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Myths and Realities of American Political Geography

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Bryce A. Ward

Abstract

The division of America into red states and blue states misleadingly suggests that states are split into two camps, but along most dimensions, like political orientation, states are on a continuum. By historical standards, the number of swing states is not particularly low, and America's cultural divisions are not increasing. But despite the flaws of the red state/blue state framework, it does contain two profound truths. First, the heterogeneity of beliefs and attitudes across the United States is enormous and has always been so. Second, political divisions are becoming increasingly religious and cultural. The rise of religious politics is not without precedent, but rather returns us to the pre-New Deal norm. Religious political divisions are so common because religious groups provide politicians the opportunity to send targeted messages that excite their base.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11857.

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Date of creation: Dec 2005
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Publication status: published as Glaeser, Edward L. and Bryce A. Ward. "Myths and Realities Of American Political Geography," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2006, v20(2,Spring), 119-144.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11857

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  1. Edward E. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 1738, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2005. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330, November.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser, 2004. "Psychology and the Market," NBER Working Papers 10203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stephen Ansolabehere & Jonathan Rodden & James M. Snyder Jr., 2006. "Purple America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 97-118, Spring.
  5. Bruce Sacerdote & Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Education and Religion," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 1913, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  7. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Persuasion in Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 435-439, May.
  8. Fogel, Robert William, 2000. "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226256627, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Miles S. Kimball & Colter M. Mitchell & Arland D. Thornton & Linda C. Young-Demarco, 2009. "Empirics on the Origins of Preferences: The Case of College Major and Religiosity," NBER Working Papers 15182, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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