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The Increasingly United States

How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized

In a campaign for state or local office these days, you’re as likely today to hear accusations that an opponent advanced Obamacare or supported Donald Trump as you are to hear about issues affecting the state or local community. This is because American political behavior has become substantially more nationalized. American voters are far more engaged with and knowledgeable about what’s happening in Washington, DC, than in similar messages whether they are in the South, the Northeast, or the Midwest. Gone are the days when all politics was local.

With The Increasingly United States, Daniel J. Hopkins explores this trend and its implications for the American political system. The change is significant in part because it works against a key rationale of America’s federalist system, which was built on the assumption that citizens would be more strongly attached to their states and localities. It also has profound implications for how voters are represented. If voters are well informed about state politics, for example, the governor has an incentive to deliver what voters—or at least a pivotal segment of them—want. But if voters are likely to back the same party in gubernatorial as in presidential elections irrespective of the governor’s actions in office, governors may instead come to see their ambitions as tethered more closely to their status in the national party.

See the supplementary appendices for the book.

Read the introduction.

336 pages | 69 line drawings, 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Chicago Studies in American Politics

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Political Behavior and Public Opinion


“Hopkins takes an empirical hammer to shatter the outdated maxim ‘all politics is local.’ Instead, he persuasively illustrates that politics in the United States have become increasingly nationalized, and that this is crucial to other major trends in American politics, such as the rise in partisan polarization. This is an authoritative book on an overlooked but essential topic.”

Nate Silver, founder and editor, FiveThirtyEight

“Like a master craftsman evaluating his materials, Hopkins carefully confirms some explanations for the steady nationalization of American party politics and discards others, skillfully using virtually every technique in the social science toolkit. This is meticulous empirical research that raises big normative questions about where America is headed.”

Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University

“America’s constitutional order is premised on a citizenry that takes its state and local allegiances seriously. What happens when these allegiances fade? In The Increasingly United States, Hopkins offers an incisive look at our increasingly nationalized political life and what it means for the future of federalism and the health of our democracy.”

Reihan Salam, executive editor, National Review

“At a time when most people think Americans are increasingly different from one another, this book shows one way we are increasingly similar—we’ve given up serious engagement in local and state politics because our partisan identities have been made meaningful by national politics. All politics isn’t local—not even close, it turns out—and the consequences extend beyond our local communities all the way to a gridlocked US Congress.”

Lynn Vavreck, University of California, Los Angeles

“Hopkins is a sure-footed guide to the twilight of local politics, and he’s aware of the risks that these developments may pose.”

Yascha Mounk | New Yorker

“An extremely important piece of work. . . . There are at least half a million elected officials in the United States. Only 537 of them are federal. And yet almost all of our collective attention is on those federal officials and in particular, just one of them: the president. As a result, elections these days, at every level of government, increasingly operate as a singular referendum on the president. . . . This disconcerting disconnect between national political behavior and localized elections is the subject of The Increasingly United States.”

Lee Drutman | Vox

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: The Increasingly United States
Chapter 2. Meanings of Nationalization, Past and Present
Chapter 3. The Nationalization of American Elections, 1928–2016
Chapter 4. Staying Home When It’s Close to Home
Chapter 5. Local Contexts in a Nationalized Age
Chapter 6. Explaining Nationalization
Chapter 7. E Pluribus Duo
Chapter 8. Sweet Home America
Chapter 9. The Declining Audience for State and Local News and Its Impacts
Chapter 10. Conclusion


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