WATERTOWN, N.Y.—Watertown, in a remote stretch of upstate New Yorkknown as the North Country, is an unforgiving place. In winter, the snow careens off Lake Ontario and entombs the town in installments of feet, not inches. The crows arrive around the same time, in whirling flocks, to roost along the Black River. There are so many of them that city contractors have to scare them off with fireworks and lasers, a confusing spectacle of cawing and light. By January, when the temperatures can drop below –10 degrees and the wind whips up, your eyelashes can freeze together before you reach your car.
When Watertown gets national attention, it is usually because of Fort Drum, the home of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The nearby base employs every third worker in Jefferson County and provides a welcome infusion of federal money and new families into town. President Donald Trump came here in August to sign a military-spending bill before a tableau of soldiers and weaponry.
But Watertown is notable for another reason, officially unrecognized until now. It is located in one of the most politically tolerant counties in America, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis conducted for TheAtlantic by PredictWise. Using an original national poll, voter-registration files, and other large data sets, PredictWise determined that Jefferson County and several nearby counties in the North Country are distinct from other parts of America. (See the accompanying story for more details about this analysis.) These are places where people can disagree on politics but still, it appears, give one another the benefit of the doubt.