Fenced Off

cover art
200 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878408313 (0878408312)

March 2001
LC: 00-061019

American Governance and Public Policy series



Fenced Off
The Suburbanization of American Politics
Juliet F. Gainsborough
Since the 1980s a distinctive suburban politics has emerged in the United States, Juliet F. Gainsborough argues in Fenced Off . As suburbs have become less economically and socially dependent on the central cities, suburban and urban dwellers have diverged not only in their voting patterns but also in their thinking about national politics. While political reporters have long noted this difference, few quantitative studies have been conducted on suburbanization alone—above and beyond race or class—as a political trend.

Using census and public opinion statistics, along with data on congressional districts and party platforms, Gainsborough demonstrates that this "ideology of localism" weakens when suburbs experience city-like problems and strengthens when racial and economic differences with the nearby city increase. In addition, Gainsborough uses national survey data from the 1950s to the 1990s to show that a separate suburban politics has arisen only during the last two decades.

Further, she argues, the political differences between urban and suburban voters have found expression in changes in congressional representation and new electoral strategies for the major political parties. As Congressional districts become increasingly suburban, "soccer moms" and liveability agendas come to dominate party platforms, and the needs of the urban poor disappear from political debate. Fenced Off uses the tools of political science to prove what political commentators have sensed—that the suburbs offer a powerful voting bloc that is being courted with sophisticated new strategies.
Juliet F. Gainsborough is an associate professor of political science at Bentley University.
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors
"A well written and methodologically sound analysis ."—Journal of Politics

"For those interested in how spatial arrangements shape America politics, this monograph is worth the read. In a compact, accessible analysis, the author strips away some of the myths and ambiguity surrounding suburban living and its role on political behavior. For those supporting decentralization and conservative primacy in in national politics, these findings will bring a measure of comfort. For those interested in a more progressive presence in national politics, this book is your wake-call."—American Political Science Review

"In showing that urban context has a strong impact on political participation, [Juliet Gainsborough] demonstrates conclusively that we much 'put place back in' to political science."—John Mollenkopf, Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center

"The most sophisticated study yet of the effects of suburbanization on political behavior."—Todd Swanstrom, Rockerfeller College of Public Affairs and Politics

"This book does a superb job of showing that 'place matters.' [It] is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of the most important forces shaping American politics today."—Margaret Weir, University of California, Berkeley