Fascinating maps of how and where Americans move may shed light on Palin and Obama's popularity

Fascinating maps of how and where Americans move may shed light on Palin and Obama's popularity

Summary: I am a charting and mapping nerd. During election times, when CNN puts up all those maps on the screen, I have an actual chartgasm.

TOPICS: Storage

I am a charting and mapping nerd. During election times, when CNN puts up all those maps on the screen, I have an actual chartgasm. So when I found Fortune's Where Americans Are Moving interactive map, I lost much of the morning to the clickety-clicky.

Oh, Baby, it was oh-so-good. Oh, yeah, county migration patterns. Oooh. Hose me down. Yeah... that's the ticket. Inward and outward patterns, yeah, do it some more... Ok, I'm better now. Whew!

It was also fascinating. The chart allows you to click on any county in the United States and see where Americans moved in 2008. Red lines indicate movement from out of a county and black lines indicate movement into a county. So, for example, here's the movement to and from my own Brevard County in Florida:

As you might expect, a lot of New Yawkers and people from the North East moved into Brevard while a reasonable number of others moved out of Brevard. Denise and I moved here in 2005. Since we came here from New Jersey (avoiding the cold), we fit right into Brevard's normal migration patterns.

Other migration patterns that are pretty much what you'd expect include the migration into and out of New York City.

Interestingly, the vast majority of New York moves are both to and from other blue states (although there is a smattering of moves to and from the Midwest).

Migration patterns from my old home of San Mateo County, California are interesting as well. I used to live in Foster City (just east of San Mateo) during the 1980s. San Mateo is at the top end of Silicon Valley, so it makes sense to see a lot of migration up to the Seattle area, and equally makes sense to see migration coming in from the New York and LA areas.

Where things start to get really interesting is when you look at some mid-western counties, particularly those that are long known to be conservative, red state counties. Take a look at these four counties:

These counties have very little cross-fertilization with the outside world. Brown County, in Nebraska, had no one move into or out of the county. Cherry County had one person move into the county, but only from the neighboring one. Russell County had a few people move around, but again, only to the nearest counties. Parmer Texas was quite insular as well, but it did have a few people who moved at least partially across the state.

So that got me wondering about our presidents. President Obama was born in Honolulu, and as you can see from the following map, Hawaii is a very active state when it to both people moving in and moving out:

President Bush, on the other hand, while born in New Haven, Connecticut calls Crawford, Texas his home. Crawford's interesting because while McLennan County isn't as busy as, say, Honolulu, it does see people moving in and out from various parts of the country -- although, notably, none from the North East.

Bill Clinton came from Hope, Arkansas. What's fascinating about Clinton is we all know he went on to study at Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale. But take a look at the migration patterns where he grew up:

Hempstead County is a very insular place, far more so than Crawford, Texas. I'm working on a theory here, but first, let's take a look at one more home town, Sarah Palin's Wasilla, Alaska:

Wasilla, located in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, also doesn't have much migration, but it sees people moving to Washington State and from the Midwest. It's not as insular as Clinton's Hope, Arkansas, but not as cosmopolitan as even Crawford, Texas.

Clinton, Bush, and Palin are all people of two worlds. They come from or identify with small towns, but have also experienced and are equally comfortable with metropolitan environments. These three politicians also have a very broad appeal. It explains, in part, why Bill Clinton was so popular with Americans in small towns, as well as the so-called East Coast liberal elite.

It also may explain a bit about why small town America gravitates so strongly to Sarah Palin -- and not to Barack Obama.

On the other hand, sometimes a map is just a map, and a chart is just a chart.

Topic: Storage


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Makes sense

    If you're a lib in NYC, you probably think of Texas and Nebraska as flyover Country, with almost nothing to offer, while LA and SanFran are cool cities with a similar mindset to yours.<br><br>If you are a Conservative in Wyoming, you recoil in disgust at the attitudes of the Beautiful People in SanFran and literally want nothing to do with them. But you identify with the folks in North Carolina.<br><br>You correctly identify Clinton as a guy who could move in both circles effortlessly, while Messiah in the White House is cerebral and calculating and not at all appealing to people in the red states.<br><br>Oh, and I hate to bring it up, but there REALLY IS something strange about this whole "born in Hawaii" birth certificate thing. He could clear it up in a day by just authorizing the release of the original, yet he does not. I have to conclude that HE considers something on it dangerous to his presidency. Just what, I have no idea.
    • Releasing the original


      There is no reason for President Obama to authorize the release of his official birth certificate and every reason not to, because by refusing to do so he continues to appear the victim of outlandish conspiracy theories. Settling the matter once and for all, presumably with proof of his natural citizenship (as the alternative would spark a Constitutional crisis), would take away an opportunity to make his opponents look unreasonable. That's why none of his supporters want the documents released - as long as the documents are not released, his supporters can continue to ridicule those questioning the documents. The actual facts about his place of birth are secondary.
      • Politics first

        @rapson and then the priorities of the office of the presidency second, at best. Perfectly exemplifies the problem with todays politics. We have leaders of our nation that care more for their party's political agenda and politics than the duties of the office which they hold. American people come in at most second to the loyal elite.<br><br>It's time to start electing smart wise people rather than over-thinking and unwise ivory league elitists.
  • Did I miss something?

    What is your hypothesis?
  • Blocked at the git-go.

    My distress is seeing Palin and Obama in the same sentence.
  • RE: Fascinating maps of how and where Americans move may shed light on Palin and Obama's popularity

    The Birth place IS Primary!!! It is in the CONSTITUTION!!!
    The Presidency is the only job in the Federal Gov and maybe in the nation, that requires a birth on US soil.
  • Socialists, Marxists and Jackasses, oh my

    With apologies to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

    It never ceases to amaze me with the continuous political machinations that ZD tolerates in a computer/information blog. And to drag this mapping/charting issue into this fray is yet another example of the arrogance of ZD writers. The implication is clear, when you are liberal, you're part of the intellectual elite, you are erudite and urbane, as evidenced by being well-traveled, and this mapping example proves it. But, for those who truly recognize your pedantic socialist tact, you cloak yourself with ignorance and use mendacity in lieu of facts.
  • It also shows average income...

    After you click on a county, and show the migration connections if you hover over one of the in-bound/out-bound counties the map will also display some stats, including average income. There is wealth of interesting info there too.

    So, for example, click on Santa Barbara to display the migration lines, then hover over Snohomish County in western WA. While over-all more people moved from Santa Barbara to Snohomish, the people who moved *to* Santa Barbara from Snohomish had an average income of $306k, while those moving to Snohomish *from* Santa Barbara had an average income of just $17k.

    There are a wealth of other examples like this, so this map shows just not the movement of people but also the movement of wealth.

    Thanks for sharing the map link!
  • RE: Fascinating maps of how and where Americans move may shed light on Palin and Obama's popularity

    Thanks for the post and the link to the site.

    Lots of yucks reading through the commentws. These are the folks who have no problem with corporate socialism, or buying cheap vegetables picked by immigrants.

    As for the way our politicians act "today", you've got to be kidding. Which rock have you been living under? I take it you never heard of Senators beating each other to a bloody pulp in the 1880s, or the outright bribery that brought down the economy even earlier than that? Who do you do you think Andrew Jackson was anyway? Do you care that he took down the most powerful banker of his time to insure that the people would actually control the government? You should.

    What we needed this time, was what we haven't gotten yet thanks to the skanks on Wall Street, their toadies in Congress, the idiot who lived in the White House for 8 years, the fawning aides who have the current president's ear, and his willingness to listen to them.

    The banks needed to be taken apart, limb by limb, the dead ones put out of their misery and their assets sold off for the US Treasury to pay back what we shelled out, and the shareholders stupid enough to invest in them thrown to the wolves. And their boards of directors should have been replaced. That's called capitalism.

    If not for the media blasts from the airhorns who call themselves conservatives but don't know the meaning of the word we might have had it.

    We might also have had real regulation if not for the Wall Street weasels using the very money we saved them with to buy more political clout and insure their stupid games could go on into the future.

    Given the pure gambling introduced by such neat inventions as the naked default swap, we'll be revisiting this particular hell-hole shortly, so stay tuned.
    Norm Cimon
  • RE: Fascinating maps of how and where Americans move may shed light on Palin and Obama's popularity

    The State of Hawaii released his birth certificate, and stated officially that it was valid and authentic. However, photos of the infant Barrack popping out of his mother's womb onto the beach at Waikiki wouldn't convince far-right conspiracy enthusiasts who will never let themselves believe that a brown-skinned man with a name like 'Obama' could possibly be a 'real' American.