Road trip: the ends against the middle

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This past weekend I drove up to visit friends in New York. I've been in all 50 states and all 435 congressional districts; there are few populated parts of the United States that I haven't seen. So I decided to take a new route, up Interstate 95 through Philadelphia and into New Jersey and then north on U.S. Route 206 until I hooked up with Interstate 287. U.S. 206 took me through Lawrenceville and Princeton and, although I'd been in Princeton many times before, I was stunned by the beauty of those towns, the beautiful houses and stunning old buildings, the perfectly tended green lawns, etc. These are affluent towns; I imagine the big old houses in Princeton run over $1 million.

Quite a contrast with nearby Trenton and Hamilton Township, also in Mercer County. Trenton is an old industrial city (Trenton Makes, the World Takes, reads the sign across the Delaware River), and Hamilton County is aging lower-middle-income suburbia: not beautiful in any aesthetic sense.

Guess how they vote? The answers come from Dave Leip's invaluable Political Atlas. Lawrence Township, which includes Lawrenceville, voted 62 percent for John Kerry. Princeton Township voted 72 percent for Kerry. The borough of Princeton, which includes the university campus, voted 76 percent for Kerry—almost as high as the 82 percent in Trenton, with its large black population. Hamilton Township, in contrast, favored Kerry by 49.8 percent to 49.3 percent. There's your class divide in America, or at least in our Northeastern metropolitan areas: the top and the bottom of the income ladder united against the middle.