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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2005. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," NBER Working Papers 11857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11857
    Note: DAE POL
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11857.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
    3. 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, July.
    4. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2008. "Education and Religion," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 188-215.
    5. Edward L. Glaeser, 2004. "Psychology and the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 408-413, May.
    6. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    7. Stephen Ansolabehere & Jonathan Rodden & James M. Snyder Jr., 2006. "Purple America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 97-118, Spring.
    8. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Persuasion in Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 435-439, May.
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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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations

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