• David Darmofal
  • Ryan Strickler
Part of the Spatial Demography Book Series book series (SPDE, volume 2)


Across academic inquiry and popular political discourse, a consensus has emerged that the U.S. political landscape, since 2000, has become sharply polarized between ‘red’ and ‘blue’ territories. But is this more hype than reality? In this introductory chapter, we provide an overview of literature on partisan and geographic polarization. Democratic and Republican political elites have increasingly become more ideologically homogenous and extreme since the 1990s; the extent the partisan public has followed suit remains in debate. Research on public partisan behavior, however, relies heavily on survey and, increasingly, experimental methodology. Although these methods can yield valuable insight, they are ill suited to examine the spatial and historical dimensions of partisan behavior and change. In contrast, and as outlined in this chapter, we use spatial analysis and a dataset of county-level voting behavior and demographic variables dating to 1828, to place the modern consensus of partisan and geographic polarization in historical context. Across the chapters that follow, an overarching theme emerges—the modern partisan political landscape is not uniquely polarized when one looks at the full run of U.S. history. And the factors that drive partisan conflict today are the same as in the past.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Darmofal
    • 1
  • Ryan Strickler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceColorado State University PuebloPuebloUSA

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