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Culture wars, voting and polarization: my talk at the London School of Economics on Tuesday

Tuesday 3 Nov, 4-5:30pm in Room R505, Department of Government, LSE.

Culture wars, voting and polarization: divisions and unities in modern American politics

On the night of the 2000 presidential election, Americans sat riveted in front of their televisions as polling results divided the nation’s map into red and blue states. Since then the color divide has become a symbol of a culture war that thrives on stereotypes–pickup-driving red-state Republicans who vote based on God, guns, and gays; and elitist, latte-sipping blue-state Democrats who are woefully out of touch with heartland values. But how does this fit into other ideas about America being divided between the haves and the have-nots? Is political polarization real, or is the real concern the perception of polarization?

This work is joint with David Park, Boris Shor, Joseph Bafumi, Jeronimo Cortina, and Delia Baldassarri.

(Here’s a video version of the talk, from when I gave it at Google.)

I’ll be interested to see if people can explain to me the relevance (or lack thereof) of this work to politics in Britain and other countries.

P.S. I’m speaking at LSE on Monday also (on a different topic).

P.P.S. I’ll be speaking again a couple times in London later in the academic year, but on other topics. All my talks there will be different.


  1. The approach doesn't seem immediately relevant for the UK, but I think that's because we tend to focus more on class-based voting rather than income-based voting, and because we lack the kind of macro-level unit like the US state which would provide a good context. Most of the UK literature instead focuses on neighbourhood effects — but I'm by no means versed in that literature.

  2. Naadir Jeewa says:

    I missed this from the LSE events page, but I'll be there.

    I agree, that the UK tends to think in class-based voting, but it seems to have led to a lot of incorrect conclusions amongst politicos. Only recently did a poll show that contra to current opinion, BNP was gaining votes amongst C2DE demographic voters who haven't turned up to the polls for decades, not working class Labour supporters.

    I don't know if there's the data available to do an analysis like that in Red State, Blue State…

  3. Naadir Jeewa says:

    Also, is R505 in the LSE Research Lab, Lionel Robbins Building. It's not particularly clear.

  4. For the most informative analysis of the "God, guns, and gays" angle, one absolutely has to see a SNL piece from the 1988 election, The Gay Communist Gun Club.