Anomalies in Red and Blue: Exceptionalism in American Electoral Geography

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Red and Blue America has become the spatial metaphor for an electoral divide on two main dimensions a nonmetropolitan Red and a larger metropolitan Blue, and a traditionalist Red and a more modem Blue. In this paper, we evaluate the validity and consistency of this conventional wisdom, using both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections results by county. While previous research has underscored the overall pattern and its accuracy, we choose instead to explore mainly the anomalous results: "metropolitan" or "modern" areas that President Bush carried, and "nonmetropolitan" and "traditional" areas that Democrats won. We develop a typology of the anomalous counties and carry out a simple analysis of characteristics that help show how and why they are anomalous. We then compare the 2000 and 2004 results to discover anomalous areas, counties which switched parties or which became more or less partisan. Trends between 2000 and 2004 suggest a weakening of the metropolitan and nonmetropolitan dimension but a deepening of the cultural one, although we note as well that most of the electorate does not place itself at these partisan extremes. We relate these findings to longer term structural changes in American society, and to Republican strategies to mobilize insecure voters. Finally, we lay out an agenda to look at a sample of counties, using qualitative methods, in order to understand these anomalous results.

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Political Geography





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