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


At least since Key (1949), scholars have been interested in how voters’ geographic proximity to candidates predicts their support for these candidates. This relationship has largely been studied in state elections relying on aggregate voting data. As a consequence, we know little about the reasons why geographic proximity predicts support, nor do we know whether this pattern occurs in local elections. We address these issues using a unique dataset that identifies the residential locations of all voters and candidates running in seven local elections. The data also reveal the candidate choices of every voter, their personal attributes such as ethnicity and wealth, and their social affiliations including their occupations, churches, and families. These data allow us to examine how citizens’ geographic locations interweave with their social networks, their interests, their personal attributes, and ultimately their voting behavior.