From Policy Preferences to Partisan Support: A Quantitative Assessment of Political Culture in South Dakota
This study uses cross-county variation in support for 46 ballot measures to identify political subcultures in South Dakota and to study them. A hierarchical clustering method applied to county-level election returns allows the identification of subcultures at various levels of granularity. We choose a threshold that suggests seven subcultures as a useful summary of the data. While the allocation procedure employs only election returns as an input, the identified subcultures match observable regularities in demographics and geography. Subsequent factor analysis of election returns from the ballot measures reveals a multi-dimensional policy space. By contrast, a similar analysis of support for political candidates reveals a single partisan spectrum as a dominant feature of the data. A county’s location in the revealed policy space well explains its location along this partisan spectrum. The link between policy and partisan preferences is robust to the inclusion of a wide variety of additional control measures.
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