Sunday, 2 June 2013

Elliott County, Kentucky

Elliott County, located in northeastern Kentucky, fits the stereotypical description of a Republican-voting region: it is in the South, it's rural, its inhabitants are poor, there is high unemployment, most of the people hold socially conservative views and it's overwhelmingly white (around 98%). Despite this profile, since its inception in 1969 Elliott County has voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election, usually by a margin of two-to-one or higher; it holds the record for the longest streak of a county voting for one party.

How did this come to be? For decades, the people of Elliott County voted for Democrats out of pure resentment for the Republicans and Abraham Lincoln; each generation would pass this resentment on to the next and people who did vote for Republicans received hostility for their actions. Tradition and familial party loyalty have been major factors in keeping the county Democratic and many of the residents are opposed to voting against either their own families or tradition. Elliott County has nearly 4,700 registered Democrats and under 230 registered Republicans out of a population of 8,000.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to power in the 1930s and implemented the New Deal, Roosevelt's expansion of government-funded projects and the social safety systems caused the inhabitants of Elliott County to view the Democratic Party as the "party of the people" and gave them reason to believe in government. Even now, Elliott County is deeply reliant on the government: Medicaid and food stamp recipients currently make up a third of the population and the government is one of the largest employers; it is not in the county's interests to implement spending cuts because they would seriously harm the county's economy and general well-being.

Given that Elliott County has remained loyal to the Democrats long after the rest of the South moved away from the party because of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, will it ever vote for a Republican? It's possible: of all the Democratic presidential candidates since 1960, President Barack's Obama's support percentages were the lowest — 61% in 2008 and 49.4% in 2012; given the country's socially conservative views, Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party's strong support for gay marriage and abortion rights is a likely contributor to the lower support. Mr. Obama was also portrayed as an anti-coal candidate during the 2012 election and Elliott County has links to the coal industry, but given the county's location and demographics, race cannot be ruled out as a reason for the declined percentages.

That being said, if Elliott County's traditions and party loyalty hold, its belief in and reliance on government both remain resolute, and the Republicans are viewed as wanting to cut the services that the government provides, Elliott County will continue to vote for the Democrats in the foreseeable future.

Source/recommended reading: Not So Solid South: Democratic Party Survives In Rural Elliott County, Kentucky, from The Huffington Post,


  1. as a registered Democrat, this is awesome. as someone who wants democracy to actually work, this is sad.

    1. I guess it's what's worked in that county for generations. I find places like Elliott County fascinating.