TreeHugger founder Graham Hill used to try and avoid getting us embroiled in politics, saying "We're not red or blue, we're green." Unfortunately, a truly depressing new study, Pew Research shows that in fact, all those things we promote on TreeHugger about cars, bikes and lifestyle, are increasingly polarized and political. It shows significantly increased polarization between Republicans and Democrats, with increasing hatred and fear of each other.
There has always been a sense that the suburbs are more conservative and that they really don't like urban planners and public transit; as Joe Mysak wrote in Bloomberg, the liberal planners " would apparently love nothing more than for the population to be confined to Soviet-style concrete-block high-rises and be forced to take state-run streetcars to their little jobs at the mill."
Pew shows that a full 50% of consistently conservative types want to live in a place where most people share their political views. Nearly 2/3s of conservatives have close friends who share their views. As Pew notes, we are retreating to ideological echo chambers. But not only do we not want to talk to people we don't agree with, we don't want to even live near them.
When it comes to where they live, a full 75% of consistently conservative types want to live in places where the houses are farther apart and the schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away. An even higher percentage of consistently liberal types want to live where they are within walking distance. The study notes:
...their differences are striking: liberals would rather live in cities, while conservatives prefer rural areas and small towns; liberals are more likely to say racial and ethnic diversity is important in a community; conservatives emphasize shared religious faith.
There are some things that everyone agrees on: being near to family, good schools and the outdoors are important. But who knew that so few conservatives liked art museums and theaters; Only 23% of consistent conservatives want to be near them, while 73% of liberals do.
This explains a lot about the rapid rise of the anti-Agenda 21 movement, which sees everything from bike lanes to smart growth as an attack on the suburban way of life. Why public transit is such a divisive issue. These are things that Conservatives moved to the suburbs to get away from and now they think it is being rammed down their throats.
In fact, Conservative suburbia is in trouble because of inevitable changes in demographics. The suburbs are getting denser and more diverse; Cities are magnets for young people and new immigrants and are growing as well.
An election last week north of the border in the huge province of Ontario demonstrated the inevitable: The Liberal Party (in red) swept the cities and the suburbs, while the rural areas and small towns went consistently blue (Conservative.) It may not happen in 2014, but it is inevitable that the white suburban conservative is a dying breed.