Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor's Name

Nicol C. Rae

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Richard S. Olson

Third Advisor's Name

Kevin A. Hill

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dario Moreno

Fifth Advisor's Name

Abraham Lavender

Keywords

Congressional Elections, U.S. Elections, Florida Elections, Voting, Electoral Behavior

Date of Defense

11-7-2011

Abstract

Political scientists have long noted that congressional elections are often uncompetitive, often extremely so. Many scholars argue that the cause lies in the partisan redistricting of congressional districts, or “gerrymandering”. Other scholars emphasize polarization created by a fragmented news media, or the candidate choices made by a more ideological primary electorate. All these explanations identify the cause of party-safe elections in institutions of various kinds.

This dissertation, by contrast, presents a structural explanation of uncompetitive elections. My theory is that population composition and patterns of migration are significant causes and predictors of election results in Florida. I test this theory empirically by comparing the predictions from four hypotheses against aggregate data, using the county as the unit of analysis.

The first hypothesis is that Florida can be divided into clearly distinguishable, persistent partisan sections. This hypothesis is confirmed. The second hypothesis is that Florida voters have become increasingly partisan over time. This hypothesis is confirmed. The third hypothesis is that the degree of migration into a county predicts how that county will vote. This hypothesis finds some confirmation. The last hypothesis is that the degree of religiosity of a county predicts how that county will vote. This hypothesis is confirmed.

By identifying the structural causes of party-safe elections, this study not only contributes to our understanding of elections in Florida, but also sheds light on the current polarization in American politics.

Share

COinS