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Myths and Realities of American Political Geography


  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Bryce A. Ward


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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  • Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2006. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2100, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2100

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    1. Paola Conconi & Giovanni Facchini & Maurizio Zanardi, 2012. "Fast-Track Authority and International Trade Negotiations," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 146-189, August.
    2. Autor, David & Dorn, David & Hanson, Gordon & Majlesi, Kaveh, 2016. "Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure," Working Papers 2016:21, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    3. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro & Matt Taddy, 2016. "Measuring Polarization in High-Dimensional Data: Method and Application to Congressional Speech," Working Papers id:11114, eSocialSciences.
    4. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2014. "Competition and Ideological Diversity: Historical Evidence from US Newspapers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(10), pages 3073-3114, October.
    5. Conconi, Paola & DeRemer, David R. & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Trimarchi, Lorenzo & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2017. "Suspiciously timed trade disputes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 57-76.
    6. DiPrete, Thomas A. & Gelman, Andrew & Teitler, Julien & Zheng, Tian & McCormick, Tyler, 2008. "Segregation in social networks based on acquaintanceship and trust," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Inequality and Social Integration SP I 2008-204, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    7. Klor, Esteban F. & Shayo, Moses, 2010. "Social identity and preferences over redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 269-278, April.
    8. Jon H. Fiva & Olle Folke & Rune J. Sørensen, 2013. "The Power of Parties," CESifo Working Paper Series 4119, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Makowsky, Michael D., 2011. "Religion, clubs, and emergent social divides," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 74-87.
    10. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2011. "Ideological Segregation Online and Offline," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1799-1839.
    11. Abdul Munasib & Devesh Roy, 2008. "Socializing Interactions and Social Attitude Formation," Economics Working Paper Series 0802, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
    12. Pierce, Lamar & Rogers, Todd & Snyder, Jason A., 2015. "Losing Hurts: The Happiness Impact of Partisan Electoral Loss," Working Paper Series rwp14-051, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    13. Levernier, William & Barilla, Anthony G., 2006. "The Effect of Region, Demographics, and Economic Characteristics on County-Level Voting Patterns in the 2000 Presidential Election," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 36(3), pages 427-447.
    14. repec:spr:jecfin:v:41:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s12197-017-9389-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Matthew Gentzkow & Nathan Petek & Jesse M. Shapiro & Michael Sinkinson, 2015. "Do Newspapers Serve The State? Incumbent Party Influence On The Us Press, 1869–1928," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 29-61, February.
    16. Edward L. Glaeser & Cass R. Sunstein, 2007. "Extremism and Social Learning," NBER Working Papers 13687, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Hillman, Arye L., 2010. "Expressive behavior in economics and politics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 403-418, December.
    18. Halberstam, Yosh & Montagnes, B. Pablo, 2015. "Presidential coattails versus the median voter: Senator selection in US elections," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 40-51.
    19. Kumar, Alok & Page, Jeremy K. & Spalt, Oliver G., 2011. "Religious beliefs, gambling attitudes, and financial market outcomes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(3), pages 671-708.
    20. Tomer Blumkin & Volker Grossmann, 2010. "May increased partisanship lead to convergence of parties’ policy platforms?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 547-569, December.
    21. Leandro M. de Magalhães, 2011. "Political Parties and the Tax Level in the American States: A Regression Discontinuity Design," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 11/622, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.

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