Why Partisans Do Not Sort: The Constraints on Political Segregation
Social divisions between American partisans are growing, with Republicans and Democrats exhibiting homophily in a range of seemingly nonpolitical domains. It has been widely claimed that this partisan social divide extends to Americans’ decisions about where to live. In two original survey experiments, we confirm that Democrats are, in fact, more likely than Republicans to prefer living in more Democratic, dense, and racially diverse places. However, improving on previous studies, we test respondents’ stated preferences against their actual moving behavior. While partisans differ in their residential preferences, on average they are not migrating to more politically distinct communities. Using zip-code-level census and partisanship data on the places where respondents live, we provide one explanation for this contradiction: by prioritizing common concerns when deciding where to live, Americans forgo the opportunity to move to more politically compatible communities.