What is the ACP?

The United States is remaking itself in the 21st Century. Changes in technology and economics are redefining the social, political and cultural fault lines that make the country what it is. The American Communities Project exists to explore those changes with a massive data library and a demographic/geographic breakdown of communities that lets it understand where the country is going at the local level.

A combined political science/journalism effort based at American University, the ACP uses a vast array of data – from elections results and economic numbers to consumer survey and poling – to break communities into different types for analysis. The primary point: Even in the age of the Web, people in different places experience the world very differently.

Working with academics, the ACP used a wide range of different factors – everything from income to race and ethnicity to education to religious affiliation – and a clustering technique to identify 15 types of counties, everything from Big Cities to Aging Farmlands. It has mapped those types to show where the country’s political, socio-economic and cultural fissures are.

The result is an unprecedented growing attempt to understand the subtleties and complexities of the United States as the country reimagines its future and its place in the world. The Project correlates economic and demographic data to election results and consumer data to see what is moving those different communities and to see who is surviving and who is thriving in the 21st Century United States.

The Project’s data library is immense and expanding. Economic and political data is gathered from government sources. Consumer data comes from a partnership the with Experian Marketing Services, a leading marketing firm. The ACP also has strategic partnerships with major polling operations, including Public Opinion Strategies, Peter D. Hart Research and the Pew Research Center.

Award-winning journalist Dante Chinni directs the Project and writes stories and analyses for media partners including the Wall Street Journal and WNYC Radio in New York. Chinni is the creator of Patchwork Nation, the predecessor of the American Communities Project, and is the author of the book Our Patchwork Nation. He writes the regular Politics Counts online column for the Wall Street Journal.