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Spatial Aspects of the American "Culture War": The Two Dimensions of US Family Demography and the Presidential Elections, 1968-2016

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionLesthaeghe, Ron J., and Lisa Neidert. 2017. "Spatial Aspects of the American "Culture War": The Two Dimensions of US Family Demography and the Presidential Elections, 1968-2016." PSC Research Report No. 17-880. 4 2017.

This paper explores the link between two basic dimensions of family demography and the outcome of presidential elections for states and continental counties in the United States. It shows that the spatial patterns of respectively the "Second demographic transition" (SDT) and voting start converging in the 1990s. The correlations remain very high and stable thereafter. This does not hold for the correlation between the other dimension of family demography, i.e. the pattern of disadvantage (POD), and voting. The spatial SDT-voting correlation does not depend on the issues being debated during the successive elections, and it reaches a maximum in the latest election round (2016) at the level of both states and counties. Furthermore, the zero order correlation remains intact after controls for household income, education, urbanity, religion and ethnicity at the state level, but is reduced at the county level. The latter result is produced by the high concentration of Democratic votes and SDT household structures in the metropolitan counties. On the whole, the SDT dimension is one of the strongest predictors of spatial voting patterns in the US since the turn of the century.

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