The Politics of Regional Resentment: Economic Globalization and the Emergence of US Electoral Regions

Authors: Jason Spicer*, University of Toronto, Michael Storper, London School of Economics
Topics: Economic Geography, Political Geography, United States
Keywords: economic geography, populism, political geography, globalization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maryland B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Rising inter-regional economic inequality has been argued to contribute to electoral polarization and anti-globalist populist outcomes through an emergent politics of regional resentment. But there has been little empirical work on the relationship between regional economic dynamics and electoral politics. Political scientists have largely examined politically-defined electoral jurisdictions (Congressional Districts, States) while ignoring the regional economic scale. Geographers have dismissed regional electoral patterns as a statistical artifact of individual voter characteristics, ignoring that the spatial distribution of these characteristics is endogenous to the question of globalization’s effect on politics. We argue that globalization’s regional economic dynamics have contributed to rising regional political resentment through heterogeneous selection and context effects. Individuals with certain socioeconomic characteristics have sorted unevenly across regions due to globalization, exacerbating inter-regional electoral polarization. Within regions, electoral behavior is further influenced by local interaction effects. We empirically test and affirm this theory using US Presidential election data at the regional scale over time with three key findings: (1) inter-regional electoral polarization is affirmed as rising since the 1970s; (2) selection effects by region by race, immigration status, education, and income are measured and affirmed as non-random; (3) using spatial regression techniques, inter-regional heterogeneity in the effect of voter characteristics on electoral outcomes is confirmed and used to identify the emergence of different types of electoral regions, based on their relationship to economic globalization. We conclude by examining the regional economic development planning and policy implications, as well as electoral/political ramifications of these findings.

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