I've posted on the Kansas 2014 governor's election before. So for a primer on my thoughts, please look at this post.
Largely my thoughts, skip below for analysis of data.
I'm from central Kansas, but currently live in far eastern Kansas, making me acutely aware of the differences between the two regions. Over the past year, I have heard many in eastern Kansas say things like "I don't understand how Brownback won the election" or "How is this guy still so popular?" I catch myself thinking this from time to time as well, especially when I lived in Lawrence (2007-2014) the most liberal area of Kansas, where Paul Davis won 72% of the vote in 2014.
When people make these comments to me, I am tempted to ask, "Have you ever been west of Topeka (or Salina)?" Brownback won the counties west of Salina by carrying 61% of the vote. Though sparsely populated, I knew this had an effect on the end election results.
If you travel to this area and meet the people there, the results are not surprising. Largely made of rural farming communities, very white, very christian, these people vote on things like farm tax rates, conservative values, and abortion. Areas where Sam Brownback does very well.
But what about eastern Kansas. A couple of questions: Did Paul Davis win "eastern Kansas"? And is it possible to divide Kansas into two States, one with Paul Davis Governor, and the other with Sam Brownback?
A PRIORI DATA
I'll spare you long methodology here, but I used QGIS, publicly available election results by county, census data, and went to cutting up Kansas. A few observations to get me started :
- Davis won a few densely populated eastern Kansas counties by large margins (Wyandotte, Douglas, Shawnee), giving him a cushion in the east.
- Generally, races in sparsely populated eastern Kansas counties were closer, though Brownback won these races.
- Brownback won two densely populated counties, (Sedgwick,Johnson) but by relatively tight margins.
- Brownback won all western Kansas counties, generally in landslides.
- Brownback won the overall election by about 3.5%, or 33K votes.
Given these, factors, you can see how it would be easy to carve out an eastern Kansas state.
THE NEW STATES
Put simply, Paul Davis won, in aggregate, all of the eastern Kansas counties including Salina and Wichita (margin only 1K votes, but still a win). Here's what a map of Kansas would look like if we broke into two states (intentionally avoiding the term Brownbackistan).
And what do these new States look like demographically?
- DavisLand: contains 85% of the population of Kansas, but only 43% of the land area.
- BrownbackLand: contains 15% of the population, but only 4.1% of the African American population of Kansas.
- DavisLand: slightly younger, with a median age about 2.5 years less than Brownbackland.
- BrownbackLand: Only 15% of total housing, more than 20% of total vacant housing (this is a weird statistic, largely due to urbanization).
So, I gerrymandered that last map to give Davis the most space I could. What if I make more neutral areas? For this map, I broke the "states" down into two areas, each with the same population. Davis would win the eastern side by about 5%, and lose the Western side by about 12%.
Obviously Kansas isn't going to break into two states (even though this was a movement, when I was a kid). But understanding that Davis did in fact win most of eastern Kansas (and 85% of a "grouped" population) is quite telling. It's understandable how eastern Kansas residents, who don't go west of Topeka could fail to understand the support for Brownback. For those who don't understand how Brownback won the election, the simplest answer is "Western Kansas."