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Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have analyzed almost 40 years of election data and relocation patterns around the United States and found that Americans are increasingly sorting themselves into politically homogeneous communities. But it hasn’t happened in the way they expected. Their research was published online last week in the journal Political Geography.
Corey Lang, assistant professor of environmental economics, and Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, associate professor of political science, sought evidence for claims made in the 2008 book The Big Sort that suggested that people were choosing to live in politically segregated communities where Republicans and Democrats had little interaction with each other. Many academics disagreed with author Bill Bishop’s hypothesis, so Lang and Pearson-Merkowitz decided to test it.
They examined data from presidential elections for every county in the country from 1976 to 2012, scrutinizing how voter support for political parties changed from one election to another.