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'Natural Geographical Sorting' Could Be The Culprit Behind Political Polarization

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's new data this week that may confirm this country is more polarized not only state by state but zip code by zip code, maybe even house by house and apartment by apartment. The venerable Cook Political Report says the common wisdom, of course, is that incumbents have redrawn the lines of districts - gerrymandered is the term - to favor their re-election. The number of swing districts - a term that means residents could vote for either party, not that the district has a swinging good time at parties over the weekend - has become very small. The reporters at Cook say that gerrymandering, quote, "is only responsible for a small portion" of what they call the swing seat decimation.

They've produced their partisan voter index for the past 20 years. And on this year's edition, out this week, they say natural geographic sorting has taken place over the past couple of decades. Liberals have moved next to liberals, conservatives next to conservatives. It used to be the rule just not to bring up politics in polite company. Now imagine a real estate ad - two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath, cul-de-sac, good schools, nice neighbors, no people of the other party need apply. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.