Jonathan Rodden on the Geography of Voting

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Jonathan Rodden on the Geography of Voting and consider these questions.



1. The conversation begins with Roberts asking Rodden about the geographical trends Rodden explores in his forthcoming book. How does aggregate voting behavior in rural and suburban areas compare to that in urban areas?


2. Rodden explains some of the ways in which urban populations have changed over time by saying, “It’s something about consumption opportunities.” What does he mean by this?


3. What are the differences between proportional representation systems and winner-take-all political systems? Why does Rodden believe the distinction to be so significant? What are some examples of places with each kind of system?


4. How would you answer the following question, based on the evidence Rodden presents: Does living in a city change one’s voting preferences, or do people with similar voting preferences choose to locate in cities?


5. Explain why Rodden describes American suburbs as “purple places.”


6. Roberts asks Rodden how urbanization and industrialization affected the development of European political institutions. How does Rodden respond, and how does he explain why similar changes did not occur in the United States?


7. Rodden argues that the sparsely populated western United States have a tendency to pull the Senate disproportionately toward the (political) right. How does this happen, and how does it affect American politics?


8. Paraphrase the distinction between positive and normative social science, which Roberts reminds us of. Is Rodden’s work on the geography of voting primarily positive or normative? What are the normative implications of Rodden’s work on this subject?


9. After listening to the conversation between Roberts and Rodden, how would you answer the following question: To what extent do majority elections reveal the “will of the people?”