Having lived in a few areas in the U.S., I've noticed that urban cities are often (if not always) left-leaning (blue) and rural areas are right-leaning (red).

Setting aside the handful of "swing states", how much influence does the ratio of urban to rural population affect a state's overall political majority status? I assume someone has studied this, but I have yet to find anything so far.

  • Rather than asking "how much influence" (which may lead to subjective responses), consider asking the "what is the relationship of Urban/Rural population ratio and the political leanings within each state"
    – BobE
    Oct 25, 2018 at 21:37
  • perhaps resolving the Urban v Rural ration to a simple known statistic like population density
    – BobE
    Oct 25, 2018 at 21:44
  • Interesting read: citylab.com/equity/2016/11/how-americas-metro-areas-voted/…
    – SJuan76
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:23
  • @SJuan76 - thank you, this is the kind of thing I was interested in reading about
    – blud
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:37
  • 2
    It certainly works like that in Britain. Rural "shire-counties" are Conservative-leaning, urban areas Labour-leaning. The only difference I note is that in Britain, as in most countries, other than America, left is red, right is blue.
    – WS2
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:56

2 Answers 2


Using data from the 2016 Presidential election on Wikipedia and data from Iowa State Uni on urban/rural ratio

enter image description here

There is a good correlation. I've drawn a least squares linear regression line. The product momement correlation is 0.57; r²=0.32 so about ⅓ of the variation in voting can be explained by variation the urban percentage.

My graph can be found online.

Outliers are always interesting. At the top right, DC has a completely urban population. Maine and Vermont are Blue states with a rural population. Utah is a largely urban state but very red (it would have been even further down had I used 2012 data)


Answer conditioned on Population density vs Gallup party affiliation (2015)

Gallup Poll (2015)

Source: Gallup.

2013 estimate of population by the United States Census Bureau. Wikipedia list of U.S. states by population density

Of the top ten most heavily populated states 7 of 10 were Democratic. Of the ten least heavily populated states 8 of 10 were Republican.

  • What's the source of that image? What does "lean" mean? I'm surprised some states, eg Texas, is labeled "lean" where I'd think it was solid.
    – BruceWayne
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:04
  • 1
    "Gallup considers states to be solidly favoring one party when they have a greater-than 10-percentage-point advantage over the other in party affiliation among the state's adult population. "Leaning" states are those in which one party has an advantage of more than five points but less than 10 points. Competitive states show the parties within five points of each other." - from Gallup citation
    – BobE
    Oct 25, 2018 at 23:48

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