Do You Think You Can Tell How a Neighborhood Voted Just by Looking Around?


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We selected 10,000 American neighborhoods at random. If we dropped you into one of them, could you guess how most people there voted?

In 2020, most voters around here preferred …

This quiz never ends.

But if you’ve seen enough, click here to see how you did and learn more about where our political perceptions can fall short.

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Imagery source: Google

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Most readers who have played so far are pretty good at this game, at least in certain kinds of places. The precincts that voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump or just as heavily for Joe Biden were generally the easiest for New York Times readers to identify.

You don’t need an elaborate quiz to tell you that those two sets of places typically look different from each other, even without clichéd signals like pickup trucks in the driveways, or without demographic clues from neighbors tending their lawns. In a country that has become increasingly divided along urban-rural lines, country roads with sparse housing are a good bet for Trump territory, while blocks of midrise apartments and row homes are most likely Biden ground.

But the closer you get to the political center — in mostly suburban precincts that more narrowly chose one candidate over the other — the harder the game gets.

The chart below shows this pattern. It describes readers’ success rates according to the vote margin in a place, with the precincts that voted most heavily for Mr. Biden on the left and those that voted most heavily for Mr. Trump on the right. On average, the closer a precinct was to an even 50-50 split, the less likely readers were to peg its politics correctly, resulting in the subtle “V” shape you see here:

Which places readers got right, by partisanship of neighborhood

If your own guesses followed this pattern, you’ve just experienced a pretty good summary of political geography in America today. The cities and countryside are both mostly uncontested; all the suspense is in between. That same heuristic would have failed you, however, if we had tried this game 60 years ago. Back then, population density wasn’t such a clear predictor of an area’s politics.

Now it is.

Let’s say that instead of carefully studying the little details in these images for partisan hints (you did that, right?), you let density be your only guide: If a place looked denser than the middle ring suburbs of Philadelphia, Minneapolis or most major metro areas, you guessed Biden; if it looked less dense than that, you guessed Trump. That simple rule would result in the correct answer about three in four times — better than most humans are doing at the moment.

To be fair to you, it’s not always possible to tell a precinct’s density from a single image, and it’s also not easy to guess the precise tipping point to guide your choices.

But you can see in the images below the kinds of places Mr. Trump won that Times readers had very little trouble with:

Trump precincts that most Times readers guessed right

Imagery source: Google

What these photographs have in common: open skies, open spaces, spacious yards. You generally don’t see overt political cues like yard signs, and you don’t need them. You may not know these towns by name but you can spot their more rural character.

On the other end of the spectrum, these images are from places that Mr. Biden won handily, and that Times readers also nailed:

Biden precincts that most Times readers guessed right

Imagery source: Google

Here, we’ve got homes on top of one another, homes right next to one another, neighboring front doors practically touching. In these images, you’re more likely to see a pedestrian passing by, a bike locked to a lamppost, a car parallel-parked. There are a lot more sidewalks and a lot fewer lawns.

Most American voters, however, live somewhere between these sparse and dense extremes. They live here:

More competitive, more suburban precincts

Imagery source: Google

Welcome to suburbia: America’s perennial political battleground, the terrain that decided the 2020 election, and the neighborhoods that look not so much stereotypically Democratic or Republican, but generically American.

Here the yards are more generous, and the streets tend to be tree-lined. The detached homes have driveways and garages (many big enough for more than one car). Some of these suburban-seeming streets may technically be located inside city limits. But they all look relatively alike, and are alike in their purple-ish politics. The places above were decided by less than 20 points in 2020, and they all tripped up readers far more than the neighborhoods with more lopsided results.

These are also the places where the stereotypes that American partisans have developed of one another prove less useful.

Just as density has become more predictive of partisanship over time, consumer and lifestyle choices — pickup trucks vs. Priuses, Indian vs. American chain restaurants, broad lawns vs. sidewalk stoops — have become more correlated with politics, too. Some of those signals may have helped you in this game.

“None of those things used to have political content to them,” said Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina whose research has tracked this change since the 1990s. “But now because of how we’re sorted out politically, they do.”

On average, these stereotypes may help you reach the right conclusions about the partisanship of a person or place. But they miss a lot, too. And there’s something pernicious about that, Professor Hetherington said: Political stereotypes can lead voters to caricature one another, or to lose sight of the vast parts of the American electorate that don’t conform neatly to stereotypes at all.

Among our pictures, there are clear examples where these generalizations will lead you astray. Parts of Hasidic Brooklyn are more Republican as rural North Dakota. Many Staten Island neighborhoods look like they’d be deeply blue, but they’re the opposite. Some distinctly rural places voted decisively for Mr. Biden — on Indian reservations, along the edges of small college towns, across the Southern Black Belt.

These kinds of places confounded many Times readers, and perhaps you, too:

Places that Times readers misjudged the most

Imagery source: Google

In other places, you may have found further details that could help ground you in a more familiar political mental map: Craftsman-style architecture that would put you in the Pacific Northwest, xeriscaping that might mean the Southwest, infant trees typical of newly built exurbs more likely to lean Republican.

Obviously, there’s no partisan smoking gun in a random address. And it’s possible that the location we chose from a place isn’t perfectly representative of its overall partisan makeup — maybe the farms begin a block over from the subdivision we showed you.

But we believe these scenes together give a pretty comprehensive tour of where American voters live in this large and varied country. There are places that will, indeed, confirm your stereotypes right back at you. But there are also parts of America where your intuition will do you little good.

All the neighborhoods in this quiz , along with the places you guessed

Below, find a table illustrating each of the neighborhoods we showed you, along with how its surrounding precinct voted and how well other readers did with the same images.

How you and other readers fared on the neighborhoods you saw

Neighborhood or area 2020 Result Pct. who got it right You
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About the author

Janice Hill

Janice is a Co-Founder of NetDebaito Official & a family member of Brit Media 360. Our News HUB aiming to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific viewpoint for each story catered. Every project is a proficient journalisms' who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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