Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 13 > Issue 3

Are Americans Stuck in Uncompetitive Enclaves? An Appraisal of U.S. Electoral Competition

Bernard L. Fraga, Indiana University, USA, bfraga@indiana.edu , Eitan D. Hersh, Tufts University, USA, eitan.hersh@tufts.edu
Suggested Citation
Bernard L. Fraga and Eitan D. Hersh (2018), "Are Americans Stuck in Uncompetitive Enclaves? An Appraisal of U.S. Electoral Competition", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 13: No. 3, pp 291-311. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00017161

Publication Date: 30 Aug 2018
© 2018 B. L. Fraga and E. D. Hersh
Competitive Marketing Strategy,  Elections,  Electoral behavior,  Electoral institutions,  Federalism,  Political participation,  Political parties,  Representation,  Voting behavior,  Voting theory
Electionscompetitionpolitical geography


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In this article:
The Engines of Competition 
Data and Estimation Strategy 
The Locus of Competition 
Competitive Compared to What? 
Competition and Representation 


Most elections in the United States are not close, which has raised concerns among social scientists and reform advocates about the vibrancy of American democracy. In this paper, we demonstrate that while individual elections are often uncompetitive, hierarchical, temporal, and geographic variation in the locus of competition results in most of the country regularly experiencing close elections. In the four-cycle period between 2006 and 2012, 89% of Americans were in a highly competitive jurisdiction for at least one office. Since 1914, about half the states have never gone more than four election cycles without a close statewide contest. More Americans witness competition than citizens of Canada or the UK, other nations with SMSP-based systems. The dispersed competition we find also results in nearly all Americans being represented by both political parties for different offices.