Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Professor Zoe Oxley
realignment, GIS, realignment theory, electoral politics, elections, party politics, electoral realignment
My thesis topic evaluates Democratic and Republican electoral performance in suburban and rural areas through the lens of realignment theory. Aided by GIS maps, my analysis utilizes election data from the 2008 and 2020 presidential elections. I went about this by first reviewing relevant literature on realignment theory, beginning with its genesis in by V.O. Key in 1955. I then began reviewing literature on rural and suburban voting patterns, as well as research on geographic influences on electoral coalitions. My original research is thus aimed at bridging the gap between three distinct fields of political science literature: geographic sorting/polarization and electoral geography, research on rural and suburban voters and their aggregate voting behaviors and patterns, and realignment theory.
After reviewing existing literature, I conducted my research by creating individual GIS maps of the 2008 and 2020 elections in an array of suburbs and states based on a randomized sample. By comparing maps of the same region in different elections, we can visualize and track shifts in rural and suburban voting patterns; this allows us to ascertain the geographic bases of each party’s support, and ultimately determine whether a realignment has or has not occurred in each region contained within the sample. Ultimately, I find that a substantial, but potentially tenuous, realignment – in favor of the Democratic Party – has occurred in each of the suburban areas I analyze and map. Conversely, I find mixed results in my analysis of rural areas, with the Republican Party unambiguously gaining substantial ground in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania but making limited progress in certain rural areas of Massachusetts and Arizona. Following discussion of the GIS maps in chapters three and four and the resultant findings, I discuss and evaluate electoral implications for each party’s coalition in the conclusion. I also suggest areas for further research and discuss important limitations and constraints.
Hutton, Nathaniel, "Revisiting Realignment Theory: Transformation in Suburban and Rural America from 2008 to 2020" (2022). Honors Theses. 2596.