Voter migration & electoral trends in North Carolina

Authors: Katherine Perry*, University of Oregon
Topics: Political Geography, Population Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: electoral geography, political geography, electoral politics, elections
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Of central importance to American electoral structures is the spatial distribution of voters, a reality that came sharply into focus after Donald Trump’s 2016 popular loss and electoral win. Because American electoral procedures are inherently spatial in nature, the distribution of voters across space occupies a central role as electoral politics play out across various scales (Gimpel and Hui 2015). This study explores voter migration at the county- and state-levels as a force for shaping the evolution of party support (and political polarization) in North Carolina over the last 15 years. In order to untangle the complexity of migration as it relates to political polarization, this project draws on economic geography and labor economics in the United States, the effect of group psychology and the "neighborhood effect," and literature on the role of partisanship in voter migration. Taking a largely quantitative approach, I assess county-level migration trends in North Carolina and characterize electoral patterns at the county-level in order to shed light on how decisions about where to live shape electoral trends in North Carolina today. Using migration data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, I find that the nature of migration diverges significantly between those with a college degree and those without. Using an experimental method based on partisanship data released by Pew Research Center, I estimate the degree of partisan change across North Carolina's counties. The calculations line up with changes on the ground, though imperfectly and with the natural limitations of data-driven research.

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