Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2011


Great Plains Research 21 (Spring 2011):27-37


© 2011 Copyright by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


In recent decades, the migration that has long been characteristic of life in the Great Plains has meant the steady relocation of population from rural to metropolitan counties. While much has been written about the social and economic consequences of this migration, far less is known of its political consequences. In Nebraska, the least-populated counties experience the most severe out-migration, and are the most reliably Republican. To discern a relationship between population migration and political outcomes, this study analyzes the six open-seat races for United States senator that have occurred in Nebraska since 1976. An econometric model that explains Democratic vote share at the county level demonstrates that larger growth in a county's population exerts a positive and significant influence on the proportion of the vote won by the Democratic candidate, when partisanship and other race-specific variables are controlled for. Consolidation of more of the state's population into fewer counties has increased the competitiveness of well-qualified Democratic candidates.