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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

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Volume 10, Issue 4 (Feb 2013)


Sorting the American States into Red and Blue: Culture, Economics, and the 2012 US Presidential Election in Historical Context

Benjamin Highton
  • Corresponding author
  • Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis
  • Email:
Published Online: 2013-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0002


This paper analyzes variation in presidential outcomes across the American states from 1972 through 2012. The findings show that differences in cultural policy preferences across the states are more important than economic preferences for explaining state outcomes in 2012. This result fits a long-term trend of the growing importance of cultural issues – absolutely and relative to economic issues – for sorting the states, which has had the effect of rotating the “party cleavage” line that divides the Democratic and Republican parties in presidential elections.


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About the article

Benjamin Highton

Benjamin Highton is a Professor of Political Science at UC Davis who specializes in public opinion and voting behavior. A former APSA Congressional Fellow, he joined the Davis faculty in 1999. *Special thanks to Matthew Buttice, Ronald Rapoport, and Walter Stone for advice and comments on various aspects of this project.

Corresponding author: Benjamin Highton, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis

Received: 2012-12-19

Published Online: 2013-02-09

Citation Information: The Forum, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0002. Export Citation

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