From Jonathan V Last’s What To Expect When No One’s Expecting:

In 1976 only 26.8 percent of the counties in America went for either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford by a margin of 20 points of more. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. The 1976 election was an incredibly polarized moment with the country shaken by Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. Carter won 50 percent to 48 percent, and in three out of every four counties, the vote was reasonably close, which meant that Republicans and Democrats were, for the most part, evenly intersparsed at the local level, even if, in the aggregate, their states tilted one way or the other.

But after 1976, something happened. As people began graduating from college at higher rates they became increasingly mobile and willing to put down roots far away from where they were raised. And they began to cluster around other like-minded people. So much so that in 2000, America had one of the closest presidential elections in the nation’s history: George W. Bush won the race despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore, 47.9% to 48.4%. Yet in nearly half the counties in America (45.3 of them) the vote wasn’t close at all: Either Gore or Bush won by more than 20 points. In 2004 – another very close election – the percentage of what Bushop and Cushing refer to as “landslide” counties increased to 48.3%. The end result is fewer neighborhoods that are ideologically mixed and more places that look like Old Town [Alexandria] (or its Republican doppelananger). Bishop and Cushing’s conclusion is inescapable: We are sorting ourselves into communities of the saved.

I’d argue, that in addition to sorting, politics is more than ever defined by cultural issues, cultural signalling, and so on. The sort and signalling issues may be related. As a town becomes more Republican or more Democrat, the peer influence for undecideds, cluelesses, and wafflers intensifies.

Category: Statehouse

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4 Responses to Our Self-Sorting Nation

  1. superdestroyer says:

    Of course, the real question is what kind of sorting there will be when the Republicans complete their collapse. Does a party start up on the left of the current Democratic Party or does everyone learn that there is no reason to fight the political correctness and the U.S. settles into a one party state.

    Given the state of politics in places like California, I suspect that most everyone except eccentrics will settle for being Democrats and limiting their political fights to entitlements and how to fund them.

    • trumwill says:

      As always, we disagree on your one-party-nation hypothesis.

      In the extremely unlikely event that you are right, I don’t expect it to have much bearing on the settlement patterns discussed here. People aren’t specifically moving for political reasons, but cultural reasons. Cultural reasons that are, to be fair, often signaled by the red or blue color on a map.

      Even so, I’d expect these kinds of Democrats to live in these neighborhoods, and those kinds of Democrats to live in those neighborhoods. The only real side-effect is that you won’t be able to do so quite as deliberately as before.

      • superdestroyer says:

        If people adjust their political views and beliefs based upon the political fashions and status of those around them, then it makes sense that the U.S. is moving to a one party state. Since no dissent or variation of political views will be tolerate by the power holders in the future, then everyone will just move to having the same POV. I suspect that ethnicity, race, and class is what will affect settlement trends in the future. The elites will work very hard to avoid living around poor people. Poor people will sort themselves out by race and ethnicity for survival purposes.

        • trumwill says:

          I would argue that a lot of people that identify as Democratic and signal in that direction are, as much as anything, signalling against the GOP. Which only works if there is a GOP.

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