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electoral geography

  The study of geographical aspects of the organization, conduct and results of elections. Pioneering studies (including those by the French geographer André Siegfried: e.g. Siegfried, 1913) were published early in the twentieth century, but most of the small literature dates from the 1960s on: few researchers identify themselves specifically as electoral geographers. Taylor (1989) argued that many empirical investigations of voting patterns have only a relatively weak theoretical base, and criticized electoral geographers for their lack of integration into the expanding field of political geography.

Many aspects of elections are inherently spatial in their form, covering five separate areas of electoral study:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } The spatial organization of elections, especially the definition of constituencies (see districting algorithm; gerrymandering; malapportionment); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } Spatial variations in voting patterns, plus the relationships between these and other characteristics of the population (see cleavage); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } The influence of local factors on political attitudes and voting decisions (see contextual effect; friends-and-neighbours effect; neighbourhood effect); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } Spatial patterns of representation which result from the translation of votes into seats in a representative body; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } The spatial variations in power and policy implementation which reflect the patterns of representation (see pork barrel).Study of the second and third of these was advanced by the adoption of quantitative methods for analysis of spatial data in the 1960s. Voting returns at various spatial scales can be combined with areal data from censuses to investigate the relationships between population characteristics and partisan choices. Greater sophistication in analyses of such data has been achieved recently (in the context of awareness of both the ecological fallacy and the modifiable areal unit problem), including the integration of survey (questionnaire) and aggregate data (Johnston, Pattie and Allsopp, 1988: see entropy-maximizing models; multi-level modelling). Most of the work focuses on variations in electoral behaviour at a variety of scales, contrasting people in similar social situations but different spatial locations: seminal work in this field was done by Archer and Taylor (1981), who, using factor analysis, identified critical elections, when the geography of voting (and hence the underlying electoral cleavages) changes in the voting for American Presidents over a period of 150 years.

In most countries the translation of votes into seats involves the use of spatially delimited constituencies. Manipulation of their boundaries can generate electoral bias (favouring one party or interest group over another) away from the \'norm\' of proportional representation (a party\'s percentage of the seats allocated should be consistent with its percentage of the votes cast). This bias may be the result of deliberate strategies, such as malapportionment and gerrymandering, or it may, as Gudgin and Taylor (1979) demonstrated, be the unintended consequence of the disinterested application of neutrally conceived rules for constituency construction (as illustrated by Rossiter, Johnston and Pattie, 1999; Rossiter et al., 1999).

The links between electoral and political geography are clearly demonstrated in a recent book on the USA (Shelley et al., 1996), much of which relates the geography of voting at Presidential elections to spatial variations in political interests.

The outcome of an election gives power to individuals and groups within the state apparatus, who may use that to promote their own interests, including their own re-election, through the selective allocation of public goods to particular areas (Johnston, 1980). (RJJ)

References Archer, J.C. and Taylor, P.J. 1981: Section and party: a political geography of American Presidential elections from Andrew Jackson to Ronald Reagan. London and New York: John Wiley. Gudgin, G. and Taylor, P.J. 1979: Seats, votes and the spatial organization of elections. London: Pion. Johnston, R.J. 1980: The geography of federal spending in the United States. Chichester and New York: John Wiley. Johnston, R.J., Pattie, C.J. and Allsopp, J.G. 1988: A nation dividing? The electoral map of Great Britain 1979-1987. London and New York: Longman. Rossiter, D.J., Johnston, R.J. and Pattie, C.J. 1999: The Boundary Commissions: redrawing the UK\'s map of Parliamentary constituencies. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Rossiter, D.J., Johnston, R.J., Pattie, C.J., Dorling, D.F., Tunstall, H. and McAllister, I. 1999: Changing biases in the operation of the UK\'s electoral system, 1950-1997. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 1. Shelley, F.M., Archer, J.C., Davidson, F.M. and Brunn, S.D. 1996: Political geography of the United States. New York and London: Guilford Press. Siegfried, A. 1913: Tableau politique de la France de l\'Ouest. Paris: A. Colin. Taylor, P.J. 1989: Political geography: world-economy, nation-state and community, 2nd edn. London and New York: Longman.

Suggested Reading Johnston, R.J. 1979: Political, electoral and spatial systems. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Reynolds, D.R. and Knight, D.B. 1989: Political geography. In G.L. Gaile and C.J. Willmott, eds, Geography in America. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company, 582-618. Taylor, P.J. and Johnston, R.J. 1979: Geography of elections. London: Penguin Books.



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