Quality & Quantity

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 1687-1701

First online:

How similar are they? rethinking electoral congruence

  • Jason WittenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley Email author 

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Electoral continuity and discontinuity have been a staple of voting research for decades. Most researchers have employed Pearson’s r as a measure of congruence between two electoral outcomes across a set of geographic units. This paper argues that that practice should be abandoned. The correlation coefficient is a measure of linearity, not similarity, and is almost always the wrong measure. The paper recommends other quantities that better accord with what researchers usually mean by electoral persistence. Replications of prior studies in American and comparative politics demonstrate that the consequences of using r when it is inappropriate can be stark. In some cases what we think are continuities are actually discontinuities.


Elections Voting Continuity Similarity Correlation Concordance