Skip to main content Accessibility help

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

  • Samuel J. Abrams (a1) and Morris P. Fiorina (a2)

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.

Hide All
Beatley, Timothy. 2004. Native to Nowhere: Sustaining Home and Community in a Global Age. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Bellah, Robert Neely. 1985. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bishop, Bill, and Cushing, Robert. 2004. “Response to Philip A. Klinkner's ‘Red and Blue Scare: The Continuing Diversity of the American Electoral Landscape.’The Forum.
Bishop, Bill, Cushing, with Robert G.. 2008. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Bishop, Bill, Cushing, with Robert G.. 2009. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, with a New Afterword. Boston: Mariner Books.
Clapson, Mark. 2003. Suburban Century: Social Change and Urban Growth in England and the United States. Oxford: Berg.
Duncan, James S., and Lambert, David R.. 2002. “Landscape, Aesthetics, and Power” in American Space/American Place: Geographies of the Contemporary United States, eds. Agnew, John A. and Smith, Jonathan M.. 264–91. New York: Routledge.
Duncan, Nancy G. 1981 “Home Ownership and Social Theory” in Housing and Identity: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, ed. Duncan, James S.. 98134. London: Croom Helm.
Fiorina, Morris P., and Abrams, Samuel J.. 2009. Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Fiorina, Morris P., Abrams, Samuel J., and Pope, Jeremy C.. 2005. Culture War: The Myth of a Polarized America. New York: Pearson Longman.
Gainsborough, Juliet F. 2001. Fenced Off: The Suburbanization of American Politics. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.
Galston, William A., and Kamarck, Elaine C.. 2005. The Politics of Polarization: A Path Back to Power. Washington, DC: Third Way.
Gelman, Andrew. 2011. “Why America Isn't as Polarized as You Think.”
Howard, Marc M., Gibson, James L., and Stolle, Dietlind. 2005. “The U.S. Citizenship, Involvement, Democracy Survey.” Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Democracy and Civil Society.
Jackson, Kenneth T. 1985. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press.
Keller, Suzanne. 2003. Community: Pursuing the Dream, Living the Reality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kellner, Peter. 2008. “Is America Growing Apart?
Klinkner, Philip. 2004a. “Red and Blue Scare: The Continuing Diversity of the American Electoral Landscape.” The Forum.
Klinkner, Philip. 2004b. “Counter Response from Klinkner to Bishop and Cushing.” The Forum.
Klinkner, Philip A., and Hapanowicz, Ann. 2005. “Red and Blue Déjà Vu: Measuring Political Polarization in the 2004 Election.” The Forum.
Kruse, Kevin M., and Sugrue, Thomas J., eds. 2006. The New Suburban History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kunstler, James Howard. 1994. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise or Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Lane, Robert E. 2000. The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Levendusky, Matthew. 2009. The Partisan Sort: How Liberals Became Democrats and Conservatives Became Republicans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lovenheim, Peter. 2010. In the Neighborhood: The Search for Neighborhood on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time. New York: Penquin.
McGhee, Eric, and Krimm, Daniel. 2009. “Party Registration and the Geography of Party Polarization.” Polity 41 (2009): 345–67.
McPherson, J. Miller, Smith-Lovin, Lynn, and Brashears, Matthew. 2008. “The Ties that Bind Are Fraying.” Contexts 7 (3): 3236.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., and Brashears, M.E .. 2006. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.” American Sociological Review 71: 353–75.
Morris, Douglas E. 2005. It's a Sprawl World after All: The Human Cost of Unplanned Growth—and Visions of a Better Future. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers
Moughtin, Cliff. 2003. Urban Design: Street and Square, Third Ed. Oxford: Architectural Press.
Mutz, Diana. 2006. Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Rifkin, Jeremy. 2004. The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
Skocpol, Theda. 2003. Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Suarez, Ray. 1999. The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966–1999. New York: Free Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed