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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)


Red State/Blue State Divisions in the 2012 Presidential Election

Avi Feller
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Statistics, Harvard University, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • Email:
/ Andrew Gelman
  • Department of Statistics, Columbia University, Amsterdam Ave. at 122 St., New York, NY 10027, USA
/ Boris Shor
  • University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley
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.

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

  • 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/

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

  • 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.

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

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

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

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