Partisan Gerrymandering and Political Science

Posted: 17 May 2020

See all articles by Eric McGhee

Eric McGhee

Public Policy Institute of California

Date Written: May 2020


Recent years have seen a tremendous surge of public interest in partisan gerrymandering, including robust reform efforts and multiple high-profile court cases. Political scientists have played an important role in this debate, reaching an unusually high level of public engagement. Yet this public-facing period has to some extent obscured promising avenues for future research within the discipline. I review the history of political science and redistricting and describe how research on this topic has been shaped by the newfound interest. The goals of the law differ from those of political science, so research that focuses squarely on the former often misses opportunities to advance the latter. I lay out the contours of this difference and then suggest reframing the existing metrics of partisan gerrymandering to make them useful for more traditionally scientific questions. Finally, I offer some ideas about what those future questions might look like when reframed in this way.

Suggested Citation

McGhee, Eric, Partisan Gerrymandering and Political Science (May 2020). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 23, pp. 171-185, 2020. Available at SSRN: or

Eric McGhee (Contact Author)

Public Policy Institute of California ( email )

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