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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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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
Date of revision:
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 L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 5026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," NBER Working Papers 10835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kevin Murphy & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Persuasion in Politics," NBER Working Papers 10248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser, 2004. "Psychology and the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 408-413, May.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2008. "Education and Religion," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 188-215.
  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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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