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Unrest in the Monied 'Burbs

world Updated: Oct 21, 2008 19:31 IST
Pramit Pal Choudhary
Pramit Pal Choudhary
Hindustan Times
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The Christian Science Monitor and the University of Maryland, which despite its name is one of the better newspapers of the US, have broken down the counties of the US into 11 distinct types of voter communities – they call it Patchwork Nation.

Of the different types, the one representative of the largest chunk of the US’s population and wealth are the Monied ‘Burbs. A massive 304 counties and 84 million Americans fall under this label. They are also what the two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, have put right at the top of the target list.

An obvious reason for this electoral enthusiasm is that the Monied ‘Burbs represent a third of the population. But the other is that they are big time swing constituencies. I suspect they’re a key reason for McCain’s eight point southward tumble in the polls since Lehman Brothers went belly up. The Monied ‘Burb residents are the just the type to be holding imperiled mortgages.

What is a Monied ‘Burb? The Christian Science Monitor profiles them as counties that are slightly younger, slightly wealthier but significantly better educated than the average. (The stats: median household income of $ 56,000; quarter of the people are college-educated; trade and services are the main careers, blah-blah.) The suburbs around second tier cities like Detroit, St. Louis or Boulder would be perfect examples – but so would the bourgeois belts around New York City or Washington DC.

The Monied ‘Burbs split their vote almost exactly in the last US election, between Democrat John Kerry and George W. Bush. This year they were leaning Democrat. After the financial crisis that lean has become a tilt.

The candidates know this. Obama has campaigned in more Monied ‘Burbs than any of the other categories of Patchwork Nation: 112 visits or 29 % of his total stops. McCain is not far behind with 95 visits or 31 % of his total. The vice-presidential candidates don’t seem to go anywhere else: 44 % of Sarah Palin’s campaign stops have been to Monied ‘Burbs, well above their share of their population. Thirty-seven per cent of Joe Biden’s touring is the same – though if he stayed home in the northern half of his own state of Delaware he would be in a Monied ‘Burb.

Its noticeable that some of the parts of the rock-solid red Republican zones which have turned a hopeful light blue, like Colorado or Nevada, are thick with Monied ‘Burbs.