The urban-rural divide in Oregon has become more pronounced

By Max Denning

In 1966 in Multnomah County, 59 percent of voters were registered Democrats. In the Eastern Oregon region, 56 percent were registered Democrats. Each region of the state was at least 50 percent Democrat. But, Republican Tom McCall handily won the 1966 gubernatorial election with more than 55 percent of the vote, losing only three counties.

More than 50 years later, Oregon’s political landscape has changed dramatically — and the urban-rural divide couldn’t be more apparent. Multnomah County is more liberal than ever with 71 percent of voters registered as Democrats. Eastern Oregon has gone the opposite way, with only 41 percent of voters registered as Democrats. Democrat Kate Brown won re-election by more than 7 percent statewide, but she was chosen by only seven of Oregon’s 36 counties.

What once was only a 3 percent political registration gap between Eastern Oregon and Multnomah County has now skyrocketed to more than 30 percent.

With the state’s population becoming more concentrated around Portland, and Eastern Oregon and Multnomah County becoming so politically disparate, the political voices of East Oregonians have become increasingly silenced. A state that at one time was politically homogeneous has become as polarized as anywhere in the country.

So, what happened?

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