PS: Political Science & Politics

Special to PS

“The Big Sort” That Wasn't: A Skeptical Reexamination

Samuel J. Abramsa1 and Morris P. Fiorinaa2

a1 Sarah Lawrence College

a2 Stanford University

In 2008 journalist Bill Bishop achieved the kind of notice that authors dream about. His book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, was mentioned regularly during the presidential campaign; most notably, former president Bill Clinton urged audiences to read the book. Bishop's thesis is that Americans increasingly are choosing to live in neighborhoods populated with people just like themselves. In turn, these residential choices have produced a significant increase in geographic political polarization. Bishop does not contend that people consciously decide to live with fellow Democrats or Republicans; rather political segregation is a byproduct of the correlations between political views and the various demographic and life-style indicators people consider when making residential decisions. Whatever the cause, Bishop contends that the resulting geographic polarization is a troubling and dangerous development.

Samuel J. Abrams is assistant professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and Fellow at the Center for Advanced Social Science Research at New York University. He can be reached at

Morris P. Fiorina is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Wendt Family Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. He can be reached at