Did the Seattle City Council race between incumbent Richard Conlin and challenger Kshama Sawant reveal a deep fissure between rich and poor in Seattle?
Looking at a map of the election results, it certainly seems to tell a “Tale of Two Cities,” as The Stranger called it. Conlin, considered the establishment candidate, handily won nearly all the well-heeled waterfront neighborhoods, while the socialist Sawant ran strong in Seattle’s less-wealthy interior.
But just how close was this correlation between election results and the wealth gap?
To find out, I created a map using 2013 estimates of per capita income from data-provider Experian, and put it side-by-side with a map of precinct vote returns by The Seattle Times’ Justin Mayo.
On the election map (left), the orange areas represent precincts that voted for Sawant, purple for Conlin. On the income map (right), the yellow areas represent census block groups where the per capita income is below the citywide average of $42,000; in the blue areas, the income is above that.
As you can see, the patterns of voting and income do correlate. But look closely. The correlation isn’t perfect. Some well-to-do neighborhoods did in fact vote socialist.
Sawant, who came to prominence as an organizer in the Occupy Seattle movement, and whose campaign platform included the creation of a “millionaire’s tax,” showed strength in some high-income areas around Green Lake, in Fremont, Wallingford, and central Ballard, as well as Portage Bay and Eastlake.
On the other hand, the maps also reveal that Conlin did surprisingly well in some of the poorest areas in the southern parts of the city, such as Rainier Beach, Rainier Valley and White Center. He also won many of the precincts in Northgate and other less-affluent neighborhoods in north Seattle.
Turns out, not everybody in Seattle votes their pocketbooks.