Dividing Lines

Number 26556
Subject Politics
Source Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
State Wisconsin
Year 2014
Publication Date May 4, 7, 11 and 14, 2014
Summary This project explored the nature, causes and consequences of political polarization in metropolitan Milwaukee and Wisconsin. It concluded that metropolitan Milwaukee is by some measures the most polarized place in swing-state America; that it has grown more politically segregated with virtually every election cycle since the 1970s; that its voters live overwhelmingly in politically homogenous neighborhoods dominated by a single party; that those communities have been moving systematically in one partisan direction (either red or blue) for more than four decades; that the partisan gap between its urban and outlying communities has been steadily growing; and that this deep and deepening polarization is a consequence of at least three factors: extreme racial segregation, unusually high levels of political engagement and activism; and at least two decades of perpetual partisan conflict and mobilizing as a result of Wisconsin’s political competitiveness, its battleground role in presidential races and the unprecedented turmoil and division over collective bargaining beginning in 2011. We also charted the rise of political segregation nationally, in the ever-growing share of voters in the United States who live in politically one-sided counties. The project also traced the dramatic changes in voting behavior in the state of Wisconsin in recent decades with the demise of ticket-splitting, the rise of extreme party-line voting, and the systematic growth of two political divides – the one between white and nonwhite voters, and the one between densely populated and less densely populated places. The series explored the relationship between Wisconsin’s high and rising political engagement and turnout rates and its deepening partisan divisions. And it explored the consequences of rising polarization and political segregation when it comes to the way campaigns are conducted, the outcomes of elections, the decline in electoral competition, and barriers to regional problem-solving. It found that as a result of partisan and geographic fault lines, the two parties in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) are increasingly drawing their support from different kinds of voters and different kinds of communities, and winning very different kinds of elections.
Category Philip Meyer Contest entry
Pages
Keywords Polarization; political segmentation; Philip Meyer entry
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