A Case Study of Campbell County, Kentucky

A Case Study of Campbell County, Kentucky

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Government and Politics: A Case Study of Campbell County, Kentucky

       Campbell County, Kentucky offers a very interesting case study of politics at work. The many different variables that can possibly affect how counties as a whole vote are present in Campbell County, and the interplay between all these variables is the topic of this paper. In order to accurately predict the outcome of the election, it is important to be familiar with all the different socio-economic factors that influence the daily lives of the people who are pulling the levers in the voting booths. This paper will give a brief description of Campbell County, followed by a survey of how they have voted in the past eight Presidential Elections. The best kind of presidential candidates for this county will be discussed, the results of the 1996 Presidential Elections, as well as what the different parties are doing in Campbell County in order to achieve better results. As a result of the analysis that was required for this paper, I will show sufficient evidence to support my conclusion that George W. Bush will win Campbell County over Al Gore by a margin of 54% - 44%.

Campbell County, Kentucky is located in the very northern part of the state, almost directly beneath Cincinnati, Ohio. In fact, many of the residents of Campbell County commute to work in Cincinnati. The 1994 population of Campbell County was 85,034 with 82.4% living in urban areas and 17.6% living in rural areas. Most of those urban areas are almost suburbs of Cincinnati. The county is 152 square miles in area with 561 people per square mile. There is very little ethnic diversity in this county with 97.1% of the population white. The largest city in Campbell County is Newport with a population of 18,871. There is only one hospital in the county, St. Luke's in Newport, which is a major employer in the county. Due to its close proximity to Cincinnati, Newport was at one time a major nightlife area for residents of Cincinnati, with many clubs and bars. To this day, Newport is trying to live down its nickname of "Sin City," which was given to it by the conservative residents of the surrounding counties.

Campbell County, being in Kentucky, is in one of the most bipartisan states in the country . The Democrats have won Kentucky in the last two presidential elections in 1996 and 1992 by four percentage points and one percentage point, respectively.

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This slight lean to the left by the state contrasts with the behavior of the northern counties in Kentucky, especially Campbell. In every presidential election since 1968, Campbell County has voted Republican. The elections in the 1990's have proven to be relatively close in Campbell County, but as late as the 1984 election, Campbell was voting Republican by a 40% margin.


Table 1.1 Presidential Voting in Campbell County Since 1968


Republican Vote, % of total and Candidate

Democratic Vote, % of total and Candidate


13681, 48.5%, Nixon

9747, 34.6%, Humphrey


20025, 68%, Nixon

8585, 29.2%, McGovern


15798, 54.8%, Ford

12423, 43.1%, Carter


16743, 57.3%, Reagan

11059, 37.9%, Carter


21473, 70%, Reagan

9068, 29.6%, Mondale


19387, 66.6%, Bush

9553, 32.8%, Dukakis


16388, 49.9%, Bush

10,673, 32.5%, Clinton


16640, 53.3%, Dole

11957, 38.3%, Clinton


The reason behind this Republican voting is too multi-faceted to get into in depth in this paper. A large factor in determining how you will vote in any given election is your political socialization, which mainly comes from family and peers. Since the county has voted Republican since 1968 you can only assume that children in those first few elections grew up in Republican households. This socialization in the ideals and thoughts of the Republican mindset helped to shape the outlook that they took on later in life. The residents of Campbell County are also not very mobile which would lead to the continuation of the political behavior of the county. In 1990, 85% of the residents of Campbell County had lived there in 1985. This shows that a majority of the people who live in Campbell County have lived there for years and grown up in a Republican environment. Another factor that could help to explain the Republican mindset in this county is the lack of minorities. Minorities are almost always associated with the Democratic Party, so the lack of minorities would seem to correlate with the Republican tendencies of the county.

One of the biggest issues in the news in the last few years has been the tobacco industry and the legal suits that states have filed against the industry. There has always been the threat of government regulation of the industry (more regulation than there is now). This issue has been almost completely partisan, with Democrats in favor of more regulation and responsibility on the part of the tobacco industry and the Republicans opposed to more regulation. In Campbell County there are 545 farms, on many of which tobacco is grown. This economic issue would also seem to offer an explanation of the county's Republican voting in presidential elections since 1968. Another prime determinant of political affiliation is economic status, with the poor predominantly Democratic and the more affluent more toward the right side of the political spectrum. Campbell County seems to be, while not overly affluent, doing better than the national average.


Table 1.2 Poverty Statistics for Campbell County and United States


Median Household Income

Families in Poverty

Persons in Poverty

United States


10%, 6,487,515

13.1%, 31742864

Campbell County


9,3%, 2060

11%, 9087

As is evident, Campbell County is doing a little better than the United States average in families and persons below the poverty line. Campbell has a lower median household income, but that can be explained by the cost of living in northern Kentucky along with local inflation and other economic factors. While this does not overwhelmingly show Campbell as an affluent county, it does show that it is not a necessarily a poor county either.

Since Kentucky is not predominantly Democrat or Republican, any congressional candidate, be it Senate or House of Representatives, is almost forced to move toward the ideological center to capture those all-important undecided votes. Campbell County residents do not elect any national representatives by themselves, but they are part of the Fourth Congressional District in Kentucky. The current congressman from this district is a prime example of the moderate politics that is played out in Kentucky. Representative Ken Lucas, is a self-described "very conservative Democrat". He was raised on a tobacco farm, and although is registered Democrat, he shows the signs of Republican socialization. He is pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-business. Those are three positions that are strongly associated with Republicans and not Democrats. As is evident, the candidates in the Fourth District in northern Kentucky are forced to align their views to the middle of the political spectrum so as not to alienate all the undecided moderates.

As far as presidential candidates are concerned, it would seem that a trend is starting to occur, contrasting with the historical election results. The biggest margin of victory for a presidential candidate in Campbell County was Ronald Reagan, in 1984 when he won with 70% of the vote. Reagan was campaigning on a very strong Republican ticket as well as a strong economy. Campbell County has since drifted more towards the moderate center, with the last two Republican candidates, Bush and Dole, winning by smaller margins than their Republican predecessors have. This shift from strongly Republican to more moderate Republican, or even to very conservative Democratic, can be seen as analogous to the shift in American politics as a whole. It has been said time and time again that George W. Bush and Al Gore have very little important differences on the big issues. This is due to both candidates attempting to capture the swing vote that could mean the difference between victory and loss on Election Day.

Another factor that influences how you vote is age. Republicans are for the most part older while Democrats are usually younger. As seen in Table 1.3, there were more young voters in 1990 than in 1984, which would explain the slight lean back toward the middle of the political spectrum. There were also more elderly people, but they were socialized, when younger, into the Republican mold, and most studies show that people rarely change their political affiliation in old age.


Table 1.3 Percentages of Age Groups in Campbell County in 1984 and 1990









15.4%, 12581

11.6%, 9477

10%, 8170

10.4%, 8497

7.3%, 5964

5.2%, 4248









17.3%, 14711

14.2%, 12074

10.9%, 9269

11%, 9354

9.9%, 8418

8.8%, 7483

As is evident there are many reasons that Campbell County votes the way it does. There are many different influential socio-economic factors that when combined in one county, form a Republican county, with the beginnings of a partisan feel emerging.

In the presidential election of 1996, Bob Dole won Campbell County with 53.3% of the vote, compared to Bill Clinton's 38.3% (see Table 1.1). This is a margin of 15%, a sizable margin of victory in a presidential election. The reasons for Bob Dole's victory can go back to the reasons that Campbell has been a historically Republican county. Many of the residents of Campbell County would be adversely affected by more regulation of the tobacco industry. This indirectly contributed to the Republican candidate, Bob Dole winning Campbell County in 1996.

In order to improve its chances of winning in the northern counties in Kentucky, especially Campbell, the Democratic Party as a whole has begun to lean more towards the center on the hot-button political issues. Gun control is a strongly contested issue, and one that's very important to many of the residents of Campbell County, Kentucky. In this election cycle very little has been said publicly about gun control. There were a couple of questions in one of the Presidential Debates, but the focus of this election has been shifted to Social Security and prescription drugs. Kentucky as a whole is a very Republican state, with the only Democrat elected to high office (Senate, House of Representative, or Governor) being Ken Lucas from the Fourth District, and he's a very conservative Democrat.

The main strategy of the Democratic Party since the election of 1996 has been to drift toward the center of the political spectrum, while still attracting the base of the party's support - minorities, women and poor. This strategy, started on a smaller scale earlier (after the 1984 election) has worked to a certain degree in Campbell County. The county no longer goes 70%-30% in favor of Republicans.

Another focus of the Democratic Party since the last election has been education, and teacher pay raises. Teachers are notoriously underpaid in most communities in the United States, and Campbell County is no exception. At the beginning of this school year, there was a shortage of teachers for every subject, but especially math and science. Campbell County was forced to offer emergency state certification in order to allow the classrooms to have teachers. Emergency certification is a temporary certification in a subject not necessarily in the field of study of the teacher, but in a subject the teacher is willing to teach. Teacher pay raises and education in general, as is evident, is an important issue in Campbell County. Democrats have historically been the champions of this issue, but the line is beginning to blur. With both parties merging toward the middle of the road on most issues, both George W. Bush and Al Gore have talked extensively in the debates about their education plans.

The job of political predicting is a very tenuous one with very little job security. This election makes it even more difficult as it is one of the closest elections in recent history. Most polls right up to Election Day put it within two percentage points, with a large majority of those putting Bush in front. Based on past voting patterns, it would seem to be pretty obvious that Campbell County will vote for George W. Bush this year. The only question is by what margin will the county vote Republican. When considering this question, it is important to factor in all the socio-economic variables discussed earlier, to get a feel for how the county might vote. Political socialization is a big key to this county voting Republican. In every presidential election since 1968 this county has voted for the Republican candidate, so why should things suddenly change this year. There's also the tobacco issue. The role that the federal government is going to play in the regulation of the tobacco industry is still not totally set. Many of the tobacco farmers, and those residents affected by the tobacco industry, undoubtedly see George W. Bush as a more favorable candidate than Al Gore. Bush seems to have better relations with the big tobacco companies as well a better friend of big business in general. The very low minority population in Campbell County will obviously produce very little democratic voters. Another factor that could possibly affect the voting of the county today is the campaigning frequency in the state. George W. Bush has opened up double-digit leads in Kentucky, so Al Gore may have just admitted the loss of those eight electoral votes and focused his energy elsewhere. If the registered democrats in the state and especially Campbell County, see Al Gore giving up on winning Kentucky, they may be more likely to stay home on November 7th. Another factor could be the county's close proximity to Ohio, especially Cincinnati. Ohio is also a definite win for Bush, so that influence could have crossed state lines to push Campbell toward Bush. My prediction has many different factors affecting it. Campbell County's tendency, in the last two presidential elections, to have a closer election than in the past (especially the 1980's), plays a major role. The fact that this election is the closest in recent times also plays into my decision.

My prediction is that Bush will win Campbell County with 54% of the vote. Gore will come in second with 44% of the vote and Ralph Nader will pick up most of the remaining 2%.


Table 1.4 Voter Turnout in Campbell Presidential Elections since 1984






Voter Turnout and Percentage

30,679, 53%

29,104, 51%

32,840, 55%

31,216, 52%

If the voter turnout is roughly the same percentage it has been in the past four elections, and my predictions are correct, Bush will get 17,196 votes, Gore will get 14,012 votes, and Nader will receive 636 votes. This is based on 53.5% voter turnout, which is roughly the average of the previous four presidential elections.

Any political predictions are inherently based on generalizations, and the voting public can make any political predictor wrong. My predictions are based on close analysis of the voting pattern of Campbell County in the last eight presidential elections, and the inclusion of socio-economic factors that could possibly affect how a person votes, Democrat or Republican. Political socialization, industry concerns, and economic concerns are all factors that have a major influence on the candidate that will get the vote. This county seems less likely to vote for candidates, and more likely to vote for the party as a whole. This is one major reason I'm predicting that George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, will win Campbell County in 2000.

Works Cited

Barone, Michael and Ujifusa, Grant, eds. The Almanac of American Politics 2000. National Journal Group, Inc. Washington, D.C. 1999.
Preimesberger, Jon and Tarr, David, eds. Congressional Districts in the 1990's. Congressional Quarterly, Inc. Washington, D.C., 1993.
"Social Characteristics for Campbell County, Kentucky". http://govinfo.library.orst.edu. 1990.
"Schools struggle to fill teaching jobs." Associated Press State and Local Wire. August 21, 2000.
"Farmers worry as case reaches Supreme Court." Associated Press State and Local Wire. April 27, 1999.


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