Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Voter Migration and the Geographic Sorting of the American Electorate

        In the United States, most citizens can be divided into two categories: Republican or Democrat. We can determine this by looking at majority votes towards politicians and which ones are in office. States can be divided into red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) states. In the map below, we can see how the United States is divided in political party preference, with the colors regarding the party affiliation of the governor. However, the party affiliation of an area can sometimes be contradictory towards an individual's preferences. This can cause a migration to an area that an individual finds more suitable for his or her political views. 

Party Control of Governors' Offices (December 2014)
Blue: Democratic Governor   Red: Republican Governor   Yellow: Independent Governor
(Areas in grey boxes in bottom left are US territories)

        In the study by Cho, Gimpel, and Hui, the migration patterns due to party affiliation of citizens of the United States were examined. In 2004, 2006, and 2008, seven states were examined to determine how this migration affected the "political landscape" of each state. These seven states were New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania in the East; and California, Oregon, and Nevada in the West. These states were chosen "for their adjacency, because they register voters by political party, and, importantly, because they maintain accessible, high-quality voter registration records" (Cho, Gimpel, and Hui, 2014). Using these records the migration patterns of the voters could be followed. When looking at the areas that the individuals migrated to, they tended to go to areas where it was more politically favorable towards them. Republicans moved to where Republicans would benefit and Democrats moved to where Democrats would benefit. Many factors come into play when referring to favorable areas for an individual and his or her party, such as "racial composition, income, population density, and age" (Cho, Gimpel, and Hui, 2014). According to the study, income and economic status were the most motivational incentives. Many other factors come into play, as well, but harder to gauge because they could be personal reasons to an individual, that is to say, not entirely political. While showing definitive results, the study does not represent all of America, only seven states. Because of this, the data must be taken with a grain of salt.

Resources: Cho, W., Gimpel, J., & Hui, I. (n.d.). Voter Migration and the Geographic Sorting of the     
        American Electorate. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 856-870.   
        Retrieved September 29, 2015.


  1. It seems like voter migration to areas that are politically favorable is just a side effect of income and economic status as you pointed out. The title and main point of the article seems misleading then- people generally aren't migrating because they want to live in a state where a certain party is dominant, they want to live in a state that gives their family the best opportunity for a good life. It sounds like these two objectives coincide, so you see these patterns of migration.

  2. Is it fair to say that a state is a "useful" unit when measuring political landscape?
    Apart from the limited use of the data, it seems like it may lead to characterization of states' political leanings.