Abstract

https://ssrn.com/abstract=2477157
 


 



Geography, Uncertainty, and Polarization


Nolan McCarty


Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Jonathan Rodden


Stanford University

Boris Shor


University of Houston - Department of Political Science; Georgetown University, Department of Government

Chris Tausanovitch


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Chris Warshaw


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

August 27, 2015


Abstract:     
Using new data on roll-call voting of U.S. state legislators and public opinion in their districts, we explain how ideological polarization of voters within districts can lead to legislative polarization. So-called "moderate'' districts that switch hands between parties are often internally polarized: the ideological distance between Democrats and Republicans within these districts is often greater than the distance between liberal cities and conservative rural districts. We present a theoretical model in which intra-district ideological polarization makes candidates uncertain about the ideological location of the median voter, thereby reducing their incentives to offer moderate policy positions. We then demonstrate that among districts with similar median voter ideologies, the difference in legislative behavior between Democratic and Republican state legislators is greater in more ideologically heterogeneous districts. Our findings suggest that accounting for the subtleties of political geography can help explain the coexistence of a polarized legislature and a moderate mass public.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 56

Keywords: polarization, public opinion, geography


Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: August 8, 2014 ; Last revised: September 18, 2015

Suggested Citation

McCarty, Nolan and Rodden, Jonathan and Shor, Boris and Tausanovitch, Chris and Warshaw, Chris, Geography, Uncertainty, and Polarization (August 27, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2477157

Contact Information

Nolan McCarty
Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )
Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States
(609) 258-1862 (Phone)
(609) 258-2809 (Fax)
Jonathan Rodden
Stanford University ( email )
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
Boris Shor (Contact Author)
University of Houston - Department of Political Science ( email )
Houston, TX 77204-3011
United States
Georgetown University, Department of Government ( email )
Washington, DC 20057
United States
3122834599 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://research.bshor.com
Christopher Nicolas Tausanovitch
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science ( email )
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Chris Warshaw
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 978
Downloads: 197
Download Rank: 121,874