The Geography of Racially Polarized Voting: Calibrating Surveys at the District Level


Shiro Kuriwaki, Stephen Ansolabhere, Angelo Dagonel, and Soichiro Yamauchi

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Kuriwaki, S., Ansolabhehere, S., Dagonel, A., & Yamauchi, S. (2023). The Geography of Racially Polarized Voting: Calibrating Surveys at the District Level. American Political Science Review, 1–18. Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/S0003055423000436
Debates over racial voting, and over policies to combat vote dilution, turn on the extent to which groups’ voting preferences differ and vary across geography. We present the first study of racial voting patterns in every congressional district (CD) in the United States. Using large-sample surveys combined with aggregate demographic and election data, we find that national-level differences across racial groups explain 60% of the variation in district-level voting patterns, whereas geography explains 30%. Black voters consistently choose Democratic candidates across districts, whereas Hispanic and white voters’ preferences vary considerably across geography. Districts with the highest racial polarization are concentrated in the parts of the South and Midwest. Importantly, multiracial coalitions have become the norm: in most CDs, the winning majority requires support from non-white voters. In arriving at these conclusions, we make methodological innovations that improve the precision and accuracy when modeling sparse survey data.
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