Long a battleground state in presidential elections, Ohio trended toward the GOP in both 2016 and 2020. Despite losing the national popular vote, Trump secured the state’s electoral votes by comfortable margins in both elections, sparking the question of what explains this shift? We ground this question broadly in the realignment literature, testing two slightly overlapping theoretical viewpoints: geo-cultural and socioeconomic/cosmopolitanism. The geo-cultural viewpoint emphasizes the urban-rural divide in American politics, arguing that the culture is completely different on opposite ends of the urban-rural continuum, resulting in disparate election results. The socioeconomic/cosmopolitan viewpoint acknowledges that culture and social issues play a role in elections, but that the global economy of the 21st century drives results. To test these viewpoints, we use data on Ohio’s communities from the American Community Survey. Running spatial regressions, we find that there is evidence for both viewpoints present in Ohio over the past 20 years. Specifically, both Democrats and Republicans made gains in their geographic strongholds, but Democrats have made larger inroads in more cosmopolitan communities. However, Republicans made huge gains along the cultural dimension, giving them a strong advantage throughout the state. These results have implications for not only future presidential campaigns and how they target Ohio’s persuadable voters, but also for down ballot races in both the primary and general elections.
Swearingen, Colin D. and Lindstrom, Thomas
"A Battleground No More: Cosmopolitanism, the Culture Wars, and the Urban-Rural Divide in Ohio Elections, 2004-2020,"
The Journal of Economics and Politics: Vol. 26:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://collected.jcu.edu/jep/vol26/iss1/4