Size-of-Place Analysis: Another Reconsideration

Published date01 December 1971
Date01 December 1971
Subject MatterArticles
University of Texas at Austin
SIZE-OF-PLACE makes an
independent contribution to Democratic
~ voting strength was first documented by Epstein’s study of the two-party
-aL gubernatorial vote in four Wisconsin elections.’ Additional support for the
hypothesis was provided by Adamany’s replication and extension of the analysis
for the same state.2
Both investigators noted the limitation of generalizing from
a single state, suggesting that &dquo;... it is uncertain whether Wisconsin’s division of
the two-party vote by size of place represents a fairly general phenomenon, or
whether it merely results from circumstances peculiar to a given time and place.&dquo; 3
Studies of other states have, in fact, cast some doubt upon the generality of
this proposition. Masters and Wright, studying gubernatorial elections in Michi-
gan, concluded that &dquo;... the size of the place was an inadequate variable to explain
voting patterns in Michigan cities.&dquo;
Fenton’s study of four Midwestern states
found widely varying correlations between percent urban by county (which is pre-
sumably related to size of place) and Democratic votes A Texas variant of the
size-of-place analysis yielded findings which also diverged from the Epstein-
Adamany data. In short the size-of-place proposition, while intuitively appealing,
is problematic when one considers the empiricial evidence offered to date. The
purpose of this note is to provide another reconsideration of that hypothesis differ-
ing from earlier studies in that it is based on data from all United States counties.
The theoretical underpinnings of the size-of-place proposition go considerably
beyond the starkly simplified statement of the hypothesis itself. The Epstein-
Adamany argument is based on the notion that community social structure varies
with community size and that correspondingly the more heterogeneous and com-
plex the social structure, the more likely that lower status groups will possess the
organizational bases sufficient to challenge the opinion-formation role otherwise
normally held by upper-status Republican leaders. Along the same lines Key, for
example, has noted that the social homogeneity of the small town
... may induce a greater homogeneity of opinion, a condition perhaps reinforced by the
monopolization of the positions of respectability and prestige by a unified and visible norm-
NOTE: We acknowledge with gratitude the support of the Population Research Center of
the University of Texas, the assistance of Michael D. Grimes and Peter Beeson and the
suggestions made by David Adamany, Harley Browning, and Lewis F. Carter.
Leon D. Epstein, "Size of Place and the Division of the Two-Party Vote in Wisconsin,"
Western Political Quarterly, 9 (March 1956), 138-50.
David Adamany, "The Size-of-Place Analysis Reconsidered," Western Political Quarterly,
17 (September 1964), 477-87.
Epstein, op. cit., p. 149.
Nicholas Masters and Deil S. Wright, "Trends and Variations in the Two-Party Vote: The
Case of Michigan," American Political Science Review, 52 (December 1958), p. 1086.
John Fenton, Midwest Politics (New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1966), pp. 33, 54,
132, 196.
James R. Soukup, Clifton McCleskey, and Harry Holloway, Party and Factional Division
in Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964), pp. 40-62.

setting community leadership. To a degree, the argument is that in small communities lesser

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