What Your Travel May Say About Your Politics

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By Dante Chinni

Labor Day traditionally marks the beginning of fall and brings the perennial question: Where did you go on your summer vacation? The answer you give may have a lot to do with where you live and your politics.

To get a feel consider the travel habits of people who live in very different kinds of places in the American Communities Project: the Democratic-leaning dense Urban Suburbs and the rural Republican Evangelical Hubs.

People who live in the Urban Suburb counties are much more likely to have used their passports. More than 42 percent of the people in those communities report they traveled abroad in the last 3 years, according to data from Experian Marketing Services. In small-town Evangelical Hubs only about 32 percent say they have traveled abroad.

That’s pretty wide 10-point gap.

And when they travel abroad, those suburbanites spend more than their rural counterparts as well. On their last foreign trip people who live in the Urban Suburbs report that they spent an average of $2,512. For those in Evangelical Hubs, the figure was $2,238. A difference of more than $270.

Are those differences just about different income levels or the always-important urban/rural divide? When you look closer at the numbers it’s not that simple.

In those county types, in fact across nearly all the community types in the ACP – small town and big city, younger and older – people who self-identify as liberal are more likely to have taken a foreign trip in the last three years. The numbers are not always big, sometimes the difference is only a few percentage points, but it is remarkably consistent.

Overall, 46 percent of self-described liberals say they have traveled abroad in the last 3 years, only 40 percent of conservatives say they have. In other words, these differences transcend demographics and seem to be part of people’s ideological makeup.

It’s just another way of understanding the splits running through the United States and the electorate. Cause and effect is not the key point here. The “why” is less important than the divide itself.

The partisan breakdown we’ve come to know as red and blue is about a lot more than politics or the 2016 campaign. It’s about a long list of differences in the country that appear in our socio-economics and culture. And those differences manifest themselves in a long list of ways that reach into where we live and how we live – all the way down to our summer photo scrapbook.