Rural, urban divide leading to further political politicization, analysts say

Results show more polarization in Mid-South states

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - All three Mid-South states were fast sweeps for President Donald Trump and Republicans on Tuesday night.

Political analysts said Wednesday it’s unlikely Tennessee, Mississippi or Arkansas would enter into the swing state category any time soon, but they acknowledge voting patterns change over time.

In Tennessee, President Donald Trump won Tuesday by a 23% margin of the vote. The only counties voting blue included Shelby, Haywood and Davidson.

In Arkansas, Trump won by a 23% margin over Biden, with the Little Rock area and counties along the Mississippi River voting for Democrats.

Voters divided across the Mid-South

In Mississippi, Trump won by a 20% margin over Biden, losing counties along the Mississippi River and Hinds County where Jackson is located.

“How people are voting in the cities is different from how people are voting in the countryside,” said WMC Action News 5 political analyst Dr. Michael Nelson, Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College.

Nelson said the rural versus urban divide, especially in states like Tennessee is growing.

Ole Miss Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Conor Dowling said that politicization is likely because of politicians themselves.

“Part of it almost certainly is that politicians play into it. The more that candidates are saying you are different, the more that we say you rural voters are different than urban voters, the more they take on those personas,” said Dowling.

Dowling said Democrats can see success in Republican strongholds but not typically in a presidential election year. He said those off-election years present opportunities for growth and pointed to Mike Espy’s loss Tuesday night in the U.S. Senate race as a starting point for Democrats in Mississippi.

“One thing they’ll be thinking about is, can they take the infrastructure they put in place with better fundraising and can they use that moving forward to continue to register new voters, continue to mobilize voters,” said Dowling.

Nelson said Democrats in the Mid-South should take a page from the Republican playbook.

"The Democrats can do what the Republicans did. And that is, get down there at the grassroots. Find out what people care about and connect them with the party. And then start building the kind of coalition that leads to elections,” Nelson said.

In Shelby County, Democrats were hopeful they’d be able to flip a couple of state house seats on Tuesday night. That did not happen.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.