The city and the hills – Our analysis of the election results suggests that 2020 accelerated a long-running trend | United States

FOR A MOMENT, it looked as if voters were starting to find some common ground. In the weeks leading up to the elections on November 3rd, polls showed that many of the fault lines dividing Democrats and Republicans—including age, race and education—were beginning to narrow. Even the gap between city dwellers and rural folk seemed to be shrinking. According to a poll conducted by YouGov between October 31st and November 2nd, voters in rural areas favoured President Donald Trump over Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent, by a margin of ten percentage points. Four years ago, this gap was 20 points.

But an analysis of the election results by The Economist suggests that the partisan divide between America’s cities and open spaces is greater than ever. Preliminary results supplied by Decision Desk HQ, a data-provider, show that voters in the least urbanised counties voted for Mr Trump by a margin of 33 points, up from 32 points in 2016. (Specifically these are the bottom 20% of counties by population density. Counties which are more than 10% Hispanics, which shifted right for reasons unrelated to density, have been excluded.) Meanwhile, voters in the most urbanised counties—the top 20%—plumped for Mr Biden by 29 points, up from Hillary Clinton’s 25-point margin in 2016. More broadly, the greater the population density, the bigger the swing to the Democratic candidate (see chart). Even after controlling for other relevant demographic factors, such as the proportion of whites without college degrees or Hispanics in each county, the data suggest that urban and rural voters are more divided today than they were in 2016.

Preliminary results also show that Mr Biden gained most ground in counties that swung hardest toward Democrats between Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s failed bid for the White House in 2016. One possible explanation for this trend is the tendency for Democrats and Republicans to live among their own kind. Americans are still sorting themselves into politically like-minded communities, a movement noted by Bill Bishop in “The Big Sort” published in 2008. For liberals, this means diverse, densely populated cities; for conservatives it is places that are mostly white, working-class and where the neighbours are a .22 round away.

Such sorting has two major consequences. Jonathan Rodden, a professor at Stanford University and author of “Why Cities Lose”, a book about geographic polarisation, says that the partitioning of America by density has led to an underrepresentation of Democratic votes. Because the seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate are awarded on a winner-take-all basis, rather than in proportion to the popular vote, they can end up skewing the allocation of legislative seats away from the party whose voters are crammed into just a few states or congressional districts. As Democrats cluster in cities, the system reduces their political clout. It can be thought of as a natural gerrymander.

Geographic polarisation also hurts Democrats’ chances in the electoral college, America’s system of choosing its president. In this year’s election, for example, Mr Biden will win the national popular vote by about five percentage points. But his margin in the “tipping-point” state that ultimately gave him enough votes to win the election, Wisconsin, will be less than one point. That four-point advantage for the Republicans is the biggest in at least four decades. So long as Democrats continue to be the party of the cities, and Republicans the party of small-town and rural America, those biases will persist.

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This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “City v hills”

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U.S. Manufacturing Activity Accelerated Again in October

The U.S. manufacturing sector grew at a quicker pace than expected in October, registering its sixth straight month of growth, according to a survey released Monday.

President Donald Trump has made reviving manufacturing a centerpiece of his campaign to be re-elected. Democrat rival Joe Biden’s climate change policies would cost tens of thousands of auto manufacturing jobs, according to Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour, and would hurt factories across the country.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of purchasing managers rose to 59.3 percent, up 3.9 percentage points from the September reading of 55.4 percent and the highest since September 2018. Economists had expected a much smaller gain to 55.7.

Manufacturing has recovered much faster than expected. The index beat forecasts in seven out of the last eight months, with September the only disappointment.

“This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the sixth month in a row after a contraction in April,” Timothy R. Fiore, chairman of the ISM survey, said in a statement.

Readings above 50 on the index indicate growth, while those below 50 indicate contraction.

The New Orders component registered 67.9 percent, an increase of 7.7 percentage points from the September reading, indicating faster growth and strong demand. The Production Index registered 63 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points. Both have been growing for 5 months.

The New Export Orders Index registered 55.7 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points, the fourth consecutive monthly increase.

The gauge of employment has shifted back into growth after contracting in September. This indicates that manufacturers are hiring more employees.

The Customers’ Inventories Index sank to its lowest figure since June 2010, a level considered a positive for future production.

“Manufacturing performed well for the third straight month, with demand, consumption and inputs registering growth indicative of a normal expansion cycle. While certain industry sectors are experiencing difficulties that will continue in the near term, the overall manufacturing community continues to exceed expectations,” says Fiore.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries measured in the survey, 15 reported growth in October.  Among the six biggest manufacturing industries, five reported growth—Fabricated Metal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Chemical Products; Computer & Electronic Products; and Transportation Equipment. The two reporting contraction in October were: Textile Mills and Printing & Related Support Activities.

“Sales continue to be strong — up 4 percent this September compared to September 2019. The year-to-date level is still 21 percent below last year due to the [COVID-19] shutdown, but sales are stronger than expected and forecast to stay strong through the first quarter of 2021,” an executive in Transportation Equipment manufacturing said.


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Pink ice spotted in Alpine glacier fuels concerns over accelerated melting

Scientists in Italy are investigating the appearance of pink glacial ice in the Alps, which they suspect is caused by algae compounding the effects of climate change.

Observers noticed the unusual hue at in the Presena glacier in the far northern Italian region of Sondrio.

Biagio di Mauro, a scientist at Italy’s National Research Council, said the colour is likely caused by Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, a type of algae commonly found in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.

“The algae is not dangerous,” di Mauro said. “It’s a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes, but also at the Poles.”

Ice normally reflects more than 80 percent of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appears, it can darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly.

The more rapidly the ice melts, the more algae appears, adding red hues to the white ice.

Algae at very low temperatures would normally die, but if the ice gets even very slightly warmer it can lead to a thin layer of water that allows it to survive and propagate, thus accelerating the melting.

“These algae need water. So of course, if your temperatures rise and there’s more melting on the glaciers, more water available, they will thrive,” said Harry Zekollari, a glaciologist at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.

“With more sun absorbed, you will have more melt more water and potentially more algae. And with this, you can have in fact a positive feedback loop which can lead to a lot of loss of these glaciers, which are already in a dangerous state.”

In this case, the pink hue appeared at Passo Gavia at an altitude of 2,618 metres.

“Here we’re trying to quantify the effect of other phenomena, besides the human one, on the overheating of the Earth,” di Mauro said.

“There are more natural phenomena, such as algae, but we can also link melting with the presence of humans at these altitudes, with the ski lifts and hiking.”

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SA borders to reopen on July 20 as easing of coronavirus restrictions accelerated

South Australia will reopen its borders to unrestricted travel on July 20, while restrictions on venues including pubs, restaurants and gyms will be further eased next week.

From next Friday, up to 300 people will be allowed in venues, with up to 75 per room.

Premier Steven Marshall said the decision to lift border restrictions means travellers into South Australia from other states would no longer need to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

“We don’t want to unnecessarily detain people for two weeks of isolation if they don’t pose a health risk to us in South Australia,” Mr Marshall said.

By the time they reopen, South Australia’s borders will have been shut for almost four months after the closure came into effect on March 24.

However, Mr Marshall said restrictions for international travellers will remain.

The move follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging states to reopen their borders at Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.

“If you want to open up borders for international students, then you have to open up borders for Australians.”

Mr Morrison also announced sporting events and festivals could soon be allowed to have up to 10,000 people in attendance if they were seated and ticketed.

Police at the SA border checkpoint at Pinnaroo.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Singapore Airlines flights to Adelaide resumed this week, but mostly for cargo and those who have an urgent need to travel.

The Premier also revealed the State Government was seeking legal advice on whether it could open particular state borders earlier than July 20.

“We don’t want to unnecessarily detain people for two weeks of isolation if they don’t pose a health risk to us in South Australia.

“We’re just getting some final legal advice on that.”

Stage three accelerated

South Australia’s 75-person per room limit, beginning next Friday, will also apply to gymnasiums, but smaller limits will continue to apply for fitness classes.

Mr Marshall described the new rules from next Friday as “stage 2.5” of the state’s easing of restrictions and announced the move to stage three will be brought forward from July 3 to June 29.

A crowd of people at a microbrewery.
Pubs will be allowed to expand the number of permitted patrons.(Supplied: Little Bang Brewing Company)

Stage three was supposed to include a cap of 100 patrons in any one room, but Mr Marshall said on Friday that limit would be scrapped in favour of one person per four square metres.

“That is a movement that we are making here in South Australia, and I think that it is going to be a movement that we make right across the country,” he said.

Stage three changes will see the reopening of Adelaide’s casino and gaming venues, indoor playgrounds and amusement arcades.

But nightclubs and music festivals — which were deemed “high risk” by SA Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrierwill remain off limits.

She said keeping clubs shut was vital for avoiding a second wave of the virus.

The Australian Hotels Association on Friday morning called for bigger crowds at pubs, saying the industry was “still in crisis”.

Mr Marshall said the decision to reopen the state’s borders was only possible because of high levels of compliance with coronavirus restrictions in South Australia and a “massive improvement right across the nation”.

“We still have a very, very high level of compliance … this has given us great confidence that we can continue to lift restrictions in South Australia,” he said.

“There have only been 43 [COVID-19] cases over the past week right across the entire country with more than two thirds of those coming from people just returning from overseas.”

Answers demanded on homelessness

Earlier on Friday, the Opposition called on the State Government to detail its plans to accommodate homeless people once coronavirus emergency arrangements end.

About 260 people remain in South Australian hotels, while nearly 80 have been found longer-term rental housing.

Labor MP Nat Cook said there had been no indication from the State Government about what would happen to them when those arrangements ended.

“The shelter situation is clearly going to come to an end in terms of the use of hotels, but we haven’t heard anything recently in regards to a forward plan,” Ms Cook said.

Anonymous homeless man on Waymouth Street in Adelaide
People experiencing homelessness have been accommodated in hotels.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said she was looking at a range of housing options for homeless people moved into hotels during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Lensink said the Government also launched a $550 million housing and homeless strategy last year.

“We’ve still got a lot of people in hotels and we’ve been very focused on ensuring that people can find a pathway back into the community and some of the services tell me such as Vinnies and Carrington Cottages that they’ve actually got vacancies at the moment,” she said.

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