Monday, February 1, 2016

Voter Migration and the Geographic Sorting of the American Electorate

It has been shown in several studies that the United States is increasingly divided – not only ideologically, but geographically – by its citizens’ political views. In their study, Cho, Gimpel, and Hui hypothesize that migration to areas with similar political leanings to oneself may be behind these increasing patterns of partisanship. They utilize three years of data from voter files from seven states to “identify and track migration flows” within and across state lines. Cho, Gimpel, and Hui use a multivariate analysis using GIS to tease apart the various factors influencing migration and determine if political motivation is a significant one. 

They find that, unsurprisingly, factors such as racial composition, income, population density, and age all are significant determinants in migrants’ choice of destination. However, partisanship  (for both Republicans and Democrats) is also found as a significant factor, even after other neighborhood characteristics are taken into account. This does not mean that migrants always consciously choose areas with similar political leanings to their own – other variables that are associated with certain political views (such as attitudes towards mass transit, consumer choices, and access to amenities) can “help to create a partisan sorting … [even without] overtly political considerations.” Partisan geographic divisions are still increasing, and Cho, Gimpel, and Hui argue they could be due in part to politically-motivated migration choices. 

Tam Cho, W. K., Gimpel, J. G., & Hui, I. S. (2013). Voter migration and the geographic sorting of the American electorate. Annals of the Association of American Geographers103(4), 856-870.

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. 
Simone Yoxall


  1. This is really interesting, and particularly relevant as the US seems to become increasingly segregated according to political party affiliation. I wonder which of those factors has the highest association with partisanship and how much education or where colleges are located influence those migration choices.

  2. I can see how the race, income and age are factors that motivate migrants to live in a certain area. Who gets a hold of these map? It would be interesting to see if congressmen would use these to their advantage to gain popularity in certain cities.