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Mapping MontCo- Lower Merion Township in 2012

by: RockRibbedR

Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 23:17:06 PM EST


Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, has historically been home to some of the Delaware Valley's most successful and prominent families. Highly affluent and well-educated, Lower Merion, anglicized from the Welsh "Meirionnydd," has been Montgomery County's most prominent township for years.

Lower Merion Township is located along Philadelphia's Main Line, right outside of Philadelphia on the Schuylkill Expressway or the R-5 (Thorndale/Paoli) SEPTA Regional Rail line. Lower Merion offers a quick commute to Philadelphia for those who can afford its splendor.

Situated amongst rolling hills, deep gorges, and old forests, the stately stone homes in Gladwyne along Conshohocken State Road near the Philadelphia Country Club, along with the estates around Old Gulph Road in Bryn Mawr and Villanova, are some of the most spectacular residences in America.

Lower Merion is home to some of America's premier educational institutions. Bryn Mawr College, one of the Seven Sisters of liberal arts colleges, is located wholly within the Township. Haverford College, one of America's highest regarded liberal arts colleges, is also partially located within the township, as is St. Joe's University. Both Lower Merion High School, the alma matter of Kobe Bryant which serves the lower half of Lower Merion, and Harriton High school are regarded as two of the nation's finest public high schools.

Lower Merion Township was once a stronghold for the GOP. However, along with most of the Delaware Valley, it trended towards the Democrats in the 80s and 90s. As the national party became more outspoken in its social conservatism advocacy, Lower Merion reacted rather negatively.

Did that trend continue in 2012? Find out below.

RockRibbedR :: Mapping MontCo- Lower Merion Township in 2012

Lower Merion's Election Results in Recent Years

In 1992, Lower Merion gave 54.7% of its vote to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, giving it a PVI of D+11.7 to the national average.

In 1996, Lower Merion gave 59.1% of its vote to Bill Clinton, giving it a PVI of D+9.9.

(Note: these 1992 and 1996 figures were not calculated using a two party share, thanks to Ross Perot's influence in both election).

In 2000, Lower Merion gave 66.89% of its two party vote share to then-Vice President Al Gore giving it a PVI of D+17.59.

In 2004, Lower Merion gave 67.86% of its two party vote share to Senator John Kerry giving it a PVI of D+18.13.

In 2008, Lower Merion gave 70.75% of its two party vote share to Barack Obama giving it a 2008 PVI of D+17.07.

In 2012, Lower Merion Township, PA gave 66.3% of its two party vote share to President Barack Obama giving it a 2012 PVI of D+14.46.

Voting Pattern Analysis

The commonly held notion that Lower Merion has been trending left during the 2000s and beyond seems to be a false one. Its PVI was fairly consitent from 2000 to 2008, and Mitt Romney proved to put up the strongest performance in Lower Merion of any Republican Presidential candidate since Bob Dole in 1996.

Lower Merion seemed to trend hard away from the GOP in the 1990s, largely thanks to the national GOP's socially conservative bent, but it appears that the party already hit the lowest point it will reach in Lower Merion back in the early and mid-2000s.

Lower Merion in 2012, Mapped

Below are maps that show how Mitt Romney performed in 2012 and how John McCain performed in 2008.

Lower Merion in 2008


Lower Merion in 2012

Lower Merion Township Presidential Results 2012

Red precincts were won by Mitt Romney. His strongest performance was in the northern Gladwyne precinct, where he reached ~56.5% of the two party vote share. His performances in Villanova and the competitive Bryn Mawr precincts were all around 50% give or take a few points. The light blue precincts in Villanova and Gladwyne were just barely lost by Romney. The light blue precincts in lower Lower Merion voted 55+% for President Obama but are light blue to show that they are significantly less blue than the rest of the area. The precinct along City Avenue that's less blue than the rest of the area is the St. Joe's precinct, unsurprising seeing as it's a Catholic university.


While the lower half of Lower Merion contains plenty of "latte liberal" types in communities like Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Merion, Wynnewood, Penn Wynne, Haverford, and Penn Valley, it's worth noting that these areas are full of academics and are more heavily Jewish than the upper portion of Lower Merion. These communities also have smaller homes, have lower income figures than upper Lower Merion (yet are still quite wealthy, such as Wynnewood with its median household income level at $111,000), and some of these communities even have sections of row homes. Unsurprisingly, the lower half of Lower Merion is also the far more hostile half to the GOP.

The upper and more affluent (and less Jewish and academic) half of Lower Merion is still fairly friendly to Republicans (outside of the area of Bryn Mawr influenced by Bryn Mawr College). Mitt Romney performed strongly in Gladwyne, Villanova, and Bryn Mawr. The Lower Merion portion of Villanova has a median family income of $366,904 (according to a 2009 estimate), and Gladwyne's median family income, according to the 2012 census, was over $200,000. Bryn Mawr's 19010 zip code also contains a large swath of Radnor Township and a small portion of Haverford Township.

A common theme here on RRH is that upper income areas are bad news for the GOP, but it's worth noting that, in Lower Merion, the higher income a community, generally speaking, the more Republican it has stayed.

Final note: Thanks much, TexasR, for finding the 1992 and 1996 Presidential data for Lower Merion Township!

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Thanks for the shout-out!
I must say, this is quite the wealth (pun semi-intended) of information. I believe that you see a similar pattern in North Dallas and the Park Cities, where the wealthier areas are more Republican than the upper-middle class areas. It's good to see some proof that this is also the case elsewhere.

The fact that Romney won five precincts in LMT, whereas McCain only won one gives me some hope that it is possible to make inroads in LMT with the right candidate.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

Important to note
The Romney precincts are much more sparsely populated than the lower parts of Lower Merion.  Overall we're not close to being competitive.  

[ Parent ]
Kobe? Really?
Lower Merion High School, the alma matter of Kobe Bryant? [ahem] Sure, he puts the ball in the hoop, but how much has he contributed to RRH? I haven't read any insightful diaries of his.

I voted in Lower Merion four times, 1984, 1986, 1988, and 1990, all prior to your analysis. I voted Reagan, Specter, Bush, and Heinz, every time checking the box for Larry Coughlin. Of course Coughlin was never in any danger of losing to a Democrat.

I'll be in Lower Merion tomorrow.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

Your return home
Heh, I should hold up a really obnoxiously huge "WELCOME HOME, LCL!" sign on Lancaster Avenue.

I guess Lower Merion High School can also be indirectly thanked for your diaries and analyses. Thank you for LCL, Lower Merion.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Just sayin'

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
I arrived
But won't be going by Lancaster avenue until tomorrow. Time to put up the sign.  

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
Your arrival
I laid out the palm leaves and red carpet and will be watching your procession from the Bruegger's or the Saxby's right off campus. :p

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Any bright political future for the Republican
LM Commissioners Jenny Brown, Phil Rosenzweig, Scott Zelov, and Lewis Gould, Jr.? Jenny Brown tried to run for MontCo Commissioner but lost. Do you think the others would try to run for higher offices, too?  

You should throw the little borough into your analysis since they are usually kept together for obvious reasons.

South Philly Gay Republican

It's just not special enough to be part of Lower Merion, so why include it? ;)

In all seriousness, I didn't include it because the available figures from 1992 and 1996 did not include it.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
I believe it's populated by lepers and criminals like Australia.

R, CA-37; hometown: PA-2

[ Parent ]
I always thought Lower Merion seemed like the Philly version of Newton, MA
Except Newton switched to the Democrats in the 1960's. I believe Romney won a bunch of precincts there in 2002, and Brown a couple in 2010, but no Republican Presidential candidate has likely won a precinct there since the 1980's.

Baker '14
R, MA-3

Newton, Weston, & Wellesley v. Lower Merion
I'd actually say that the lower half of Lower Merion (meaning Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Penn Valley, Merion, and Ardmore) is fairly similar to Newton culturally, demographically (read: heavily Jewish and stuffed full of latte liberals), and through its similar median household income numbers to Newton's. The two places also vote similarly.

The upper half of Lower Merion is a lot like Weston and Wellesley, MA (outside of Wellesley College and its influenced precinct or two where some lower earning than the rest of Wellesley young professors live).

The population density of Lower Merion is 2,419 people per square mile, and the upper half of Lower Merion's sits far lower than that and the lower half sits far higher than that. Newton's is nearly double Lower Merion's average at 4,678 people per square mile. An example of where one of the more spacious communities in the lower half of Lower Merion sits in regards to population density is Wynnewood's density, which was 3,882 people per square mile as of 2000. The areas around the borough of Narberth sit far closer to Narberth's population density of 8,572 people per square mile. I'm sure there's some variation like this in Newton and I'm wondering if there's any political composition correlation, though there certainly is when you look at Wellesley and Weston compared to Newton.

It's worth noting that Wellesley's population density sits at 2,667 people per square mile and Weston's sits at 651 people per square mile. Gladwyne's population density sits at 826 people per square mile, and the rest of the upper half of Lower Merion sits around there, too.
That means that, especially in the upper half of Lower Merion, you have far more room than in the lower half of Lower Merion for sprawling estates and $3-10+ million dollar mansions. Wellesley and (especially) Weston also have far more room for those types of mansions and properties than Newton does.

Like Wellesley and Weston, the upper half of Lower Merion is far more WASPy than Jewish (and is more affluent than the lower half of Lower Merion, like Wellesley and Weston are more wealthy than Newton). It's also far more Republican than the rest of Lower Merion, like how Wellesley and Weston are far more Republican than Newton is.

Frankly, I don't see the upper half of Lower Merion turning more liberal politically. It'll always be culturally, demographically, and physically similar to Weston and Wellesley while the lower half of Lower Merion will always be far more like Newton.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Sorry I missed this post!
I don't know much about Lower Merion, besides what I have gleaned from this discussion, so I am probably not useful in generating any comparisons.

Weston and Wellesley are indeed the iconic towns of the "WASP"s in Massachusetts. Both are contenders depending on the measurement as the wealthiest community in the state. And both are FAR more Republican than Newton. However, both are probably more liberal than "Upper-Lower" Middle Merion. They also have large Jewish populations, and a lot of the folks that live in Newton, but want a little extra yard.
Twenty years ago, Weston was a Republican stronghold, and Wellesley was still a Republican leaner. Both gave Romney 60% in 2002, but Brown failed to reach that with either in 2010.
Romney was able to do quite a bit better in both communities than McCain. Romney took 42% in Wellesley, carrying the town's super GOP precinct along the Weston border (the most spacious lots are there). He got crushed in the Wellesley College precinct. McCain on the other hand got a pathetic 34% in Wellesley.
Weston is probably like your Gladwyne, Romney nearly carried it this time out, with 47%! However, that probably again, makes it more liberal than Gladwyne though. Let's call it the Massachusetts Effect. McCain got 38%, which is quite a bit lower than usual for Weston.

You mentioned variation in Newton, and indeed it exists! After all, the city of Newton prides itself on its "thirteen" villages, even though there are fourteen. The fourteenth is chopped into four precincts, so I couldn't map it. Ironically, it's "Four Corners". The variation isn't as interesting considering every village is pretty liberal, and its hard to do a good analysis on the villages considering I've spent very little time in many of them, and frankly, the precincts don't match their boundaries perfectly. I did the best I could do below.


Auburndale: 28%/34%
One of the more middle class neighborhoods in the city. Lots of small houses, busy stretch along Comm Ave., not very quaint. Home to former Congressman Barney Frank (D).

Chestnut Hill: 32%/38%
Chestnut Hill is one of Newton's nicest neighborhoods, but one it shares with Brookline and Brighton. Home of my alma mater Boston College. Lots of old grand estates here, and still one of Massachusetts' most desirable and well-known neighborhoods. Former home of former Congressman Father Robert Drinan (D).

Newtonville: 22%/28%
An upper middle class neighborhood off of the busier streets of the city, lots of liberal families here. Nice houses with a little space. Home to Newton North High and Newton Mayor Setti Warren (D).

Newton Center: 21%/26%
The traffic-clogged, typical New England style downtown. Small shops and non-chain restaurants. A little downscale on the housing side closer in, starts to feel like surrounding neighborhoods as you drive out of it, aka a little nicer. Former home of former Senator Edward Brooke (R).

Newton Corner: 25%/30%
Bordering Brighton, along I-90, and home to a very confusing and traffic clogged commercial downtown. Lots of old houses of varying sizes. Home to State Treasurer Steve Grossman (D), and State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D).

Newton Highlands: 22%/29%
Kind of like Newtonville but on the other side of Newton Center. Has a large commercial stretch along Neeedham street with chains and stores, the horror.

Newton Lower Falls: 20%/25%
Former site of Industry in the 18th-19th Century along the Charles River. Small old houses. Home of Newton State Rep. Kay Khan (D).

Newton Upper Falls: 27%/34%
Pretty much like Newton Lower Falls, but farther upstream. A little bit bigger, nicer, and has both some small businesses and apartment complexes.

Nonantum: 32%/40%
The Italian neighborhood of Newton. Solidly middle class, and home to a confusing dialect, "Lake Talk", and longtime former State Auditor and boxer Joe DeNucci (D).

Oak Hill: 38%/45%
A middle class neighborhood more like West Roxbury than the rest of the Newton. It was mostly built after WWII. Home to Newton South High School, and Newton State Rep Ruth Balser (D).

Thompsonville: 28%/35%
A very small village, that frankly, I have no recollection of at all.

Waban: 23%/30%
One of the more affluent villages, and whitest. I remember seeing lots of home remodeling trucks in the area, and every house is pretty nice with a nice yard. A little set of shops that you can drive by in about 10 seconds. I bought some nails at a hardware shop there once for a $1. The owner was disappointed, I wonder how many customers came in before me that day. Very liberal.  

Baker '14
R, MA-3

[ Parent ]
Interesting Lower Merion tidbits
It's worth mentioning that Lower Merion is the largest municipality in Montgomery County, and is PA's 11th largest municipality, larger than Harrisburg (state capital) Altoona, or Wilkes-Barre.

No State Representatives, State Senators, or Congressman reside in Lower Merion. Governor Milton Shapp (1970-1978) lived here while Governor.

No state house district is based entirely in the township. Instead, it is carved up into 4 pieces attached to other municipalities. This is a contentious issue with voters in both parties, who feel the township deserves it's own seat.

The wealthiest zip code in PA, 19035, covers part of Lower Merion. This Gladwyne section of the township has the highest per capita income in PA at $90,000. Household income is also among the highest in PA.

Philly's NBC station is located in the township. All the other major network stations are within the city limits. (It's unusual for a TV station not to be inside the city limits of a major city).

The township is home to 3 classy department stores: Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord & Taylor. The latter two have no stores at all within the city limits, and this is also Saks only location in PA.

35, Libertarian leaning D, living in PA-7
Originally from PA-4 (the old PA-17)

Good map with data
I find all this data very interesting. The sheer size of a few of these wards is impressive.

It's a diverse place to drive though. On a 20 minute drive, you can see sprawling 100 year old mansions, brand new big homes, and lower income rowhomes. The township really could be broken up into 3 or 4 distinct towns.

35, Libertarian leaning D, living in PA-7
Originally from PA-4 (the old PA-17)

Lower Merion
What would those 3-4 towns consist of to you? That's an interesting idea. I think that Gladwyne, Villanova, and most of Bryn Mawr and parts of Haverford would easily be one of those towns.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Hard to say
I'll try to limit this mostly to settlements all (or mostly) within the township.

1) Wynnewood, including Bala Cynwyd would we one portion. This is the densely populated part, near Merion Station, Merion itself, etc.

2) Ardmore would cover the downtown parts, including the Haverford portion.

3) Bryn Mawr would cover the other downtown part, and would include the Villanova sections (Villanova is also largely in Radior Township) as well as much of the "new construction" parts of the township.

4) Gladwyne would strictly be rolling hills and really huge houses with a mostly rural feel.

35, Libertarian leaning D, living in PA-7
Originally from PA-4 (the old PA-17)

[ Parent ]
Montgomery County
I think Lower Merion is a lost cause.  The place is just as Democratic as Pottstown, which has a significantly more African American.  If you include Pottstown and its neighboring municipalities it is actually a lot less Democratic than Lower Merion.

29, Republican, PA-6

"Lost cause"
I'm not saying that Lower Merion will ever be competitive as a whole again; I'm simply saying that it's important that the upper half stay competitive (and Republican leaning, in places) and that we don't let Lower Merion and the Main Line trend left any more than they have if we want to stay relevant in Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties.

From IL-09, familial roots in MI-14, college in PA-02/07, and working for the summer in DC-AL.

Andy Hill for WA-Governor!

[ Parent ]
Lower Merion
How does it perform on a statewide and State Leg level? What is the partisan affiliation of the local elected officials?

Also what is it about Gladwyne that allowed Romney to perform strongly in?

21-Cubano, R, CA-38
Community College Trustee, AD57 GOP Central Committee Vice-Chair, College Republican Club President

Pretty Democratic
The Republicans in 2001 pushed for a pretty insane gerrymander of the southern portion of Montgomery County trying to win three legislative seats by splitting Lower Merion into three districts.  One was obviously going Dem as it is attached to the Overbrook neighborhood of Philly.  The Republicans attempted to keep the two others by attaching them to more Republican leaning areas, which in fact are swing areas compared to Lower Merion.  Obviously this failed and the Democrats got two seats instead of one if they would have given Lower Merion its own seat.

Gladwyne has a lower population density and is more old money.  You see the same pattern with Upper Moreland compared to Abington in the southeastern corner of the county.

29, Republican, PA-6

[ Parent ]

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