Government & Politics

Deciphering the American Voter

Stanford researchers measure the depth of our partisan divide — and suggest some ways to bridge it.

October 21, 2020

| by Steve Hawk


Yard signs supporting U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden are seen outside of an early voting site at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Credit: REUTERS/Al Drago

The nation’s political partisanship reaches from romance to geography and beyond. | REUTERS/Al Drago

With only a few weeks until the 2020 presidential election, we sifted through the Stanford Business Insights archives in search of articles about America’s polarized electorate — and which perhaps suggest methods for bridging our growing political divide. Here are five that focus on research by Stanford GSB professors who have explored everything from romance to street protests to football.

Incumbents Thrive When the Home Team Wins

People vote for political candidates based on their performance in office — right? While political scientists like to think so, research shows that an incumbent’s fate can be influenced by far less weighty matters — like whether the local college football team wins or loses.

Investing in Peace

When a pool of voters in Israel were nudged to trade in stocks prior to a 2015 election, an interesting thing happened: They quickly shifted their political support to candidates who favored peace talks. In this video, professor Saumitra Jha discusses what happens when people are awakened to the economic costs of war.

Political Polarization’s Geographic Roots Run Deep

Red state, blue state. Conservative, progressive. Small government, big government. Among all the familiar fault lines in American politics, the one with the deepest implications is the stark, growing divide between rural and urban voters. “We’re at a moment of extreme geographic sectionalism,” says Stanford political scientist Jonathan Rodden.

How Protests Can Swing Elections

From anti-war marches in the 1960s to the Tea Party rallies of 2010 and the almost nonstop protests of the past few years, marching in the streets has been a fixture of modern American life. But do protests actually accomplish anything in terms of election results or the balance of party power? Absolutely yes, according to a study based on 30 years of data.

Political Polarization Extends to Romance

Research reveals that a person’s political affiliation is as important as their education level — and even their height — when it comes to identifying a potential mate.

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.

Explore More