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What Do Candidates Need to Know about Suburbia?

Project shows significant shifts, danger for GOP

WHO:  Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project at American University-- a collaboration including The Wall Street Journal and WNYC radio. Chinni has been covering politics and the media for more than 15 years.

Bill McIntuff, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, a national political and public affairs survey research firm. He and Peter D. Hart Research Associates conduct The NBC News/The Wall Street Journal Poll.

Michael Bloomfield, executive vice president and managing director of The Mellman Group which has provided opinion research and strategic advice to political leaders and established a reputation for helping Democrats win in so-called “red states”.  

Antoine Yoshinaka, assistant professor in American University’s School of Public Affairs, focuses his research on the preferences of political actors and how they influence political outcomes including congressional redistricting.

Elizabeth Williamson, national political reporter for the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal who covered the 2012 presidential campaign.

WHAT: Research Briefing: The Shifting Suburbs: Changes in the Nation’s Political Fulcrum

WHEN: September 23, 10:30 am – noon,

WHERE: American University, Katzen Abramson Family Recital Hall (Corner of Massachusetts & Nebraska Aves., NW, Washington, DC)
Contact/RSVP: J. Paul Johnson, American University Communications 202-885-5943 or

Results from recent presidential elections show significant shifts in the urban/rural divide in American politics. However, the 2012 election revealed some conventional wisdom about Democratic and Republican voters is wrong as technology and economics are redefining the social, political, and cultural fault lines that make the country what it is. American University’s director of the American Communities Project Dante Chinni observes the battleground is between the suburbs and exurbs where Republicans appear to be on the wrong side of the divide. “Despite the fact that exit polls showed Mitt Romney won the suburbs by 50-48 percent, a reversal from 2008 when Obama won by the same margin, the exit polls are misleading” says Chinni. “American metropolitan sprawl is complicated,” Chinni observes “with many shades of gray between gritty urban cores and far-flung exurbs.” Chinni points to Virginia’s Loudoun County as a perfect example of the changing nature of the suburbs where Republicans could count on solid support but as of late has transformed into wealthy, educated, Democrat frontiers pushing Republicans out to the exurbs—the space between rural and suburban America comprising 32 million people in 222 counties on the fringe of major metropolitan areas.

Chinni’s research is turning the accepted presidential electoral wisdom on its head and warns “If you are a Republican presidential strategist, this urban-suburban-exurban continuum should be an enormous scary-looking red flag.” Chinni’s continuing research identifies 15 types of counties and breaks them down into different demographic dimensions including income, race, ethnicity, and education. The counties that make up the Big Cities, the Urban Suburbs, and Mature suburbs hold 156 million people and losing all of them leaves little margin for error anywhere else according to Chinni’s research.  

Join Dante Chinni, along with pollsters Bill McInturff and Michael Bloomfied, Antoine Yoshinaka, and the Wall Street Journal’s national political reporter Elizabeth Williamson for a discussion about these changes and what they mean for Virginia and other states this November and for midterm elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016.

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.