Tracking Northern Appalachian Political Participation and its Consequences, 2000-2020

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Virginia Tech

Over the past twenty years, political participation levels have had significant impacts on the results of presidential elections. The Northern Appalachia region, defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to include all ARC counties in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, as well as several in northern Ohio and West Virginia, has had a particularly significant impact. Considering the divisiveness of the last two presidential elections, popular and academic sources have sought to explain a variety of trends found in these counties’ voting habits (Brownstein, 2016; Fahey and Wells, 2016).

This project uses GIS and original research to examine the relationship between political participation levels and the percentage of the county-level vote earned by a Democrat candidate during the six presidential elections from 2000 to 2020, with the goal of determining whether or not a statistically significant relationship exists between the two. Additionally, it examines the reasons for ‘flipping’ of counties from one election to the next, as well as the geospatial patterns of both ‘flipping’ and support for a given candidate.

The main objective of this project is to provide the general public, research community, and government agencies with a better understanding of the importance, and the place of Northern Appalachia within the lens of national politics. Preliminary results indicate that in most years, a significant relationship exists between voter turnout levels and eventual county-level outcomes. The project utilizes open-source data from the US Census Bureau, MIT Election Lab, and Politico, as well as ArcGIS for data visualization.