Patchwork Nation

Sectionalism and Political Change in American Politics
James G. Gimpel and Jason E. Schuknecht
A political geographic approach to understanding electoral variability among states in the U.S. federal system


The unprecedented geographic and socioeconomic mobility of twentieth-century America was accompanied by a major reshuffling of political support in many parts of the country. Yet at the dawn of the new century these local and regional movements are still poorly understood. How can we account for persistent political regionalism and the sectional changes that have radically altered the nation's political landscape, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt? Patchwork Nation reveals answers to these vital questions.

The masterful analysis in Patchwork Nation reminds us that the traditions and histories of individual states differ widely. Gimpel and Schuknecht's insightful examination of territorial cleavages thus provides us with a key to understanding the raw material that politicians use to fashion our party system. Their findings are an important reminder of geography's central role in our nation's political behavior.

From the news analysts and pundits who use maps to identify electoral behavior patterns to the politicians and campaign strategists who study them to locate centers of support, experts of all stripes continue to recognize geography's importance to our political understanding. But in the wake of the survey research revolution of the late twentieth century, scholars often overlooked the relevance of geographic factors for the study of politics. Patchwork Nation retrieves this lost knowledge and extends it in important new directions, encouraging scholars to fundamentally reassess their thinking about the geographic basis of contemporary political behavior.

James G. Gimpel is Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Jason E. Schuknecht is a Research Analyst at Westat in Rockville, Maryland.

Praise / Awards

  • "Location, location, location. What matters in politics is not just who the voters are, but where they are. Just ask Al Gore. Or read this book, a compelling demonstration that geography is often destiny."
    —Bill Schneider, CNN

  • "This accessible and well-written book challenges us to reflect on the role that political context plays in shaping the vote. By tracing how regional politics evolves over time within and across states, Gimpel and Schuknecht have revived the important but often neglected field of political geography."
    —Donald Green, Yale University

  • "In the spirit of V. O. Key, Gimpel and Schuknecht make a fundamental contribution. They demonstrate that states and regions are not simply important as units of aggregation, but rather as complex political arenas with profound consequences for processes of democratic politics both within and beyond their boundaries."
    —Robert Huckfeldt, University of California, Davis

  • "Gimpel and Schuknecht break new ground in the study of political behavior and electoral change by seamlessly integrating political geography with traditional models of campaigning and voting. This comparative state study is a touchstone work for readers seeking insight into the complexity of electoral behavior in the United States."
    —Wendy Tam Cho, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  • ". . . an innovative examination of voting regionalism within states over time and its effect on partisan fortunes in statewide elections. . . . The book presents some fascinating findings about political change within key states."

  • ". . . a primer on the importance of regional identity in the electoral system. . . . [A]nyone interested in learning more about how America's diversity drives its political systems would do well to take a spin through Patchwork Nation."
    —Meg Kinnard,

  • ".. . the book is intelligently written and provides a useful discussion of American state partisan politics for those unfamiliar with the vast internal political differences found among the fifty states. Patchwork Nation would be most useful for upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level courses on political change or American state politics."
    Perspectives on Political Science

  • ". . . the book is important because it does not shy away from empirically interesting but difficult questions. Patchwork Nation speaks to a variety of audiences: political scientists, political consultants and commentators, and party officials. It is an accessible volume that could be used in advanced undergraduate courses in state politics and political behavior, as well as in graduate seminars on U.S. politics."
    Perspectives on Politics

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Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 488pp.
  • 5 drawings, 47 tables, 51 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03030-9

Add to Cart
  • $36.95 U.S.

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