Most Sprawling Cities Are Also Most Republican

Sprawl and Conservative Politics

It has long been known that Democrats tend to cluster is large cities while Republicans often find themselves in rural areas. But now, a recent study indicates that there are differences even between urban areas. The


cities are the most Democratic, while sprawling metros tend to be more Republican. In the 2012 presidential election, there was a correlation of .44 for sprawl and voting for Romney and a correlation of -.43 for sprawl and voting for Obama. 

The Tipping Point

At around 800 people per square mile, voting districts tend to shift from Republican to Democrat. At around this level of density people are no longer able to easily satisfy their needs privately; property and land sizes begin to fall off and green space becomes more concentrated in public areas such as parks. People who choose to sacrifice some personal space in exchange for public goods like parks tend to exhibit more liberal voting patterns. In these areas, conservatism becomes more challenging due to the necessity of shared resources.

Interestingly enough, sprawl and conservatism actually exert a causal relationship on one another in both directions. Sprawling areas tend to attract Republicans based on values of privacy, and at the same time Republicans tend to favor free market conditions, which tend to lead to piecemeal building patterns. On the other hand, Democrats tend to favor more centrally planned and dense construction.