Democrats and Republicans are less likely to stick to each other than they were a generation ago.
This political alienation is a phenomenon journalist Bill Bishop wrote in his book “The Big Sort,” which suggested that Americans are increasingly moving to places where neighbors share their political views.
But are they doing this intentionally?
“It may well be that some of them are doing that, but I think from the data, that’s not entirely what they’re doing. … It seems that when people are moving So, they’re mostly looking for communities that have certain features, like an art walk or gun store, big box store or small indie coffee shop, that sort of thing,” says JP Prims, of a Chicago, Illinois. Guest Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University. “It could just be that they’re finding places that have things they like, and they like other liberal things, or they like other conservative things.”
Prims co-authored a report on political segregation that found distinct differences that are not inherently political in the types of communities that appeal to liberals and conservatives.
The liberals who participated in the survey identified political liberalism, ethnic diversity, public transportation and a vibrant arts scene as important characteristics of their ideal community. Meanwhile, conservatives value political conservatism, patriotism, multiple churches, and rural areas when considering ideal places to live.
“We’ve known for some time that liberals prefer more urban spaces,” Prims says. “Conservatives want it to feel like a small town and a little more rural.”
Political sorting myth?
Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics and social sciences at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, doesn’t buy into the concept of political self-sorting.
He points to a large number of people moving from liberal states like California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to more conservative states like Florida and Texas.
“They’re leaving because taxes are lower, restrictions are less. For half a million dollars, instead of a one-bedroom wardrobe like we have here in New York, you have a huge one with a pool, basketball court, and a fire pit. Might be home,” Abrams says.
Significant numbers of Californians are moving to Texas at a time when the Lone Star state is making a political move that angers liberals.
“Look at state-imposed restrictive abortion laws. … let’s look at his recent work on abortion or gun control or even redistribution,” Abrams says. So, I don’t think geography is what’s really driving much.”
A report from Texas A&M University found that the largest proportion of people who moved to Texas came from California and settled in most liberal-leaning Texas counties.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing increased political sorting.
“We have heard a lot about it during COVID. In New York and California, many people who are center-right are leaving because they can’t afford social distancing and COVID policies,” says Haidt, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “So, there is certainly a movement from New York and California to Texas and Florida that is driven not only by the weather, but by politics, by the desire to live in a place that is not so awakened.”
Real estate brokerage firm Redfin predicts that in 2022 more people will move to places that align with their political beliefs. A survey conducted by the firm reveals that a major chunk of home buyers would not move to a place where laws conflict with their political beliefs. ,
Haidt expects to see more political sorting now that more Americans have the option of working virtually than ever before.
“Many people are questioning what they did before. Many people now have the freedom to work remotely, live wherever they want. So, my prediction would be that (journalist) Bill Bishop’s ‘The The thesis about ‘Big Sort’ is even more true in the wake of COVID,” Haidt says. “Given how things have accelerated over the years, even before COVID, (Former President Donald) Trump, and now, with COVID, affecting our lives far more than the political arguments in question, I would predict that political sorting has increased.”
Bishop explained in his book that while America is more diverse than ever, the places where many Americans live are actually becoming less diverse, as people move into communities made up of people who think and vote.
That separation could fuel animosity between conservatives and liberals.
“Because liberals don’t see conservatives as much, and conservatives don’t see liberals in person and aren’t facing them online and in person, which certainly, I would say, contributes to political polarization, because we Seeing these people as less human. We understand how they think less, or listen less to their arguments,” Prims says. “We know that putting people in communities where everyone thinks the same thing leads to these echo chambers where people become more extreme.”