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President Trump Is Trying To Appeal To Suburban Voters. But Urban Suburban Voters Are Still Leaning

Although it appears President Trump’s views about the ‘burbs and suburban women haven’t changed much — have any of these voters changed their minds about him?  
Although it appears President Trump’s views about the ‘burbs and suburban women haven’t changed much — have any of these voters changed their minds about him?  

Imagine the American dream. Maybe you’re picturing a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a dog, lots of land— and it’s probably in the suburbs. 

But that image of the suburbs is changing. And some who live in urban suburban neighborhoods argue that representation was never their reality. 

The average urban suburb in the United States is diverse and densely populated. Roughly 500,000 people live in these neighborhoods, which are home to the country’s wealthiest and best educated people, according to the American Communities Project by George Washington University. Most of them are Democratic voters. Hillary Clinton won the urban suburbs by 19 percentage points in 2016, following similar wins by former President Barack Obama.

Now, President Donald Trump is escalating increasingly explicit and fear-based appeals to “suburban housewives”  in critical states like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. But recent polling shows those appeals have limits. 

“When I look at the data increasingly, whatever you see in a big city environment, you see it in these urban suburbs — just less,” says Dante Chinni. He leads the American Communities Project, which uses data and reporting to study the cultural, socioeconomic and political changes that are remaking the country at the local level.  

“So the Democrats are going to win here. What a prediction — but, they will.

Urban Suburb: Wheaton, Maryland

Wendy Howard has lived in the corner house on her street in Wheaton, Maryland for almost 20 years. It’s just 10 miles from Washington, D.C. Howard is actively involved in her local community and county affairs and says she loves living there. 

She recently received her mail-in ballot. And as the 2020 presidential election draws near, the 59-year-old Black woman says she and her neighbors have concerns they hope the Biden-Harris ticket can address.

“I think people are concerned about climate change. Personally, I know health care and the health of our residents is really on the forefront of what everybody’s talking about,” Howard says.

Urban suburban communities have experienced the growth and racial diversification of their big city neighbors. But as they grow more dense and urban, they are seeing growing poverty ratesas well. 

“Equity is a really big thing. As we talk about this diverse population, two blocks away we have single family homes with multi-families in them. I know they were hard hit when this pandemic hit,” Howard adds.

Urban Suburb: Hyattsville, Maryland

Suburban women are a coveted voting demographic. They were key to President Trump’s win in 2016, and they’re shaping up to be a pivotal demographic in this year’s election too.

But the way President Trump talks about the American suburb: affluent, homogeneous and fearful of cities is largely pulled from the history books. 

Katie Ablard and her partner Marci live in Hyattsville, Maryland, an urban suburb just six miles from the nation’s capital. The couple plans on voting early for Joe Biden. Ablard says they’ve joined neighborhood volunteers mailing postcards and making phone calls to encourage Democrats in Virginia and Georgia to vote.  

“There’s a certain script that you say if someone is undecided and some of us were kind of wondering if we might go off script if someone actually tells us that they were undecided,” Ablard says. “Because, at this point, what are you undecided about? How could you be undecided?”

Ablard says that there are a “handful” of Republican households nearby, but adds that most have opted not to display pro-Trump lawn signs during this election cycle.

Although it appears President Trump’s views about the ‘burbs and suburban women haven’t changed much — have any of these voters changed their minds about him?  

Our series Wide Streets, Narrow Marginsvisits a range of suburbs and spends time with those who live there to hear about the issues that resonate with them and their neighbors. To start us off, 1A National Correspondent Sasha-Ann Simons spoke with voters outside Washington, D.C. about what matters to them. 

Then, we talk with The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman about President Trump’s suburban strategy. Despite winning the overall vote of the suburbs in 2016, some experts believe that the election could be his to lose.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.

Sasha-Ann Simons, Kathryn Fink