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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.397

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Volume 10, Issue 4 (Feb 2013)


Red State/Blue State Divisions in the 2012 Presidential Election

Avi Feller / Andrew Gelman
  • Department of Statistics, Columbia University, Amsterdam Ave. at 122 St., New York, NY 10027, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Boris Shor
Published Online: 2013-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0014


The so-called “red/blue paradox” is that rich individuals are more likely to vote Republican but rich states are more likely to support the Democrats. Previous research argued that this seeming paradox could be explained by comparing rich and poor voters within each state – the difference in the Republican vote share between rich and poor voters was much larger in low-income, conservative, middle-American states like Mississippi than in high-income, liberal, coastal states like Connecticut. We use exit poll and other survey data to assess whether this was still the case for the 2012 Presidential election. Based on this preliminary analysis, we find that, while the red/blue paradox is still strong, the explanation offered by Gelman et al. no longer appears to hold. We explore several empirical patterns from this election and suggest possible avenues for resolving the questions posed by the new data.


  • Bartels, Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew. 2008. “Scaling Regression Inputs by Dividing by Two Standard Deviations.” Statistics in Medicine 27: 2865–2873.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew and Avi Feller. 2012. “Red Versus Blue in a New Light.” New York Times, November 12, 2012. http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/red-versus-blue-in-a-new-light/Google Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew, Daniel Lee, and Yair Ghitza. 2010. “Public opinion on health care reform.” The Forum 8(1): 1–14.Google Scholar

  • Gelman, Andrew, David K. Park, Boris Shor and, Jeronimo Cortina. 2009. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do (Expanded Edition). Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

  • McCarty, Nolan, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal. 2006. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. MIT Press.Google Scholar

About the article

Avi Feller

Avi Feller is a PhD Student in the Department of Statistics, Harvard University.

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a Professor in the Department of Statistics and Political Science, Columbia University.

Boris Shor

Boris Shor is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy and Assistant Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley.

Corresponding author: Avi Feller, Department of Statistics, Harvard University, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Published Online: 2013-02-09

As a cost saving measure, the media exit poll conglomerate only polled the 30 most competitive states.

In the top five most Republican states, 61% of men support Romney compared to just 42% in the five most Democratic states. For women, these numbers are uniformly lower – 52% Romney support in the most Republican states and 32% in the most Democratic states.

We treat income categories as numeric and rescale them by subtracting the mean and dividing by two times the standard deviation, as recommended in Gelman (2008). We perform a separate normalization for the exit polls and RWJ polls, for each of these we use a single consistent normalization for the whole country.

As discussed in Gelman et al. (2009), it is possible to estimate White voting patterns in much of the country, even in the absence of individual-level poll data, by subtracting out non-Whites votes. This is because voting patterns vary much less among non-Whites than among whites and publicly available survey data give us state-by-state estimates of voting patterns by race.

Citation Information: The Forum, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, ISSN (Print) 2194-6183, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/forum-2013-0014.

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©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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