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Kate McMahon

The 2010 Election Divide

OPB | Dec. 6, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:44 p.m.

Last month John Kitzhaber won the governor’s election by a one percent margin. But while seven of 36 counties favored him, outside of the Portland-metro area, some counties favored his opponent Chris Dudley by as much as 70%. No Democrat was ousted at the federal level, but Democrats lost supermajority status in the state Senate. And the state House, which was once dominated by Democrats, is now evenly split 30-30.

According to a survey (pdf) that OPB and Fox 12* commissioned, half of Oregonians feel optimistic about the election results, but the other half feels pessimistic. Statistically, the correlating factors show that those feeling optimistic tend to be Democrats residing in urban areas, and those who feel pessimistic tend to be Republicans in rural areas. Of course, there is much more nuance to the survey results, but purely by the numbers, these statistics point to a dividing line between rural and urban Oregon.

The idea of a rural-urban divide is not new — in Oregon and many other states. Across America, people in small towns and big cities often have contrasting ideologies. But the history of Oregon politics shows times when rural Oregon was predominantly democratic and Portland was largely republican. Various factors like the mechanization of agriculture and environmental issues like the spotted owl led to fundamental shifts in political leanings. One way to understand Oregon politics today is to explore Oregon politics in the past. 

Does the outcome of last month’s election make you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the state? Do you believe urban Oregon unfairly represents the state?

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