Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 July 2020
A number of studies demonstrate a puzzling relationship in American politics. Wealthier states tend to be represented in Congress by liberals typically committed to social welfare spending. In contrast, poor states tend to be represented by economic conservatives typically hostile to greater social welfare spending. The “red state, blue state, rich state, poor-state” phenomenon identified by Gelman et al. (2010) is not due to affluent voters in wealthy states being ardent liberals. To the contrary, the pattern within states is one in which more affluent individuals are less likely to support Democratic candidates than the less affluent. Hence, the pattern arises as a consequence of state-level variations in party support that persist even after taking account of individual affluence. This red state-poor state relationship is, however, a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the 1960s, the relationship had been reversed. The poorest states were represented by some of the most economically liberal members of Congress, and most of these poor states were located in the South.
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