through 2004 here. There are also maps specific to the 1948 election here, the 1960 election here, the 1968 election here, and the 1976 election here. Results from the 2008 presidential primaries so far are here in short form and here in a huge, county-by-county Excel file.

"Beyond Red & Blue" was conceived about four years ago, in anticipation of the 2004 presidential 10_regions_2008_with_state_lines_2 election. The idea was to divide the United States into 10 regions of equal voting power, each with a distinct history and political bent. You can see the original map here. The current map, drawn for the 2008 political season, is above; click on it to get a bigger version, or click the thumbnail map at right to see how the region lines intersect with state boundaries. Keep in mind that for at least 60 years, no one has ever been elected president without carrying at least five of these regions.

You can also open this Excel spreadsheet to find out which counties are in which region:

Download list_of_counties_by_brb_regions.xls 

And for statistics on how each region has voted in recent presidential elections: Download fast_facts_for_10_regions.doc  (For presidential primaries in 2000 and 2004: /~/media/Files/Commonwealth Magazine/Import/Blogs/Beyond Red and Blue/Americas 10 political regions redefined/Primarystatistics2000and2004for10regions.ashx)

I came up with the 2008 version of the 10-region map by taking into account county-level data from the 2004 presidential election and the 2006 congressional elections, changes in the demographics and population size of each region, and feedback from readers who were delighted or offended by the original map. All but three of the regions are geographically coherent. The exceptions are Upper Coasts, which includes most of New England and the Pacific Northwest (both part of the Green Party base, if it had one); El Norte, which is based in the Southwest but also takes in the largely Latino area of Miami, Florida; and Frontier, which is based in the Rocky Mountains but also includes a slice of "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire (the Libertarian Party base, in its wildest dreams).

Unless there are some dramatic political shifts over the next year, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee will win at least four regions: Frontier, Cumberland, Southern Inland, and Comanche. (I initially named that last region Waltonville, in honor of the fact that the first Wal-Mart stores opened there, but then a colleague pointed out that the name might remind people of the TV series The Waltons, which, of course, was set in the mountains of Cumberland.) And the Democratic nominee will carry the Northeast Corridor, Upper Coasts, El Norte, and Mega-Chicago. That leaves the South Coast and Chippewa as the two regions up for grabs, but there are also some states divided between two opposing regions that will probably be battlegrounds. In Arizona and Colorado, for example, the question is whether the Democrat can win the El Norte parts of the state by bigger margins than the Republican will win the Frontier parts of the state.

Over the next few months, we will post more maps and data that will explain the characteristics of each region, but we welcome your comments from the start. The Beyond Red & Blue blog will also take breaks from presidential politics to bring you other interesting maps on economic, demographic, and cultural issues. Stay tuned to this address!