Authors: Daniel Phillips*, University of California - Santa Barbara
Topics: Political Geography, Environmental Perception, United States
Keywords: Redistricting, electoral geography, communities of interest
Session Type: Poster
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download
When drawing boundaries of electoral districts, officials commonly rely on four criteria besides equal population: contiguity, compactness, respect for administrative regions, and respect for communities of interest. That last criterion is not as easily defined, as what exactly constitutes a community of interest is open to interpretation. This research evaluates the merits of one potential method for identifying and defining such communities, by surveying residents and asking them to draw the boundaries of their community of interest on a map. Those areas covered by many respondents' drawings would thus constitute the core of people's cognitive community of interest. A study conducted in Santa Barbara County, California demonstrates that this method results in clearly-defined and coherent communities of interest. The study also reveals that survey participants, despite the fact that all of them live in the same district, conceive of separate urban and rural communities of interest. Furthermore, the extent of the map given to participants has a large effect on the size of the community of interest that they draw. These results indicate the importance of the urban-rural dichotomy and the effects of scale in defining what a community of interest is.