21 Sep 2022


Public Opinion Policy Paper: Geographical Political Polarization in the US

Format: APA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 2070

Pages: 10

Downloads: 0

Political polarization in the US has been a common, but salient problem since the formation of the party system in the 1800s. This trend has continued to influence American politics at all levels. For instance, a state’s value in the electoral college depends on the individuals that occupy the state, they geographical distribution, and party affiliations (Levi & Hechter, 2020). Furthermore, there are states in the US that have different party ideology according to the geographical location. California is a good example that has maintained the north-south political ideology that is a remnant of the political polarizations common during the Civil War. The political divisions in California are deeply entrenched that state meetings always have to be held in Fresno, a city all parties consider as neutral territory (Abrams, 2016). The purpose of this paper is to test the hypothesis on public opinion that the geographical political polarization is informed more by historical precedence and intolerance towards opposing political ideologies than the sum of individual actions by all parties involved. 

Public Opinion – Quantitative and Qualitative 

Quantitative Polls 

In 2018, the Texas Senate race resulted in the winner (Ted Cruz) beating his opponent by 2.5 points. Anyone who observed the election would make the conclusion that the Senate race was very competitive. However, an opinion poll by Martin & Webster (2018) of The Atlantic ignored the state wide data on the elections and polled the voters based on their geographical locations. Their results showed something the Texans were more familiar with: supporters of different political parties were clustered in homogenous geographical enclaves. As a result, their poll concluded with a view that a Texan’s party affiliation is largely related to where they live within the state than it is about who they are. 

It’s time to jumpstart your paper!

Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.

Get custom essay

The Cook Political Report is another opinion poll that has helped conceptualize and prove political polarization by geographic location. Using the famous metric: partisan voter index, the opinion poll informs on how all states and their districts have voted in the last two presidential elections. According to Kilgore (2021), the last two presidential elections have shown an increased level of political polarization by geographical regions. This is further supported by a Pew Research Center survey conducted by the center’s American Trends Panel (Pew Research Center, 2021). The results of the opinion poll show that Democrats and Republicans are increasingly becoming polarized on almost every other issue. Given the geographical concentration of party influence that has been growing since the 1970s, it was inevitable that polarized politics will end up dividing the country more than ever. 

The poll by Webster & Martin (2018) is a valid measure of public opinion for the following reasons. First, since the 1970s, the trend of party polarization along geographical lines has been increasing. If the political polarization continues to develop, the geographical distribution will put the country in the perfect condition for a Civil War. Secondly, the results of the opinion poll are consistent with other trends of political polarization observed in recent years. For instance, Damore et al. (2020) made the observation that Republicans got more votes in rural areas than Democrats. The opposite was also true in the urban areas. 

Content Analysis 

Different factors have contributed to the growing political polarization by geography. For instance, densely populated areas like urban centers have people who are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. In contrast, the sparsely populated areas, such are rural areas, are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat (Tam et al., 2013). These observations are cemented by a content analysis conducted by Paddock (2010) on different states. Kansas, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Missouri have consistently demonstrated increased affiliation with the Democratic party with mean scores of 2.88, 2.87, 2.85, and 2.84 (Paddock, 2010). On the other hand, by determining the mean scores of party affiliation, Paddock (2010) reported that Texas, Oregon, Minnesota, and North Carolina had the greatest affiliation with the Republican party. These scores serve to show the geographical political polarization of the US at the state level. 

Furthermore, just as the states are polarized, public opinion on political issues also changes with party affiliation and geographical distribution. Yet, for the political polarization to have developed along geographical lines, voters must have moved away from states and areas with different political to geographical areas where they are close to people with the same party affiliations and political ideologies as them. This inter-state migration was captured by Tam et al. (2013), who used data from the 2008 presidential elections. In California, for instance, 15,8282,265 Americans registered to vote in the 2008 presidential election. However, Tam et al. (2013) noted that 1,937,147 voters identified as migrant who changed zip codes within the same state. Of these migrants, Tam et al. (2013) notes that 32% were Republicans, 26% identified as independents, and 43% identified as Republicans. 

The same trend is observed with Oregon, where 2,586,966 Americans registered to vote in the presidential election. Of these voters, Tam et al. (2013) noted that 332,653 voters identified as migrants from other states and zip codes. For instance, 30% of the migrants identified as independents, 32% identified as Republicans, and 38% identified as Democrats (Tam et al., 2013). Statistics from other states could be presented to emphasize the observed trend, but would change the scope of this policy paper. However, several observations can be made with the data at hand. 

First, Democrats and Republicans moved more than independents (by percentage). Secondly, Tam et al. (2013) noted that Democrats moved more than Republicans. However, there is a hidden variable that could be confounding the observations. In general, rural urban migration is a common part of development. As a result, any conclusion that claims Democrats moved to urban areas due to their political affiliations needs to justify and eliminate the other reasons people move from rural to urban areas. 

Tam et al. (2013) accounted for these confounding variables by scoring and ranking the top reasons why people moved from one geographical location to another. The researchers then correlated these factors to the party affiliations and political polarization. The results showed that Democrats moved from one place to another due to the affordability of their destination and the destination’s party alignment. For instance, Tam et al. (2013) noted that 29% of the Democrats that changed location was due to their destination’s affordability. Furthermore, only 12% of the Democrats chose destinations where the majority of residents were affiliated with the Republican party. These observations are reflected by the Republicans, where 69% of any movers chose a destination that was quieter (such as rural areas). Of these movers, only 5.4% were willing to choose destinations where the majority of the residents were affiliated with the Democratic party. 

Political and Party Positions 

Party Positions 

In a similar way, the national party platforms have divided the country into geographical areas where they have a strong following and those where they do not have much influence. The State of Texas is an example of the geographical alignments. Compared to other states, such as California, Texas population is distributed across different regions. All these regions, however, show particular alignment towards similar political ideologies. For instance, rural and urban Texans often show polarized opinions regarding politics, even when they identify with the same national party platform. A majority of the Texans identify with the Republican party as they believe in its economic policies, among others. Texas is also a border state. As a result, the Texan Democrats will have different ideologies regarding immigration compared to the Republicans. 

Candidate Positions 

In a previous section, the 2018 Senate elections in Texas was discussed. The conclusion was that the candidates got more support and votes from regions where there were more voters who aligned with the political party than in other regions. As a result, these candidates carved the state according to regions with great support and those without. The same trend was observed in the state’s 2020 Senate election between John Cornyn and M. J. Hegar. Though Cornyn (a Republican) won the election by taking 53.5% of the votes, compared to the 43.9% that went to Hegar (the election was not as intense as in 2018), the same geographical distribution of votes was observed. For instance, Hegar’s margin in Starr, Duval, and Zapata counties was 16, 15, and 11 respectively. This geographical alignment of votes is visualized by the map of Texas below. The red areas (including the different shades) represent the parts of Texas that voted Republican while the blue areas (including the different shades) represent the parts of Texas that voted Democratic. As expected of the Red state, Republicans had more votes than Democrats. What is new, and confirms the hypothesis proposed by this policy paper, is the obvious geographical distribution of voters, where different parts of the state were more likely to vote for the party their neighbors aligned with. 

Figure 1 . Voter distribution in Texas' 2020 Senate elections 

Media Coverage 

Political polarization by geographic regions has been a hot topic both in the media and academia. For instance, Webster & Martin (2018) take note of the issue and report on its importance to both Texas and national politics. Furthermore, the journalists attempt to explain away the real reason behind the geographic sorting. According to Webster & Martin (2018), there is no active agenda pursued by the partisans that allows them to concentrate their influence in different geographical regions. Instead, the political polarization by geographic regions is due to the concept of the big sort. 

Kilgore (2020) reported the same findings with the results of the 2020 presidential elections. Using data from the Cook Political Report, the journalist traces the geographical shifts in political ideologies at district level. Even though he does not explain the cause of the shifts, he provides quantitative data to represent the trend since the 2012 presidential elections. This goes to show that even though American politics have traditionally been decided along racial lines, this is no longer the most important dividing factor. 

According to Thompson (2020), political polarization, especially along geographical lines is quickly becoming a factor to determine the way Americans identify with each other. As the political divide continues to grow, journalists have started asking questions regarding the future of the country and the consequences of the polarizing politics. For instance, Jenkins (2020) considers the possibility of the political polarization according to geographical regions culminating in a Civil War and its possible consequences. Before getting there, however, other media articles have been published to help determine the tell-tale signs of a possible Civil War. For instance, McGrath et al. (2021) published an article covering Pennsylvania’s 2022 Senate race, calling it a Litmus test for the nation. Whatever happens in 2022, more information will be known of the political polarization by geographic region in the US. 

Policy Action 

So far, there have been no policy actions, such as legislation, executive orders, and Supreme Court rulings made to act on the growing political polarization in the country. Even then, that is not to say that future policy actions will not be taken, especially when the situation devolves into a Civil War. There are legislations put in place by the Constitution that will help curb the issues. For instance, the Insurrection Act of 1807, with recent amendments, give the sitting president the power to deploy the military and the National Guard to curb any insurrections that would disturb public order. Furthermore, the president also has the power to suspend several civil liberties for the purposes of maintaining civil order. Note, however, things will have gone out of hand by the time these legislations and policies come into play. 

Class Concepts 

Different class concepts helped to understand the subject matter and apply them when writing this policy paper. First, the concepts of opinion polls and surveys help understand the qualitative and quantitative techniques used to collect data from a population sample and generalize the findings to the entire population. This was advantageous as it is impractical to hold an opinion poll that involves the entire population (that is just a census). Secondly, the concepts of ideology, especially political ideology, polarization, and attitude stability helped to not only choose a policy issue that is relevant to American politics, but also one that needs much discussion. Familiarity with the concepts helped the hypothesis formulation part, understanding the research, and putting everything together into one coherent policy paper. 

Lastly, even if the country is divided along political lines by geographic regions, individual perceptions and actions are still important. The concepts of opinions and beliefs of crowds helped separate between individual actions (such as voter immigrations) and their impact on political polarization by geographic regions (moving to regions with similar political ideologies). These concepts, when put together, helped formulate and research this policy paper. 


The purpose of this paper is to test the hypothesis on public opinion that the geographical political polarization is informed more by historical precedence and intolerance towards opposing political ideologies than the sum of individual actions by all parties involved. Different factors have contributed to the growing political polarization by geography. For instance, densely populated areas like urban centers have people who are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. In contrast, the sparsely populated areas, such are rural areas, are more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. Furthermore, just as the states are polarized, public opinion on political issues also changes with party affiliation and geographical distribution. All these facts and findings help confirm the hypothesis proposed at the beginning of the paper. It is therefore, important to study public opinion as it helps to reveal emerging issues that could threaten the country and its stability. 


Abrams, S. J. (2016). Purple California: Politics and Regional Realities in the Golden State.  California Journal of Politics and Policy 8 (4). 

Damore, D. F., Director, I. E., Danielsen, K. A., & Lang, R. E. Blue Metros, Red States: The Geography of the 2020 Vote in the Swing States. 

Jenkins, B. (2020). Opinion | Is America on the brink of a civil war?. Retrievedfrom https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/politicians-face-violence-threats-voters-each-other-are-we-nearing-ncna1283824 

Kilgore, E. (2020). Yes, Geographical Polarization Was a Big Deal in 2016 and 2020. Retrieved from https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/04/geographical-polarization-was-a-big-deal-in-2016-and-2020.html 

Levi, M., & Hechter, M. (2020). A rational choice approach to the rise and decline of ethnoregional political parties. In  New nationalisms of the developed west  (pp. 128-146). Routledge. 

McGrath, S., Swope, P., McAndrew, K., & Sloan, S. (2021). Pennsylvania’s Senate Race is a Litmus Test for the Nation - Brown Political Review. Retrieved from https://brownpoliticalreview.org/2021/11/pennsylvanias-senate-race-is-a-litmus-test-for-the-nation/ 

Paddock, J. (2010). Ideological polarization in a decentralized party system: Explaining interstate differences.  The Social Science Journal 47 (3), 710-722. 

Pew Research Center. (2021). Republicans and Democrats Move Further Apart in Views of Voting Access. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/04/22/republicans-and-democrats-move-further-apart-in-views-of-voting-access/ 

Tam Cho, W. K., Gimpel, J. G., & Hui, I. S. (2013). Voter migration and the geographic sorting of the American electorate.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (4), 856-870. 

Thompson, D. (2020). The Most Important Divide in American Politics Isn’t Race. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/2020-election-results-prove-density-destiny/617027/ 

Webster, S., & Martin, G. (2018). The Real Culprit Behind Geographic Polarization. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/11/why-are-americans-so-geographically-polarized/575881/ 

Cite this page

Select style:


StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Public Opinion Policy Paper: Geographical Political Polarization in the US.


Related essays

We post free essay examples for college on a regular basis. Stay in the know!

Professional Athletes and Corrections: Aaron Hernandez

People break the law by engaging in activities that disturb the peace of others. Lawbreakers are punished in different ways that include death, fines, confinement and so forth ( Fox, 1983) . Correctional facilities...

Words: 874

Pages: 3

Views: 119

Financial Investigations: What Could Look Like Fraud But Be Explained by Industry Trends

Case Study 1 _ What are the possible fraud symptoms in this case? _ Eugene’s company is an example of businesses that participate in fraudulent documentation, intending to attract more investors. The past...

Words: 338

Pages: 1

Views: 144

Political Campaign Communication: Inside and Out

Democratic Idealism refers to academic views in which political ethics are based while campaign pragmatism is the measure of value for consultants. The theories behind perfect democracy are established from the...

Words: 286

Pages: 1

Views: 141

Understanding the Human Nature and Capitalist Society

The appraisal of Karl Marx and Adam Smith's conceptions with regards to human nature, needs, conditions, and capacities conceptualizes the ideology of capitalism and economics that echoes the illegitimate interest...

Words: 2324

Pages: 8

Views: 491

Realism Theory: Definition, Explanation, and Criticism

The international relations theory that most accurately describes the world is the realism theory. Realism is based on the principle which indicates that states strive to increase their power when compared to other...

Words: 322

Pages: 1

Views: 162

New Policy Cracks Down on US Military Force Deployability

The US military is one of the most advanced in the world today. Every year, the US spends billions of dollars for the training of its military personnel in readiness to respond rapidly and effectively to any dangers....

Words: 351

Pages: 1

Views: 121


Running out of time?

Entrust your assignment to proficient writers and receive TOP-quality paper before the deadline is over.