Fenced Off: The Suburbanization of American Politics
by Juliet F. Gainsborough
Georgetown University Press, 2001
Paper: 978-0-87840-831-3
Library of Congress Classification JK1764.G65 2001
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.20973091733

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Since the 1980s a distinctive suburban politics has emerged in the United States, Juliet F. Gainsborough argues in Fenced Off . As suburbs have become less economically and socially dependent on the central cities, suburban and urban dwellers have diverged not only in their voting patterns but also in their thinking about national politics. While political reporters have long noted this difference, few quantitative studies have been conducted on suburbanization alone—above and beyond race or class—as a political trend.

Using census and public opinion statistics, along with data on congressional districts and party platforms, Gainsborough demonstrates that this "ideology of localism" weakens when suburbs experience city-like problems and strengthens when racial and economic differences with the nearby city increase. In addition, Gainsborough uses national survey data from the 1950s to the 1990s to show that a separate suburban politics has arisen only during the last two decades.

Further, she argues, the political differences between urban and suburban voters have found expression in changes in congressional representation and new electoral strategies for the major political parties. As Congressional districts become increasingly suburban, "soccer moms" and liveability agendas come to dominate party platforms, and the needs of the urban poor disappear from political debate. Fenced Off uses the tools of political science to prove what political commentators have sensed—that the suburbs offer a powerful voting bloc that is being courted with sophisticated new strategies.


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