The Rural-Urban Continuum of Polarization: Understanding the Geography of the 2018 Midterms

Academic Article


  • Abstract This study of the 2018 congressional midterms demonstrates how voting patterns and political attitudes vary across a spectrum of urban and rural areas in the United States. Rural America is no more a monolith than is urban America. The rural-urban gradient is better represented by a continuum than a dichotomy. This is evident in the voting results in 2018, just as it was in 2016. We found that the political tipping point lies beyond major metropolitan areas, in the suburban counties of smaller metropolitan areas. Democrats enjoyed even greater success in densely populated urban areas in 2018 than in 2016. Residents of these urban areas display distinctive and consistent social and political attitudes across a range of scales. At the other end of the continuum in remote rural areas, Republican candidates continued to command voter support despite the challenging national political environment. Voters in these rural regions expressed social and political attitudes diametrically opposed to their counterparts in large urban cores.
  • Authors

  • Johnson, Kenneth
  • Scala, Dante J
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2021
  • Keywords

  • congressional elections
  • regional voting
  • rural America
  • suburban America
  • urban America
  • urban-rural continuum
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 607
  • End Page

  • 626
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 4