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Why it's now 'American identity, stupid' in US politics – CNN

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Whites who identify as Christians composed a vastly larger share of the population in the counties Donald Trump won last fall than those captured by President Joe Biden, according to previously unpublished data provided to CNN by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute from a pathbreaking new study estimating religious affiliation at the county level.
While White Christians have fallen below a majority of the US population over the past decade, they still made up almost exactly two-thirds of the adults in the counties Trump carried — and an even higher percentage in the counties that provided him his largest margins, according to the new findings. By contrast, White Christians represent only about two-fifths of the population in the counties that voted for Biden — and an even smaller percentage in the counties that gave him his biggest margins.
These new county-level findings fill in the picture that exit polls and other surveys have painted over recent years. On one side they show a GOP coalition still dominated by the White Christians who constituted a majority of the nation itself for most of our history; on the other is a Democratic coalition that has been fundamentally reshaped by America’s growing religious and racial diversity and is now split almost in thirds among White Christians, non-White Christians, and those who adhere to non-Christian faiths or no faith at all, according to the latest PRRI findings. Those latter two groups represent an absolute majority of the population in the counties Biden carried, PRRI found.
The grounding of today’s partisan differences in such elemental components of social identity as religion — as well as race, education and age — helps explain why the balance of power has grown so difficult for either party to fundamentally shift, despite all the tumultuous events of recent years. It also explains why so many Americans consider the stakes in the political competition higher than ever. The PRRI results point toward a political competition that now revolves less around individual policy disputes than the larger question of whether America’s direction will be set by the predominantly White and Christian voters who have historically wielded the most power or by an emerging America defined by both religious and racial diversity.
“What we’re seeing unfolding over the last four years, and coming into full flower now, the [political] divides really are about American identity, much more than they are about a policy or even economics,” says Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of PRRI. “Today we should probably replace ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ with ‘It’s American identity, stupid.’ “

Still a Christian nation?

Jones, like other analysts, believes a pervasive sense of loss and displacement in a diversifying country has solidified the strong affinity for Trump-style politics among many White Christians, especially White evangelical Protestants.
“It really is hard to overstate how central to White Christians’ worldview is this idea of America as a White Christian nation,” says Jones, author of the book “White Too Long,” a history of the relationship between Christian churches and racial inequality. A poll of Trump supporters earlier this year by the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center underscores his point: Fully 87% of them agreed that “Christian faith is an essential part of American greatness.” That number rose to a near unanimous 97% among White evangelical Trump supporters.
Both the Ethics and Public Policy Center polling and the Public Religion Research Institute’s annual “American Values Survey” document deep concern among Trump’s White Christian supporters, especially evangelicals, that social change of all sorts is eroding Christianity’s central position in American life. In the EPPC poll, 89% of all Trump supporters (and 94% of his evangelical backers) said that “Christianity is under attack in America today.” In the latest PRRI polling, three-fourths of White evangelicals agreed that immigrants are “invading” America and replacing its culture; just over 7 in 10 agreed that Whites now face as much discrimination as Blacks and that the values of Islam are incompatible with American values. Nearly 6 in 10 of them, in a recoil from changing gender roles, said that “society is becoming too soft and feminine.”
This sense of siege, Jones said, has left many conservative Christian voters open to both Trump’s message of resisting social change and to wild conspiracy theories, such as his disproven claims about massive election fraud in 2020. In recent PRRI polling, roughly one-fourth of White evangelical Protestants expressed sympathy for the QAnon conspiracy theory and as many agreed that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to save the US.
“I think as this central tentpole that has been holding up their worldview — America as a White Christian nation, their own private promised land — has fallen, just under the sheer weight of the changing country all around them, it has left them vulnerable to grasping at straws and believing in delusions,” Jones says.

White Christians’ numbers declining

Behind this weakness for ungrounded political fantasy is an implacable demographic reality: White Christians have been relentlessly declining as a share of America’s population.
Whites who identify as Christians composed a majority of Americans through almost all of US history. Even as late as 1968, when President Richard Nixon was first elected, Gallup polling found that 85% of Americans identified as White and Christian. (At that point about 60% of Americans identified as White Protestants and another roughly 25% as White Catholics.)
That number has plummeted over the past half century as the nation has grown more diverse racially (reducing the White share of the population) and religiously (reducing the share of Christians). Different surveys plot the change at slightly varying speeds, but they all show the same trajectory, with the nation reaching a dramatic milestone sometime over the past decade. According to the annual General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent research organization, White Christians fell below majority status in the country for the first time sometime between 2010 and 2012. Gallup, in figures it provided me, put the tipping point to minority status somewhere between 2016 and 2017. Though the Pew Research Center and PRRI did not conduct polls frequently enough to identify a precise tipping point, in surveys over the past decade both also found White Christians falling to well below half of the population.
In the PRRI studies, White Christians reached a low point of 42% of the population in 2018. PRRI says the group has rebounded slightly since, to 44% of the population in the latest Census of American Religion, which it released last week. Gallup, though it places the share of White Christians slightly higher, hasn’t found a rebound: It shows their level stable at 47% since 2018. (Neither the General Social Survey nor Pew has numbers more recent than that.)
The growth in PRRI’s data came primarily from an unexpected source: a slight increase in the share of Americans who identify as mainline Protestants, a faith that had seemed the most endangered over recent decades. White Catholics have also stabilized in the PRRI data, but the institute found the share of adults who identify as White evangelical Protestants, the bedrock group in the Republican coalition, continuing to slide; in PRRI’s data, evangelicals now comprise 14.5% of Americans, down from about 21% a decade ago. Jones says that while there is no conclusive proof in the data, there’s evidence to suggest that some White Protestants who once might have identified as evangelical have migrated toward more mainline Protestant denominations over unease with evangelical leaders’ unconditional identification with Trump.

2 snapshots in time

Notwithstanding their slight differences, all the major data sources agree on the broad trend of growing religious pluralism. The shrinking share of White Christians have been replaced partly by non-White Christians, who have grown from just under one-fourth of the population earlier in this century to slightly over one-fourth now. Even more important has been the rising number of Americans who don’t identify with any religious faith: They’ve increased from about 1 in 6 adults earlier in this century to nearly 1 in 4 now.
These powerful currents have washed over both parties, but they have carried Republicans and Democrats to very different places. White Christians still make up 68% of adults who identify as Republicans, PRRI found, with White evangelical Christians (at 29%), the largest religious group in the party (if down from their numbers even in the GOP earlier this century). By contrast, White Christians now compose just 39% of those who identify as Democrats. Non-White Christians contribute about 1 in 3 Democrats, PRRI found, compared with only about 1 in 7 Republicans. The remaining Democrats (nearly 3 in 10) ascribe either to non-Christian faiths or no religion at all; those two groups represent roughly one-sixth of the GOP, only a little over half as much.
In all, the two parties now present religious profiles that amount to snapshots through time. Today’s Republican coalition looks something like the religious profile in America overall about 25 years ago (the last time White Christians represented two-thirds of all Americans in the General Social Survey studies was around 1995); the Democratic coalition’s religious breakdown approximates what America itself might look like 10 or so years from now.
Jones makes the same point from a slightly different vantage point: He notes that the religious composition of the Republican coalition now closely resembles the profile of Americans 65 and older, while the Democratic composition closely overlaps with the overall profile of adults younger than 30.

Strong regional differences

The new county-level data from PRRI shows just how powerfully and pervasively these contrasts now shape the competition between the parties. In its latest report, PRRI made an unprecedented attempt to document American religious affiliation by county, drawing on 459,822 survey interviews with Americans across all 50 states that it conducted from 2013 to 2019.
That report found sharp regional differences in religious affiliation, with all White Christians representing the largest share of the population across the Midwest and outer South, White evangelicals most plentiful in the deep South and unaffiliated, secular Americans most common in the Northeast and especially the West. At CNN’s request, PRRI research director Natalie Jackson crossed those findings with county-level results from the 2020 and 2016 presidential races. The results were striking.
In 2020, White Christians made up 66% of the adult population in the nearly 2,600 counties Trump carried, many of them smaller and rural. In the nearly 550 counties that Biden carried (including 91 of the 100 largest), White Christians represented only 41% of the adult population. The difference was especially stark among White evangelical Christians: They composed 34% of the population in the Trump counties, compared with just 15% in the Biden counties. By contrast, non-White Christians represented almost 1 in 4 adults in the Biden counties, compared with about 1 in 10 in the Trump counties. Other Christians — a diverse group that includes Asian, Native American, mixed-race and Orthodox Christians as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses — constituted a comparably small share in each man’s counties (about 1 in 16). But those who subscribe to non-Christian faiths or no faith at all were a much bigger presence in the Biden counties (roughly 3 in 10) than Trump’s (about 2 in 10).
This divergence was even greater in the counties that gave each side its biggest margins. In the nearly 1,100 counties Trump won by 50 percentage points or more, White Christians made up more than 70% of the population, PRRI found. Trump amassed his biggest margins, beating Biden by 80 percentage points or more, almost entirely in smaller rural counties — like Roberts, Borden, King and Armstrong counties in Texas or Hayes, McPherson and Grant in Nebraska — where White Christians represented about three-fourths or more of the population. By contrast, they made up fewer than one-third of all residents in the roughly 170 counties that Biden won by at least 30 percentage points; in Biden’s 20 best counties, most of them larger urban centers, White Christians constituted more than one-fourth of the population in just five.

Contraction and radicalization

These county-level results confirm the religious divide evident in exit polls and other studies that analyzed the 2020 election results. In the recently released Pew Research Center “Validated Voters” study, for instance, Trump crushed by Biden by almost 70 percentage points among White evangelical Christians and posted solid (if reduced from 2016) margins of about 15 percentage points among both White mainline Protestants and White Catholics. Strong liberal social movements have persisted in both denominations for decades (particularly around issues of racial justice), but the fact that Biden, a White Catholic who positioned himself as a centrist, couldn’t push his vote with those groups much past 40% underscored how many barriers Democrats face with the bulk of their believers.
Biden, in turn, dominated among secular voters and non-White Christians (though Trump apparently ran more competitively, as Republicans often do, among Hispanic Protestants, many of whom are evangelicals). Like polls in previous presidential elections, the Pew analysis also found that within each religious denomination Trump, as other Republican nominees before him, generally ran better with the voters who attended religious services most often, while Biden did better with those who attended less frequently, according to detailed results Pew provided me.
Jones says it’s too early to tell if the recent stabilization in the White Christian share of the population represents a new plateau or merely a pause in their long decline. One key factor argues for the latter assessment: White Christians make up only a little more than 1 in 4 adults under 30 in PRRI’s data, compared with nearly 6 in 10 of those over 65. As the former continue to replace the latter in American society, that disparity suggests White Christians are more likely than not to continue shrinking through the 2020s. When measuring America by race and religion White Christians will likely remain the nation’s largest single group for years, but without the preponderant numbers that made them the clear first among equals in US life for earlier generations.
How White Christians respond to that change in status will play a huge role in determining whether America’s political tensions continue to escalate. (The question is equally pertinent for Whites without college degrees, another core GOP group that also has, for the first time, fallen below a majority of the US population in this century.)
As the new PRRI county data for 2016 and 2020 shows, a strong majority of White Christians have flocked to Trump’s promise to “make America great again” and implicitly restore a social order that placed them at its center. If that large a share of White Christians responded to such arguments when they still constituted a little over 40% of the population, there’s little reason to think that if their numbers shrink further fewer will be drawn to Trump-style messaging — even as he grows more overtly hostile to democracy.
This process of contraction and radicalization is most apparent among White evangelicals, as evidenced by the conflict between relative moderates and militant conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“My fear is that what’s going to happen is as the group shrinks it’s going to become more extreme and what’ll end up happening is that the moderating voices in that group will leave and then it becomes even more extreme,” says Jones.
Such a “radicalization spiral” is very hard to break, he notes, and provides a huge pool of disaffected Whites willing to subvert democratic rules — or even resort to violence — if that’s what it takes to prevent a diverse and increasingly secular liberal coalition from, in their view, remaking American society.
“It’s a crisis,” Jones says flatly. “There’s no other way to say it.”

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Politics Briefing: Pallister apologizes for remarks on Canadian history, reconciliation – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

BREAKING – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is apologizing for remarks on reconciliation that have caused a cabinet resignation and other turmoil in his province.

“I feel awful about the reaction and the misunderstanding I created with my comments,” the Progressive Conservative Premier told a news conference in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“I am going to issue a statement later today, ask for forgiveness and understanding and ask that we unite,” he said.

In July, Mr. Pallister criticized protesters who had toppled statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on the grounds of the legislature, then made remarks that have been widely criticized,

“The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything,” Mr. Pallister said. “They came here to build.”

With his earlier statement, Mr. Pallister said he was trying to unite people to build “as our Indigenous people have done for millennia, as our Metis population has done, as our more recent immigrants have done.”

On reflection, Mr. Pallister said he understood he was misunderstood. “I apologize for that. I should have been clearer in my comments, but my heart was in the right place and so that’s why I am offering this statement of apology today, and asking for people’s understanding. Let’s move forward.”

The Premier’s comments were criticized by Indigenous leaders for downplaying the impact of colonialism. Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke quit her cabinet post, saying she and other cabinet ministers had not been listened to. Some caucus members have distanced themselves from Mr. Pallister’s remarks. Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged Mr. Pallister to apologize.

Also, Alan Lagimodiere, named as a replacement for Ms. Clarke, defended some intentions behind residential schools, and was called out on the spot by Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew. Mr. Lagimodiere later apologized.

“Alan is a fine man,” Mr. Pallister said Tuesday, noting he immediately apologized. “I stand by him.”

Asked directly if he was thinking of resigning, Mr. Pallister said, to the journalist who asked, “You’ll be among the first to know if that’s the decision.”

TODAY’S HEADLINES

MUSICAL CALL FOR MICHAEL’S RELEASE – The former bandmates of the Hungarian punk band that Michael Kovrig founded in 1996 have put out a song calling on all governments involved to work toward the release of Mr. Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both arrested in China in December, 2018. The two men were taken into custody soon after the detention in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. Justice Department extradition request.

SCORES IN REFUGEE CAMP DESPITE CANADIAN PLEDGES – Three years after Canada promised to find permanent homes for hundreds of rescue workers and their family members who were evacuated from Syria during its civil war, dozens of adults and children remain stuck in a Middle East refugee camp where their mental and physical health is deteriorating, according to federal officials.

CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT RACIAL PROFILING – Two organizations representing academics of Chinese origin in Canada are warning that new mandatory national security assessments for federal funding of university research could lead to “racial profiling Chinese researchers as foreign agents.”

DEFENCE CHIEF NOTES CHRONICLE FORTIN TURMOIL – An extraordinary set of handwritten notes by Canada’s acting defence chief appear to reveal a behind-the-scenes struggle between due process, political optics and support for the complainant after a sexual misconduct allegation emerged against Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.

VOICES FROM MICHIGAN ON LINE 5 – The Globe and Mail’s U.S. Correspondent Adrian Morrow visits the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan to talk to residents about discontent relating to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which has the United States and Canada at odds. Story here.

WERNICK HAS WRITTEN GOVERNING GUIDE – Former top federal civil servant Michael Wernick says he has written a non-fiction book drawn from his more than three decades of experience in Ottawa, including time spent in cabinet rooms with ministers and prime ministers. Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, is a “modest contribution” to Canada’s political literature, intended give people who are studying Canadian government, or those generally interested in it, another resource, says Mr. Wernick.

MCLACHLIN REUPS WITH HONG-KONG COURT – Despite Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong, Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has agreed to serve another three-year term as a foreign judge on Hong Kong’s highest court. Story here. From The Montreal Gazette.

THE LOOMING ELECTION

-The Hill Times suggests here that Liberal candidates, and campaign managers are preparing for an election campaign to get started on Aug. 8 or Aug. 15, with the election date set to be Sept. 13 or Sept. 20.

-Federal political parties say they hope to hold lively in-person campaign rallies if an election is called – but, with pandemic restrictions still in place, they acknowledge that the events won’t look the same as they have in the past. Story here.

Writing in Maclean’s, Philippe J. Fourner says the Liberals are intent on an election despite data suggesting the likely outcome would be a Liberal-led minority government – and not a majority -“Because [they] could potentially secure a majority and may not have another window to do so in the foreseeable future.” Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

“Personal” according to the advisory issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

LEADERS

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits the riding of Salaberry—Suroîtand Châteauguay—Lacolle

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole – No schedule provided by Mr. O’Toole’s office.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul – No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh celebrates the 60th anniversary of the NDP, and holds a media availability.

OPINION

André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on whether you need to worry about breakthrough COVID-19 infections after getting vaccinated?: Don’t be duped by the “news” that infections and hospitalizations are up among the vaccinated. Of course they are. A lot of people are getting vaccinated. But, relatively, way fewer vaccinated people are ending up sick or in hospital and, here, relativity matters. The pandemic has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Kluane Adamek (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on why Canada should Indigenize the Senate: “Transforming the Senate to truly reflect and include a majority Indigenous representation would be a significant gesture toward reconciliation. It would have natural legitimacy as a custodial body safeguarding the land and all peoples. In using his discretion to establish this new convention, Mr. Trudeau would set Canada on a new and more equitable constitutional path. “Indigenizing” the Senate could be among the Prime Minister’s most consequential legacies.”

Andrew MacDougall (The Ottawa Citizen) on how little (or how much) Justin Trudeau talks about Erin O’Toole during the pending election campaign will be a sign of the Liberal leader’s confidence: “The Opposition Leader will rail about how much Trudeau has burdened the country with debt. He’ll moan about how Trudeau has loaded families up with extra costs. And he’ll no doubt remind Canadians of how Trudeau has let the country down with his various ethical lapses, whether that be WE, SNC, or blackface (times three). And what can Mr. O’Toole expect to hear back from Justin Trudeau? Well, if the Prime Minister is confident about his prospects, very little. Very little at all. If the Liberals are liking their chances they’ll go back to “sunny ways” and once again promote the power of positivity.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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35 words that almost certainly will end Andrew Cuomo's political career – CNN

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With those 35 words from the investigators in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, the political career of the New York Democrat likely has come to an end.
That pronouncement came after a months-long investigation that included interviews with 179 people and the reviewing of more than 74,000 documents. And ended with the stunning finding that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including state employees and a New York state trooper. He also retaliated against one woman who had gone public with her allegations against him, according to the AG report.
“Our investigation revealed that these were not isolated incidents,” said Joon Kim, one of the lawyers who led the investigation. “They were part of a pattern.”
Cuomo was defiant in an appearance following the release of the James report. He posted a point-by-point response to the allegations laid out by the state’s attorney general and insisted that the “facts are much different” than portrayed in that report. The governor also doubled down on his total innocence; “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made any inappropriate sexual advances,” he said.
Cuomo has, for months, bought time by insisting that he wouldn’t offer any comment about the various allegations against him until James’ report came out. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion,” he said this spring at the height of the furor over the allegations against him.
Well, the report is now out. And it paints Cuomo as a repeat offender, not the unfortunate victim of a single misunderstanding. And makes his assertion from March that “people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth” ring true — just not in the way that Cuomo intended.
While Cuomo allies have been trying in recent months to paint the James investigation as a political endeavor driven by a politician who would like his job, the details and length of the report make it very hard to sell that case in the court of public opinion. (Which, of course, doesn’t mean Cuomo won’t try!)
So, what now?
Cuomo will have to decide if he will resign his office or announce that he will forgo his planned bid for a fourth term next fall. While the report may alter that personal calculus, he was defiant in the face of calls to resign in the spring. (Much of the New York congressional delegation as well as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand called on him to resign at that point.)
“I’m not going to resign, I was not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people,” said Cuomo at a press conference on March 12. If that’s what he truly believes, then there’s no way he walks away before the end of his term.
Cuomo announcing he won’t seek a fourth term seems more likely. But there’s a bit of personal psychology tied up in Cuomo’s desire for a fourth term that might make it difficult for him to walk away. His father, the late Mario Cuomo, ran and lost his bid for a fourth term as governor to a little-known state legislator named George Pataki back in 1994. Andrew Cuomo would very much like to do what his father never could.
It’s possible, of course, that the Democratic-led legislature in the Empire State will take the decision out of Cuomo’s hands entirely.
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has the power to begin impeachment proceedings against the governor, blasted Cuomo in a statement released just after the James report. “The conduct by the Governor outlined in this report would indicate someone who is not fit for office, said Heastie. He did not announce any plans to begin impeachment proceedings, but noted cryptically: “We will have more to say in the very near future.”
Knowing where the voting public comes down on all of this is simply impossible at the moment given the recency of the report and its findings. And the results were mixed even before Tuesday’s bombshell.
While 61% of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Cuomo and 53% said that the Assembly shouldn’t impeach him in a late June Siena College Research Institute poll that same survey showed that more than half of Democrats wanted Cuomo to resign immediately (13%) or not run for another term in 2022 (40%).
Presumably the number of women listed in the James report and the credibility that investigators found in their allegations will change some minds about what Cuomo should do next.
The last six years in politics have taught me — and should teach all of us — not to make any definitive predictions about how the public will react to allegations of this sort against a politician.
But it’s extremely hard to see any sort of path — today at least — for Cuomo to stay in office beyond 2022. If he even makes it that long.

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Analysis | How to reverse the politics of coronavirus vaccines, as demonstrated by Fox News – The Washington Post

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One underrecognized aspect of American politics is that most of the people who voted for Donald Trump last year live in states that cast more votes for Joe Biden. At a county level, that’s not true; most Trump voters live in counties that voted for Trump. But not by much: About 45 percent of Trump voters live in counties that preferred Biden.

Why? Well, because a lot of people live in big cities, and big cities are often heavily Democratic. While 55 percent of Republicans live in counties that voted for Trump, 55 percent also live in the 300-odd places that are the most heavily populated 10 percent of counties in the United States. (More than three-quarters of Democrats live in those counties; as a corollary, about 73 percent of Democrats live in counties won by Biden.)

The point is straightforward: Places with more people have more people. This is not what one would call a staggering insight, but it’s worth reiterating since people tend to think of heavily populated places as overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, the most populous counties in the country are less robustly Democratic than the least populous ones are Republican. The 623 least populous counties preferred Trump by 46 points. The 623 most populous counties preferred Biden by less than one-third of that margin.

(The chart below looks at deciles of counties; that is, one-tenth of all counties, ranked from the least to the most populous.)

Why are we going over this? Because of the attempt by Fox News’s Jesse Watters to suggest that, of the current surge in coronavirus infections,
“all of the hot spots are in huge Democrat cities.”

He said this on Friday, even as he (thankfully) encouraged getting more people vaccinated. But he did so while clearly attempting to cast blame for the surge on Democrats — trying to reverse the recent emphasis on the surge of infections in heavily Republican areas, since those places are less likely to be heavily vaccinated. In a statement provided to Mediaite, he tried to defend the claim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s categorization of places with substantial rates of transmission “applies to nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States … Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, St. Louis, etc. … according to the ‘hot spot’ county map highlighted on the CDC website,” the statement said. “Plus, anyone with common sense understands that 3.5M unvaccinated New York residents living within 300 square miles of each other, is more of a so-called ‘hot spot,’ than just 388,000 unvaccinated Wyoming residents living within 98,000 square miles of each other.”

This is pretty lazy stuff, even for Watters. He first cites the CDC’s definition, pointing out that applies to big cities — though without pointing out that it also applies to hundreds of small counties. Then he throws out the CDC’s definition of a hot spot in favor of his own, in which he begs the question by declaring a hot spot to depend on population density.

So let’s look at the actual numbers, shall we?

There is, in fact, a relationship between the average number of new cases in a county and the county population, according to counties for which we have data. Los Angeles County has seen a lot of new cases in the past two weeks (which is the time period indicated on the graph below), but it also has millions of residents.

But the CDC, not new to this, is familiar with how population works. So it defines community transmission relative to population. It uses two metrics — the rate of cases per 100,000 residents and the rate of positive tests — to determine the places with “substantial” or “high” transmission.

If we plot population against the rate of cases per 100,000 residents, the picture shifts. In the least-populated decile of counties, 69 percent have transmission rates above the median. In the most-populated decile, 54 percent do.

We can look at this another way. Over the past two weeks, most new cases have been in the most populous places for the same reason that so many Trump voters live in Biden counties. Adjusted for population, though, the hardest-hit places shift to the middle of the pack.

If Los Angeles was seeing the same rate of infections as the hardest-hit small county — Sullivan County, Mo. — it would be seeing ten times the number of new cases each day.

It’s true, as Watters points out, that more unvaccinated people live in blue states, since those states have more people. But as of two weeks ago, more unvaccinated adults lived in red states even though those states have fewer adult residents. This issue of vaccination is entirely the point, of course, with places that have lower rates of vaccination seeing more new cases per resident.

The vaccination data, compiled by the CDC, are imperfect, but you can clearly see the pattern below. More than a third of the country lives in the 2,300-odd counties in which more than half the population hasn’t received at least one dose of the vaccine.

What’s particularly alarming is how many seniors have not been fully vaccinated. In more than half of counties, according to the CDC data, fewer than half of those over age 65 have been fully vaccinated.

But this is just running Watters’s playbook in reverse. In the most densely populated counties, home to two-thirds of the population, more than three-quarters of those aged 65 and over have been fully vaccinated.

The risk remains high in places with lower vaccination rates, not just places with more unvaccinated people. Those places are generally places that voted more heavily for Trump in 2020. And the correlation between the two makes sense, given Trump’s — and Fox News’s — rhetoric.

“We have to do away with all the politics and just try to get people vaxxed,” Watters said on Friday. Fine. Let’s.

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