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Purple America

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Author Info

  • Stephen Ansolabehere
  • Jonathan Rodden
  • James M. Snyder Jr.

Abstract

America, we are told, is a nation divided. The cartographers who draw up the maps of U.S. election results have branded a new division in American politics: Republican red versus Democratic blue. What is the source of this division? Most observers point not to the bread-and-butter economic issues of the New Deal alignment but to a "culture war." In this paper, we draw on data from three decades of survey research to see how the electorate divides along economic and moral issues. While showing that moral values are not irrelevant, the survey data roundly reject the basic claims of the culture war thesis: that voters are polarized over moral issues, and this division maps onto important demographic categories like religious affiliation; that moral issues have more salience or weight in the minds of voters than economic issues; and that this division accounts for red and blue cartography (because red-state voters are moral conservatives who vote on moral issues without regard for their economic interests or preferences.) We put issue cleavages and electoral maps into historical perspective and demonstrate that over the course of the twentieth century there has been a noteworthy political convergence between the states. Compared to the past, the political geography of the United States today is purple.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.20.2.97
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 20 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 97-118

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:2:p:97-118

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.2.97
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  1. Roger B. Myerson, 1995. "Analysis of Democratic Institutions: Structure, Conduct and Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 77-89, Winter.
  2. Alesina, Alberto F & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 565, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Kenneth Rogoff, 1987. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," NBER Working Papers 2428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Alesina, Alberto & Londregan, John, 1993. "A Model of the Political Economy of the United States," Scholarly Articles 4552529, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  9. Woojin Lee & John Roemer, 2005. "Values and Politics in the US: An Equilibrium Analysis of the 2004 Election," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2005-08, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2005. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," NBER Working Papers 11857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael D. Makowsky, 2009. "Religion, Clubs, and Emergent Social Divides," Working Papers 2009-03, Towson University, Department of Economics, revised May 2010.
  3. Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Brandice Canes-Wrone & Steven J. Davis & Jonathan Rodden, 2014. "Why Has US Policy Uncertainty Risen since 1960?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 56-60, May.
  4. Stefan Krasa & Mattias Polborn, 2012. "Elites or Masses? A Structural Model of Policy Divergence, Voter Sorting and Apparent Polarization in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1972-2008," CESifo Working Paper Series 3752, CESifo Group Munich.

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