Today Democrats are benefiting from both the changing nature of the suburbs and the changing preferences of white college-educated voters there who are repelled by the president. But the second trend is more precarious for Democrats.

That’s because, as the political scientist Jefferey Sellers puts it, many suburban voters tend toward an eclectic mix of preferences that can seem contradictory. Particularly in denser, close-in suburbs, voters tend to be more cosmopolitan than in rural areas and turned off by culture war issues that animate other Republican voters. But they’re also more fiscally conservative than many urban voters, and opposed, for example, to the higher taxes some liberal policies would require.

Rural and urban America clearly have distinct politics, one emphasizing individualism and limited government, the other shared commons that require bigger government. (It’s not entirely clear, though, whether these environments shape people’s politics, or if people choose to live in them because of their politics.)