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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.
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 constant 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
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!