Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 20 No. 2 (Spring 2006)


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Myths and Realities of American Political Geography

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Glaeser, Edward L., and Bryce A. Ward. 2006. "Myths and Realities of American Political Geography." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(2): 119-144.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.2.119


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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Glaeser, Edward L.
Ward, Bryce A.


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