CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Shift in the Suburbs: An Analysis of Changing Vote Patterns in American Suburbs, 2000-2018

Jack D. Weisman, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Marc Meredith

Date of this Version: 26 March 2019



In the 2016 Presidential Election, the movement of well-off, highly-educated suburbs towards the Democratic Party was one of the most significant yet undercovered stories. In this paper, I analyze the political changes in suburbs around five major cities (Boston, Charleston (SC), Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis) both in 2016 and in elections dating back to 2000. I find that between 2000 and 2014, municipalities close to core cities with high percentages of college graduates became slightly but significantly more Democratic, with much of this movement taking place around 2004 and 2006. Comparing 2016 to previous elections, I find that proximity to urban areas was indeed more significant than it was in the past, but much of the change in suburban areas can simply be traced to college educated voters becoming dramatically more Democratic. Analysis of opinion data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) suggests that this movement is likely due to a combination of liberalizing attitudes on social issues like abortion and a perception of the Republican Party moving to the right on racial issues. While early analysis of data from the 2018 Midterm Elections points to the durability of the suburban shift, it remains too early to determine whether 2016 really marked the beginning of a long-term political realignment in the suburbs.


American Politics

Suggested Citation

Weisman, Jack D., "Shift in the Suburbs: An Analysis of Changing Vote Patterns in American Suburbs, 2000-2018" 26 March 2019. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 20 May 2019




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