Candidates and nominees for statewide office in the United States do not emerge from random locations within states. In this paper, we argue that densely populated areas are more likely to both foster political ambition and to afford the resources that enable candidates to wage an effective campaign. Candidates and nominees for major statewide office originate from populous counties in numbers significantly out of proportion to these counties' share of their state's population. Meanwhile, aspirants virtually never emerge out of rural areas or small towns. The pattern holds for all candidates and nominees for both Senate and governor and for both major political parties. Regional biases are more pronounced for institutionally strong gubernatorial offices than for weak offices and among high quality nominees for statewide office than among inexperienced candidates. Given the importance of urban/rural cleavages in the American electorate, these findings raise fundamental questions about political representation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science
- Candidate ambition
- Electoral politics
- Political regionalism
- Urban-rural divide