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“The Big Sort” That Wasn't: A Skeptical Reexamination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2012

Samuel J. Abrams
Sarah Lawrence College
Morris P. Fiorina
Stanford University


In 2008 journalist Bill Bishop achieved the kind of notice that authors dream about. His book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, was mentioned regularly during the presidential campaign; most notably, former president Bill Clinton urged audiences to read the book. Bishop's thesis is that Americans increasingly are choosing to live in neighborhoods populated with people just like themselves. In turn, these residential choices have produced a significant increase in geographic political polarization. Bishop does not contend that people consciously decide to live with fellow Democrats or Republicans; rather political segregation is a byproduct of the correlations between political views and the various demographic and life-style indicators people consider when making residential decisions. Whatever the cause, Bishop contends that the resulting geographic polarization is a troubling and dangerous development.

Special to PS
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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