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A Close-Up Picture of Partisan Segregation, Among 180 Million Voters




Source: Jacob Brown and Ryan Enos. Colors show estimates of partisanship using data collected from 2016 to 2018, based on party registration, participation in partisan primary elections, demographic information and precinct or county election results.

The broad outlines of America’s partisan divides are visible on any national map. Republicans typically dominate in most Southern and Plains states, and Democrats in Northeastern and West Coast ones. Democrats cluster in urban America, Republicans in more rural places.

But keep zooming in — say, to the level of individual addresses for 180 million registered voters — and this pattern keeps repeating itself: within metro areas, within counties and cities, even within parts of the same city.

Democrats and Republicans live apart from each other, down to the neighborhood, to a degree that raises provocative questions about how closely lifestyle preferences have become aligned with politics and how even neighbors may influence one another.

As new research has found, it’s not just that many voters live in neighborhoods with few members of the opposite party; it’s that nearly all American voters live in communities where they are less likely to encounter people with opposing politics than we’d expect. That means, for example, that in a neighborhood where Democrats make up 60 percent of the voters, only 50 percent of a Republican’s nearest neighbors might be Democrats.

Democrats and Republicans are effectively segregated from each other, to varying degrees by place, according to the Harvard researchers Jacob Brown and Ryan Enos. And at least over the past decade, they believe this partisan segregation has been growing more pronounced.

The maps above — and throughout this article — show their estimates of partisanship down to the individual voter, colored by the researchers’ best guess based on public information like voter registration, whether voters participated in party primaries and the demographic composition of their neighborhood.

We can’t know how any individual actually voted. But these maps show how Democrats and Republicans can live in very different places, even within the same city, in ways that go beyond the urban-suburban-rural patterns visible in aggregated election results.

“We know that with groups in general, when they’re separated, bad things happen,” Mr. Enos said. “That has proved true with racial segregation, and religious and ethnic divides — patterns of separation that make it easier to demonize one another, and harder to share resources or power.

“The question with political parties is whether those are sufficiently like those other groups that we should worry about that happening.”

By living apart, opposing partisans might scorn aid for one another (with a term like “blue-state bailouts”) or become more likely to buy into myths about one another (like widespread voter fraud). Other processes like racial segregation, Mr. Enos added, have shown a tendency to accelerate.

This growing residential separation doesn’t necessarily mean that partisans are searching out cities — or neighborhoods, or even individual streets — where the neighbors are politically like-minded. Several forces have been pushing them apart, including broad changes in whom the two parties represent. The closer we look among all these dots, however, the harder it gets to explain these patterns.

For each individual voter, tied to an address, the researchers looked at their thousand nearest voters, weighting those next door more heavily than those a mile away. Drawn this way, about 25 million voters — urban Democrats especially — live in residential circles where at most only one in 10 encounters is likely to be with someone from the opposite party. Democrats in parts of Columbus, Ohio, and Oklahoma City live this way. So do Republicans in the reddest parts of Birmingham, Ala., and Gillette, Wyo.

Even when Democrats and Republicans are more equally represented in the same ZIP code or census tract, Mr. Brown and Mr. Enos still find traces of segregation. That means the two groups don’t appear randomly jumbled together. A Republican in a more mixed Denver suburb is still more likely to live close to other Republicans than mere chance would suggest.

“If we get down to a very low level and we still see this sorting going on,” Mr. Enos said, “it probably means there’s something pretty fundamental going on here.”

Educational shift, geographic switch

So what can explain these patterns?

Over time, the Democratic Party has increasingly aligned with urban voters, and the Republican Party with voters outside of cities, deepening geographic polarization nationally.

Highly educated white voters are also shifting toward the Democrats as working-class white voters move toward Republicans. Educational realignment has geographic consequences, too, with the changes concentrated, respectively, in highly educated suburbs and more working-class towns and rural communities. None of these voters have to move to effectively “sort” on a map; rather, their preferences change in place (in ways that may show up in their voting behavior before voters update their party registration).

“Party coalitions have shifted in a direction that aligns really well with spatial differences in a way it didn’t use to,” said Greg Martin, a Stanford political scientist who has also studied these trends.

Racial segregation also feeds partisan clustering, given that African-American voters in particular are overwhelmingly Democratic and also residentially segregated (metro Milwaukee’s map of partisan segregation, for one, resembles its map of racial segregation). But Mr. Brown and Mr. Enos find that racial segregation alone doesn’t explain the levels of partisan separation they find.

Lifestyle preferences that seemingly have little to do with partisanship are also increasingly correlated with it. If you like city living and use transit, you’re more likely a Democrat; if you prefer large-lot houses and pickup trucks, you’re more likely a Republican. And so voters of the same party might choose to live in the same places for such features, not necessarily to be around one another, and it would produce partisan clustering.

Yet even when Republicans and Democrats live in the same city, or in the same part of town — essentially the same kind of place — they still appear separated from each other to a degree. Much of that is probably about housing. Even within the same census tract, there may be pockets of apartment buildings (more likely home to Democrats) and streets with single-family homes (more likely home to Republicans).

But housing can’t explain the full effect, either. Across 98 percent of census tracts nationwide, Democrats and Republicans live with at least some segregation. That’s true even within suburban neighborhoods southwest of Kansas City, Mo., where the residents are almost all white and homeowners, and the houses are all single-family.

That leaves a more intriguing question: Are people really paying attention to the politics of their neighbors and acting on it in some way?

“I do think that something new is happening at the neighborhood level around partisan politics,” said Nancy Rosenblum, a political theorist at Harvard who has written a book about neighbors. Interactions between neighbors have long been distinctly nonpartisan, she said, grounded in values like reciprocity — I’ll lend you my leaf blower, you watch my kid.

But she fears that a more malignant kind of politics is seeping all the way down into neighborhoods: “The most interesting question to ask here is: How deep does it go? And the test for how deep it goes for me is: How do neighbors in neighborhoods behave during disasters?”

That’s when we normally see neighborly reciprocity really come through, she said. “If we look at Covid — and we consider Covid a national disaster — you see something change,” she said. “And this is really very discouraging. It could make you weep.”

Now even masks are freighted partisan signals.

Local influencers

There is little evidence that people choose where to live with politics in mind. Other concerns tend to take precedence, like finding a house that’s affordable and near a preferred school, the political scientists Clayton Nall and Jonathan Mummolo have argued.

And neighborhoods contribute just one piece of anyone’s social circle, along with co-workers, friends and family, to say nothing of the political influences of partisan news and social media.

But there is some evidence that local environments matter. Mr. Brown, a doctoral candidate in government at Harvard, has also looked at what happens to voters who stay at the same address over time, as the partisan makeup of the community shifts around them. As a neighborhood becomes more Democratic or Republican over time, he finds, voters become more likely to change their party registration to match.

In a neighborhood that has gone from slightly more Republican to slightly more Democratic, for example, that increases a nonpartisan voter’s likelihood of registering as a Democrat by several percentage points. That’s modest, but Mr. Brown said that it’s “a sizable change in something that for the most part is pretty stable.”

He also finds in surveys that voters are more likely to display their partisanship — wearing clothing with a message, putting out a yard sign or bumper sticker — when the people around them share their politics.

Other research shows that yard signs can increase candidates’ vote shares, and that neighbors may influence political donations. Ricardo Perez-Truglia, a political economist at the University of California, Berkeley, found that people gave more in politically like-minded areas when he sent them a letter reminding them their neighbors could look up their donations. And donors to Barack Obama in 2008 were likely to give more generously in 2012 if they relocated in the intervening years to a more heavily Democratic community.

“This is just one example of many other contexts in which this could be going on,” Professor Perez-Truglia said. “If you know that everyone else is of your same party, you don’t have anything to lose. You can be very vocal; nobody’s going to disagree with you.”

These studies together suggest that as places become more politically homogeneous, people there are more likely to conform and to publicly signal their partisanship. Maybe no one says, “I want to move here because of all these Biden yard signs.” But perhaps one neighbor is swayed by the people who put them up, and another neighbor concludes, “This isn’t the place for me.”

Many partisan signals are not so subtle these days. They come from billboard-size Trump yard signs that stand proud even outside of election years. Other signs — “love is love,” “no human is illegal,” “science is real” — implicitly reproach anyone who doesn’t share those values. And It has become easier over time for entrepreneurs to make and market such messaging, said Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia who has studied yard signs.

“It’s very easy to tell who’s who,” he said, describing the equally divided Hudson Valley community where he has a home, and where signs opposing a state gun control measure are common. “If you see ‘Repeal the SAFE Act’ — I saw four just driving to the Post Office just now — you know, you just absolutely know.”

It’s also possible that partisan segregation is increasing because these patterns are feeding one another. Voters with similar taste in housing and who are realigning by party right now happen to be clustered in space, and they’re nudging each other along as they go, in a kind of self-reinforcing cycle.


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In Washington, Policy Revolves Around Joe Manchin. He Likes It That Way.





WASHINGTON — If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, there is one senator who would have an outsized impact in the 50-50 chamber on issues that could reshape the nation’s future: infrastructure, immigration, gun laws and voting rights. That senator is Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

There is also a senator whose opposition to eliminating the filibuster is a significant reason it may never happen. That senator, too, is Mr. Manchin.

“He should want to get rid of the filibuster because he suddenly becomes the most powerful person in this place — he’s the 50th vote on everything,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, sketching out the argument.

Mr. Manchin, however, does not see it that way. To the exasperation of Democrats, delight of Republicans and bewilderment of politicians who can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to wield more power, Mr. Manchin, a former governor of the state, isn’t budging.

“Sixty votes,” he said in an interview last week in his office, referring to the threshold required to advance most legislation, adding that he would not consider suspending the filibuster for certain bills, as some of his colleagues have floated: “You’re either committed or not.”

But with 18 people dead after two mass shootings within a week, a worsening migrant challenge on the border and Republicans trying to restrict voting in almost every state where they hold power, liberals believe this moment cries out for a different sort of commitment. At a time when they have full control of Congress and are confronting overlapping crises, many Democrats feel a moral and political imperative to act, process be damned.

That puts Mr. Manchin, 73, at the center of the most important policy debates in Washington — and has set the stage for a collision between a party eager to use its majorities to pass sweeping legislation and a political throwback determined to restore bipartisanship to a chamber that’s as polarized as the country.

Mr. Manchin believes that ending the legislative filibuster would effectively destroy the Senate. He recalled his predecessor, Robert C. Byrd, telling him that the chamber had been designed to force consensus.

Mr. Manchin has expressed willingness to support a “talking filibuster,” in which lawmakers have to actually hold the floor, perhaps for many hours, to block a vote. But he has not yielded on getting rid of it altogether and on an array of issues, including voting rights and gun control, his admonition is less about any particular policy end and more about making sure the legislation has support from both parties.

More broadly, Mr. Manchin’s resistance to ending the filibuster has ripened fundamental questions about which version of Congress would be more dysfunctional: a body stymied by gridlock or one that can pass legislation only by scrapping longstanding guidelines so it can push through party-line votes?

“You can’t make the place work if nothing significant is getting passed,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a leading progressive from California.

Mr. Manchin worries that the short-term benefit of ditching the filibuster would backfire for Democrats over the long term.

“I’m concerned about the House pushing an agenda that would be hard for us to maintain the majority,” Mr. Manchin said about the progressive legislation that House Democrats are stacking up at the Senate door. As for pressure from the left, he said, tauntingly: “What are they going to do, they going to go into West Virginia and campaign against me? Please, that would help me more than anything.”

To a growing number of his Democratic colleagues — and not just liberals — it’s naïve to keep putting hope over history, and believe, as Mr. Manchin said about gun legislation, that Republicans may say, “Listen, it’s time for us to do the reasonable, sensible thing.”

Of course, few in a Senate that depends on Mr. Manchin for a 50th vote will say outright that their colleague is indulging in fantasy.

“Joe’s focus, I believe, is bipartisanship, and I agree with the starting point,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, before lowering the boom: “They weren’t going to give us a single vote,” he said about the stimulus bill.

A former high school quarterback who friends say still relishes being at the center of the action, Mr. Manchin is something of a unicorn in today’s Congress. As a pro-coal and anti-abortion Democrat, he reflects a less-homogenized era when regionalism was as significant as partisanship and senators were more individual actors than predictable votes for their caucus.

Twice elected governor before claiming Mr. Byrd’s seat, he’s the only lawmaker standing in the way of an all-Republican congressional delegation in West Virginia, a state that former President Donald J. Trump carried by nearly 40 points last year. And he is an unlikely majority-maker of the Democratic Senate.

“We really are the big tent,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, before knowingly adding: “Now it’s a lot of work when you have a big tent, right? But that’s the way we have a majority.”

While out of step with his national party on some issues, and written off by parts of the left as little better than a Republican, his politics are more complex, even confounding, than they appear at first glance.

He provided the deciding vote on two of the biggest liberal priorities of this era — blocking repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017 and on passage of the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill this month — while also twice voting to convict an impeached president wildly popular in his home state.

And while he may admire Mr. Byrd’s dedication to Senate tradition, Mr. Manchin has not emulated his predecessor by leveraging his power to focus relentlessly on steering spending projects back to West Virginia.

When Mr. Manchin was holding out on a single amendment that was delaying passage of the stimulus bill, White House aides were perplexed because his price for supporting the measure was not additional money for his impoverished home state. His main request, West Wing officials said, was to pare back spending and consider Republican input that could have made the bill appear more moderate.

Mr. Manchin said President Biden warned him in a phone call that the progressive left in the House might balk if the bill were significantly trimmed. “I said, ‘Mr. President, all we’re trying to do is put some guard rails on this,’” he recalled.

He was less happy about Vice President Kamala Harris’s effort to nudge him on the legislation by making an appearance on a television affiliate in West Virginia to promote the bill without forewarning him. The clip went viral and, Mr. Manchin said, prompted cleanup conversations with Mr. Biden and the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain.

As for any pressure that he may feel on the filibuster, Mr. Manchin said he had reminded Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, of how essential he was to providing Democrats a majority.

He said he had told Mr. Schumer, “I know one thing, Chuck, you wouldn’t have this problem at all if I wasn’t here.”

He is not the only impediment to the sort of expansive liberal agenda preferred by many congressional Democrats or even the only one still defending the filibuster. Other Senate Democrats, including Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, also share his reluctance.

Yet none are as eager as Mr. Manchin to restore a bygone day of collegiality. And perhaps, more to the point, none are as happy as him to talk about the need to do so as he navigates representing a once-heavily Democratic state that had been shifting to the G.O.P. even before Mr. Trump arrived on the scene.

He crossed the aisle last year to endorse his closest Republican ally, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and is already co-hosting bipartisan lunches with her. He is plotting the post-pandemic restoration of his pizza-and-beer parties on the boat he calls home while in Washington. (It’s called “Almost Heaven,” the opening lyric to John Denver’s ode to West Virginia.)

Although some of his colleagues relish the ideologically-charged prime-time cable news programs, Mr. Manchin prefers another Washington institution that also flourished in less-polarized times: the Sunday morning show.

In the fashion of many former governors who grow exasperated with Washington’s glacial pace, at times he can barely contain his impatience. He’s repeatedly mused about leaving the Senate and trying to reclaim his old job in Charleston.

But those who know Mr. Manchin well believe he likes the attention that he receives in the capital, the same as he did as a signal-caller in Farmington, W.V., where he grew up near Nick Saban, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama and a lifelong friend of Mr. Manchin.

“You’re in the hot seat when you’re a quarterback, but it’s pretty satisfying when you make progress,” said Nick Casey, a Manchin ally and former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. Mr. Casey said the senator, who sustained an injury that cut short his playing days, was “the greatest QB who never got to start at West Virginia University — just ask him.”

Steve Williams, the mayor of Huntington, W.V., who served with Mr. Manchin in the state legislature, said: “This is the closest he has been to how he could be as governor, actually driving the agenda, pulling people together.’’

It’s the last part that most animates the senator. Happily bantering with reporters as he positions himself as a lonely, if well-covered, voice for comity, he shifts questions from policy to process.

“Why don’t you ask people when was the last time they took time to talk to some of the people on this side?” Mr. Manchin told a CNN reporter this week. “Try to convince them, or work with them. Have you had dinner with them? Have you had a lunch with them? Have you had a cup of coffee with them? Try something.”

A number of anti-filibuster Senate Democrats, though, are more focused on what Mr. Manchin’s support of the “talking filibuster” could portend.

“I think that gives us a lot of room for discussion,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, adopting a glass-is-half-full perspective.

What does seem clear is that Mr. Manchin is not going to switch parties.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen, although we’d welcome him with open arms,” said Ms. Collins, who has tried in the past to persuade her friend to join Republicans.

It’s not difficult to see why Mr. Manchin remains in his forefathers’ party. A Catholic of Italian descent, he sought John F. Kennedy’s desk when he arrived in the Senate, displays a picture of the slain president in his office lobby and can recall hearing that Massachusetts accent in his kitchen when Kennedy’s brothers came to his parents’ house during the West Virginia primary in 1960.

“Joe reminds me a lot of the old conservative Democrats in Texas,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. “They were born Democrats. They’re going to die Democrats.”

As for the filibuster, Mr. Coons, who was sworn in alongside Mr. Manchin in 2010, said liberals shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Recalling a conversation with somebody who knows Mr. Manchin well, Mr. Coons said this person told him: “If the ghost of Robert Byrd came back to life and said the future of West Virginia itself is on the line he might … think about it.”


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C.D.C. Funding Gun Violence Research For First Time in Decades





That was the argument he used to help persuade Congress to appropriate money for gun violence research in 2019. The research itself was never banned outright, and in 2013, weeks after the massacre that killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, President Barack Obama directed the C.D.C. to reconsider funding studies on gun violence.

The agency commissioned a report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council outlining priorities, but little changed. By 2019, after Democrats reclaimed the House, liberal organizations like were petitioning Congress to repeal the Dickey Amendment. Nearly every House Democrat signed on.

But Dr. Rosenberg argued it should remain intact, to “provide cover for Republicans and gun-loving Democrats who can put money into the science and tell their constituents, ‘This is not money for gun control.’ ”

Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chaired the House subcommittee that oversees the C.D.C.’s budget at the time, said she put $50 million into the appropriations bill that year, but the Senate, controlled by Republicans, eliminated it. The two chambers agreed on $25 million as a compromise, but she said she hoped to double the funding this year.

Dr. Naik-Mathuria, the Houston trauma surgeon, said she would like to see Washington address the problem of gun violence as a matter of injury prevention, not politics. She began researching methods to reduce gun violence about six years ago, she said, after seeing “kids come in dead because they shot themselves in the head when they found a gun at home.”

Her current study is aimed at determining risk factors for gun violence for children and adults, and her past work has led to some changes in medical practice, she said.

Pediatricians in Texas, she said, are hesitant to talk about gun safety out of concern that “it would anger parents or become political.” So she and her group made a broader safety video that tucked in messages about gun safety — like keeping guns locked and stored — with tips like how to keep children away from poison.


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Who Are Gavin Newsom’s Enemies?





There’s still time for a lot to change: If the organizers of the recall effort reach the signature threshold, the vote to recall Mr. Newsom and to choose his successor — both would be done on a single ballot — probably wouldn’t occur until near the end of the year.

That recall effort is being led by Orrin Heatlie, a conservative and a former sergeant in the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, who as recently as last year shared anti-vaccination and anti-L.G.B.T.Q. views online. But the endeavor has the backing of a number of deep-pocketed political action committees, most of them right-leaning.

Randy Economy, a political consultant and talk-radio host, serves as the lead adviser to Recall Gavin Newsom, the group organizing the effort. He said the governor’s behavior and demeanor had made the recall necessary. “It’s because of Gavin Newsom himself, and the way he conducts himself every day since he’s become governor,” Mr. Economy said in an interview. “It’s all been more about his image and self-aggrandizing, as opposed to fixing the problems.”

Mr. Newsom’s approval rating isn’t nearly as low as Gov. Gray Davis’s was in 2003, when voters ousted him in a recall. Arnold Schwarzenegger, running as a moderate Republican, was the beneficiary of that effort, winning the recall election and going on to serve as governor for more than seven years.

California politics are different — and decidedly more Democratic — than they were 18 years ago. Democrats now have a 2-to-1 advantage in terms of voter registration across the state. Just because there is a Republican-led effort does not mean that a Republican will be the one to ultimately benefit. Mr. Economy, who volunteered in 2016 for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign but has also worked for Democrats in the past, insisted that his team’s goal was not partisan in nature.

“Our job is not to pick the next governor; our job is to make sure that this governor’s recalled and removed from office,” he said.

The state is light on prominent (let alone popular) G.O.P. politicians, and some ambitious Democrats already appear ready to run through the open door. All of which points to a possible irony: Even if it were to become only the second successful recall effort in California history, the push — led by conservative interests — could ultimately lift up another Democrat, possibly one to the left of Mr. Newsom.


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