Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center


In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University’s Watson Institute determined to take a deep dive into the nuances distinguishing various corners of “red” and “blue” America. The Taubman Poll identified five separate communities — each representative of one of the fifteen categories established in the American Communities Project—and partnered with Red America Blue America (RABA) Research to take public opinion snapshots of how voters in each viewed important issues aligned with the Center's research on issues including the cost of living, the value of democracy and the price of security.

Two of the counties Taubman and RABA selected to study switched from the Democratic column in 2012 (Obama) to the Republican column in 2016 (Trump). One switched from the Republican column in 2012 (Romney) to the Democratic column in 2016 (Clinton). One polled for the Democratic nominee in both elections and one for the Republican nominee in both elections. RABA Research, a firm founded by a bipartisan group of campaign consultants and political professionals, uses Interactive Voice Response technology to conduct its public opinion polls.

The counties studied in the Taubman Poll are generally representative of certain types of counties — meaning that they have demographic and ideological similarities to other counties around the country. For example, Kent County, Rhode Island is what might be termed a “Working Class Suburb” similar to Macomb County, Michigan, Stark County, Ohio, or Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Like Kent County, each of these counties switched from the Democratic column in 2012 (Obama) to the Republican column in 2016 (Trump). Studying one county in each category can enhance our understanding of similar counties around the country.

Brown’s Taubman Poll chose to focus their research on the following five communities:

  • Working Class Suburbs (Obama/Trump): Kent County, RI
  • Diverse Rural South (Obama/Trump): An amalgam of Bladen County, NC, Richmond County, NC, Darlington County, SC and Calhoun County, SC
  • Upper Middle Class Exurbs (Romney/Clinton): Chester County, PA
  • Wealthy First-Ring Suburbs (Obama/Clinton): Arapahoe County, CO
  • Rural Midwest (Romney/Trump): An amalgam of Cass, Clay, Hardin, and Page counties in Iowa

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