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Articles in North America

Do Swedish-Americans Vote for Democrats? National Origins and Voting Behavior in the United States

By Martin W. Lewis | November 24, 2014 | 8 Comments

In responding to a recent GeoCurrents post comparing electoral geography in Minnesota and northern California, commentator Barzai makes some important points about ethnicity and national background. As he notes, people of Scandinavian and German descent are a much more significant factor in Minnesota than in California. More importantly, he argues that the concept of a monolithic “White” population is challenged …

The Geography of Iowa’s Republican Shift

By Martin W. Lewis | November 20, 2014 | 2 Comments

As mentioned in the previous post, one of the few parts of the United States in which White-majority rural (or small-city-focused) counties regularly vote for Democrats in national elections is the “greater Upper Mississippi Valley,” as outlined on the map posted here. Across the country more generally, non-metropolitan White-majority “blue” countries are found on the Pacific Cost and in the …

Minnesota and Northern California: Political Twins or Political Opposites?

By Martin W. Lewis | November 17, 2014 | 6 Comments

Two U.S. states that largely bucked the Republican trend in the 2014 election were Minnesota and California, which count among the “bluest” states in the union. Since 1976, only Minnesota has supported the Democratic candidate in every presidential election. California has more recently entered the Democratic fold, having voted for a Republican presidential candidate as recently as 1988, but in …

U.S. Political Party Strength Index Map

By Martin W. Lewis | November 14, 2014 | 4 Comments

As yesterday’s post noted, the United States moved decidedly in the direction of the Republican Party in the November 2014 election. To illustrate the relative strength of the Republican Party at the state level, I have created a “US Party Strength Index Map,” posted here. The methodology is simple. Taking into account the recent election, I awarded one point for …

Does the Red-State/Blue-State Model of U.S. Electoral Politics Still Work?

By Martin W. Lewis | November 13, 2014 |

Since the 2000 election, it has been common to divide the United States into a “Red America” of reliably Republican-voting states and a “Blue America” of reliably Democratic-voting states, a maneuver that highlights the relative scarcity of “purple” or swing states. As can be seen in the Wikipedia map posted to the left, “blue” states are concentrated in the Northeast, …

Gerrymandering in the United States: Crimes Against Geography?

By Martin W. Lewis | November 8, 2014 | 7 Comments

(Note: The next several GeoCurrents posts will examine the 2014 U.S. Midterm Elections)
In my large lecture course on the History and Geography of Current Global Events, I always begin by showing an enigmatic or amusing map with the labels removed. I then ask the class what it represents. Recent examples include a map of the range of fruit bats (for …

The Californian Insular Myth: Follow the Blue Seashells (Adapted from the work of Annick Foucrier)

By Martin W. Lewis | June 21, 2014 | One Comment

(Note:  GeoCurrrents is concerned with all things connected to mapping, including the history of cartography. One particularly interesting and rather mysterious feature of world mapping in the early modern period was the persistent depiction of California as an island. This portrayal is so distinctive is that it has captured the attention of many historians, geographers, and map aficionados. In 2012, …

American Geographical Illiteracy and (Perhaps) the World’s Worst Atlas

By Martin W. Lewis | April 30, 2014 | 22 Comments

GeoCurrents has long been concerned with geographical illiteracy. The depth of ignorance continues to be revealed, most recently in a Washington Post piece that indicates that only 16 percent of Americans can locate Ukraine on a world map. Most distressingly, a significant number of respondents placed Ukraine in central Greenland. Other reports indicate that geographical ignorance is widespread even at …

Tim Draper’s Proposed “Six Californias”

By Martin W. Lewis | January 8, 2014 | 24 Comments

As was noted last October on GeoCurrents, efforts to split U.S. states have been gaining increased attention. Geographer Andrew Shears has made an intriguing map that shows a number of “failed state partition proposals through US history,” posted here. Note that few of the 50 states have never been so challenged. A single map of this type, however, cannot capture …

Unnecessary Environmental Destruction from Marijuana Cultivation in the United States

By Martin W. Lewis | October 22, 2013 | 9 Comments

Over the past several years, the campaign for marijuana legalization has surged ahead in the United States. Colorado and Washington have voted for full legalization, and a number of other states now allow the consumption of medical cannabis. Yet the U.S. federal government still regards the substance as a “Schedule 1” drug, more dangerous and less useful than cocaine or …

State-Level Secession Movements in the United States: Northern Colorado and Jefferson

By Martin W. Lewis | October 9, 2013 | 30 Comments

The intense political polarization of the United States is most clearly reflected by the dysfunctional nature of the federal government. At a more local scale, it is seen as well in the growing movement to create new states by splitting existing ones. Most of these cases involve the desire of people in rural, conservative counties to secede from the more …

North American English Dialects: Bad Map – Or Fantastic Map?

By Martin W. Lewis | March 21, 2013 | 13 Comments

An internet search of “bad map” returns, among many other examples, Rick Aschmann’s map of North American English Dialects, reproduced here. Critics complain that the map is so busy and complicated as to be almost unreadable. But what the map lacks in grace and style, it makes up for in detail. On Aschmann’s own website, the map is large and …

Changes in U.S. Electoral Geography from 2000 to 2012: A Renewed North/South Divide?

By Martin W. Lewis | November 19, 2012 | One Comment

As noted in a previous post, the presidential contest of 2000 seems to have been a watershed event in U.S. electoral geography. Up until that point, successful Democratic candidates enjoyed considerable support in many predominantly rural counties dominated by Whites, particularly in the Upper South (see the map of the 1996 election). In order for the Democrats to have carried …

Iowa, Minnesota, and the Anomalous Zone on the U.S. Electoral Map

By Martin W. Lewis | November 15, 2012 | 53 Comments

In recent U.S. presidential elections, rural counties have tended to vote heavily for the Republican candidates. As a result, most of the United States is shaded red on county-level electoral maps. Most of the low-population counties that do support Democratic candidates fall into one of several categories. In some cases the explanation is clearly demographic; the heavily African-American belt stretching …

The Republican Postmodern Turn, Silicon Valley, and California’s Political Transformation

By Martin W. Lewis | November 12, 2012 | 2 Comments

The New York Times map of county-level changes in the U.S. presidential vote from 2008 to 2012 shows almost every county in California shifting red in the Republican direction. In most counties, the change was minor. Barack Obama still took California by almost 60 percent of the vote, a figure exceeded (among states) only by Hawaii (70.6%), Vermont (67%), Rhode …

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