Insight: Did Creative Metros Vote for Obama?

This Insight is the second in a two part series based on the Martin Prosperity Institute’s Metropolitan Votes and the 2012 U.S. Election whitepaper. While the previous Insight looked at how the most innovative regions voted, this one will look at how creative regions voted. As metros attempt to adapt to the knowledge economy, attracting and developing Creative Class (CC) occupations is crucial. Many policy makers are adapting policy in an attempt to try and attract these creative individuals. In analysing the Creative Class, we used the same methodology as the previous Insight by applying the voting shares for the two candidates within each metro to our Creative Class data. This allowed us to determine how each metros CC share contributed to each candidate’s respective total. While many of the most creative metros contributed a higher share to Obama’s Creative Class share, Romney fared better than one might have expected.

The first column in Exhibit 1 displays the top ten metros that contribute the most to the overall U.S. Creative Class share. The second and third columns show the top ten metros that contribute the most to Obama and Romney’s total Creative Class share (as weighted by voting share). For both Obama and Romney, the total Creative Class share of all non-metro areas combined contributes more to their respective totals than any single metro. The share that the non-metro areas contribute to each candidate’s CC total is almost identical. New York and Los Angeles are the two metro areas that contribute the most to each candidate’s CC total, but both contribute about double their share to Obama than to Romney. As we saw when looking at other metrics (patents and GDP) San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle once again are some of the large metros that contribute a considerably larger share to Obama’s CC share than Romney’s. Romney’s strength in creative centers is highest in Texas with Houston and Dallas contributing larger shares to his CC total.

When looking at smaller metros, some were split quite evenly, but overall, smaller metros contributed a larger share to Romney’s CC total than Obama’s. How small cities will adapt to the Creative Class is a complicated issue as smaller cities often have trouble attracting creative individuals. While Romney did not retain as much of his CC share within large metros as Obama did, his campaign was successful with many CC individuals, especially within smaller metros.

Exhibit 1: Top 10 contributors to Creative Class share

Top 10 contributors to Creative Class share

We also examined the cumulative Creative Class share that each metro contributed to each candidate’s respective total as presented in Exhibit 2. At first glance, what is demonstrated is Obama’s success with the Creative Class within highly populated metros. It is important to note that while the top 5 most populated metros contributed more to Obama’s CC share, Romney still gained a substantial amount of support within these cities, as his voting share within these metros contributes to almost 8% of the total CC share in the U.S. This is partially due to the fact that the 4th and 5th highest populated metros contributed a greater amount to Romney’s total than Obama’s. It’s when we look at the medium to large size metros that Obama’s cumulative share creates a large gap. For example, the top 11 most populated metros according to Obama’s voting share contribute to 20% of the total CC share in the U.S. Romney’s cumulative CC share on the other hand does not reach 20% until the 31st most populated metro. The largest gap between the two candidate’s cumulative shares is found around the 40th-50th most populated metros, due to Obama’s strength within medium-large size cities. This gap decreases by the end of the graph though, as Romney received a larger CC share contribution from smaller metros than Obama.

Exhibit 2: Cumulative Creative Class share

Cumulative Creative Class Share

Creativity Index

Used quite often for analysis at the MPI is the Creativity Index as found in Rise Revisited. The Creativity Index is Richard Florida’s “overall measure of regional economic potential”, which combines the three T’s (Talent, Technology and Tolerance) to create the index. The index does not combine population in the analysis, which makes it a great indicator of economic potential for even small and medium sized regions. When looking at the top 25 metros with the highest Creativity Index (as of Rise Revisited), all 25 contributed a larger amount to Obama’s total CC share than Romney’s. When looking at the top 50 metros on the Creativity Index, only 5 contributed to a larger share to Romney’s total share than Obama’s. As Exhibit 2 presents, while smaller metros contribute a higher share to Romney’s CC total, the most creative metros independent of size contribute a greater amount to Obama’s total. If these metros with highest Creativity Indexes are the areas with the greatest economic potential, then it is quite interesting that most of them contributed a larger creative share to Obama’s total.

While many metros, especially largely populated ones often contributed more to Obama’s CC share than Romney’s, there were in fact numerous large and medium sized cities, where Romney fared quite well with the Creative Class. There was some divide though between the two candidates as Obama overall gained a greater CC contribution from large metros, while Romney gained a bigger contribution from smaller metros. What this Insight reveals is that absent of population, the Democratic Party gained greater contributions from metros with the highest Creativity Indexes and higher economic potential, than the Republican Party did. This bodes well for the future of the Democratic Party as their candidate received greater support than his counterpart within the most Creative and innovative metros, which will lead the way in the future prosperity of regions within the U.S.

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.