As traditional economic divisions in politics have weakened, other factors are helping to determine partisan affiliation.
Lesthaeghe and Neidert have found, for example, that the higher the non-Hispanic white birthrate of a state, the stronger its vote in 2004 for Bush. Figure 5 shows the striking correlation:
Neidert and Lesthaeghe are looking at voting behavior both as a driver of the contemporary demographic transition and as stemming from it — from the differences, that is, between states and other localities in the embrace of new behavioral norms. Factors shaping political choices are less tied to classic class distinctions and increasingly related to values conflicts regarding family formation.
Writing with Johan Surkyn, Neidert and Lesthaeghe consider the impact on voters of same-sex households, cohabiting households, births to teenagers, births to unmarried women, divorce and separation, the percentage of two-parent households, fertility postponement, fertility decline brought on by contraception and abortion, the percentage of women without children in the household, rates of early or late marriage, the disconnection between marriage and procreation, and so forth.
These topics both feed and reflect what social scientists call “ideational” transformation, which is emerging from trends toward “secularization and the subsequent accentuation of individualistic expressive values,” as well as from the backlash against such trends.
Democratic strength is now concentrated in fewer but more heavily populated areas. Polarization has intensified as voters in over half the nation’s counties cast landslide margins for one presidential candidate or the other. These tendencies are intensifying and have spilled over to Congressional elections, leading to legislative paralysis. Self-perpetuating clusters of the like-minded lead voters and their representatives away from the center.