Social Proximity and ‘Friends-and-Neighbors’ Voting in Local Elections

Donald A. DeBats, Sarah John, Matthew Thomas Pietryka

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


At least since Key (1949), scholars have been interested in understanding why voters tend to prefer candidates from geographically-proximate areas. Previous research on geographic voting patterns has primarily concentrated on statewide elections, with aggregate, rather than individual-level voting data. As a consequence, we know little about why voters prefer geographically-proximate candidates, and we do not know whether this pattern occurs in local elections. This inattention to local elections is problematic because local elections vastly outnumber elections for higher office and a large proportion of policy and resources are implemented and allocated by locally-elected officials (see Trounstine 2009).

To address these issues, we have conducted archival research to identify the residential locations of all voters and every candidate running for seven elected offices in Newport, Kentucky. Our records reveal exactly which residents voted *and* which candidates they voted for. This unique dataset is possible only because the elections, which occurred in 1874, were conducted under viva voce law, requiring all votes to be cast by voice and recorded in poll books. Further, we have sought all available public records about the city, combing through census rolls, tax lists, plat maps, city directories, church membership lists, and other sources. With these records, we have assembled a detailed profile about each of the city's residents, including their age, wealth, occupation, kin, church affiliation, and ethnic identity.

These data allow us to examine how residents' geographic locations interweave with their social networks, their interests, their personal attributes, and ultimately their voting behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
EventSouthern Political Science Association 90th Annual Conference
- JW Marriott, Austin, United States
Duration: 17 Jan 201919 Jan 2019
Conference number: 90th


ConferenceSouthern Political Science Association 90th Annual Conference
Abbreviated title2019 SPSA
Country/TerritoryUnited States
OtherThe Southern Political Science Association is pleased to announce that it will be hosting its 90th Annual Conference on January 17 – 19, 2019 in Austin, Texas at the JW Marriott.

Join the SPSA in its mission to nurture an intellectually charged environment where scholars come together from around the world to discuss topics ranging across the entire spectrum of political issues and ideas.

It is our goal that participants have the opportunity to discuss ideas, theories, and research with colleagues within the field of political science and strive to make improvements within the discipline.


  • Voter behaviour


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