It seem that in most urbanized areas in recent years (2000 - present) Democrats win more elections on average than Republicans. According to debt.org:

if an area has more than 500,000 people, it will go Democrat about 60 percent of the time. The political balance is even in areas with 50,000 to 500,000 people, and then turns decidedly in the Republicans’ favor at population levels below 50,000.

According to this website areas with higher population density tend to vote democrat,

At about 800 people per square mile, people switch from voting primarily Republican to voting primarily Democratic. Put another way, below 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Republican. Above 800 people per square mile, there is a 66% chance that you voted Democrat. A 66% preference is a clear, dominant majority.

During the 2012 elections, this happened:

Of the 15 largest U.S. cities, 11 went for Obama this past November. Not just the big, traditionally blue cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, but a number of fast-growing Sun Belt cities as well.

Additionally, the GOP themselves recognize their problem with urbanized areas.

  • What factors have inhibited Republican success in these areas?

  • What factors account for the Democrats success in these areas?

  • You are assuming their is a correlation between "urbanized" states and election of Republican/Democratic "success." Before this question can be answered, you are going to have to define urbanized. The Census has a definition, but at 50k (or less), I am guessing you won't find any correlation with 80% of the US population living in urban areas. What do you mean by "success", and why are you measuring it by total state, and not congressional district? (Are we only looking at Senator/Presidential/etc. "success"?)
    – user1873
    Nov 23, 2013 at 19:33
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    @user1873 Generally speaking, Democrats are more likely to get elected in large cities than Republicans are, and if you look at a map, of districts and how they voted, the democratic districts tend to be the ones in or near large cities. Nov 24, 2013 at 2:16
  • @user1873 that is probably what is meant by lack of "success" Nov 24, 2013 at 2:16
  • @SamIam, that isn't much help. You substituted one vague term for another, "urbanized states" with "large cities." I am fine with using elected with "success", I assumed that is what they meant, but other vague term needs clarification.
    – user1873
    Nov 24, 2013 at 3:34
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    Ok, I've added data on population density. That should remove all ambiguity. Any elections are fine. Nov 24, 2013 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


It's an indirect correlation. It's not that urban areas favor democrats but rather those that live in urban areas tend to either fit into and/or associate more with the demographics that do tend to favor democrats at a higher density than in the rural areas.

Bottom line, it's not necessarily a 'failure of republicans' as much as it is that cities tend to have liberal demographics and rural areas tend to have conservative demographics.

As an aside, exurban areas tend to trend republican.

  • 1
    I like the quote from fivethirtyeight which says (paraphrased): "Republicans represent the largest demographic: white, straight, suburban, Christian, middle-aged and middle income. The further you get from that, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. The majority of Americans differ in at least one aspect."
    – Bobson
    Dec 26, 2014 at 0:04
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    It seems that Skeptics Stack Exchange disagrees regarding the effect of education: Romney had a +4% margin against Obama among graduates. Nevertheless, an excellent answer. Dec 26, 2014 at 0:11
  • @TwilightSparkle yea, I think the education factor is a toss up. You see analysis that goes both ways for that.
    – user1530
    Dec 26, 2014 at 2:34
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    @TwilightSparkle - the college educated stats are also heavily skewed by teachers who are overwhelmingly "D". Who - again - are heavily overrepresented in urban areas (demographics again).
    – user4012
    Dec 26, 2014 at 17:00

Rural/urban differences are common in politics. They have been observed between countries (like between developed nations and advanced industrial ones) as well as within countries (rural America vs. urban America).

Here are a few generalizations. It's Christmas Eve here, but I will edit this with citations from political science journals after the holiday.:

  1. Democrats support social services and welfare programs, which appeal to the urban poor.

  2. Most well-educated people live in urban environments. Democrat's policies support the expansion of higher education, funding for students, and the middle class lifestyle these people expect. In rural districts, there are likely no universities and very few jobs which require that kind of education.

  3. Living in an urban environment forces multiple ethnicity, religions, etc. to co-exist. Rural living is much more homogenous. Democrats are successful in urban districts because their policies accept a variety different social groups (GLBT rights, pathways to citizenship for immigrants, etc.). Republicans are successful in rural districts because their social policies empower the dominant group in their district (strict immigration and national defense policy, English-only education, traditional marriage, etc.).

There are historical reasons for much of this, but it's generalizable to other countries as well. Liberal platforms perform will in urban environments, while conservative platforms are well-suited for rural ones. What exactly constitutes liberal or conservative in a particular area will vary.

  • This is a good answer, but could be improved by citations with regards to some of the claims you are making.
    – Publius
    Dec 25, 2014 at 6:59
  • Not a bad answer, but probably overly specific. It's not these 3 specific issues alone that cause cities to go blue. It's just that these 3 specific issues are just a few examples of some of the things these demographics would vote for.
    – user1530
    Dec 25, 2014 at 19:36
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    -1 - this answer is a combination 1/3 of debunked falsehoods ("well educated people" aren't trending "D" for most part - AT ALL, unless you count small subset of PhD holders), and 2/3 points already more provably listed in DA's answer.
    – user4012
    Dec 26, 2014 at 17:02

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