Misplaced: The Limits of Contextual Influence on Americans' Political Attitudes
47 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
Are Americans' political attitudes shaped by where they live? To date, research on the effects of local contexts in the U.S. has focused on a small subset of potential contextual influences, most notably racial demographics. This paper develops competing hypotheses about the extent to which political attitudes are shaped by contextual attributes more generally. It then analyzes the spatial correlates of attitudes across 11 different issues, including air pollution, climate change, crime, defense spending, economic growth, federal land, income inequality, immigration, nuclear power, terrorism, and wolf hunting. In keeping with hypotheses emphasizing the``morselized'' nature of public opinion, the central finding is of very limited spatial influence. The issues that do show spatial patterning are those that are already salient in national politics. Considered jointly, the results suggest that contextual influence is more the exception than the rule, and that contextual attributes are more likely to be influential when politicized.
Keywords: local contexts, neighborhood effects, public opinion, attitude formation
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