Public Choice

, Volume 156, Issue 3–4, pp 387–408 | Cite as

The nationalization of electoral cycles in the United States: a wavelet analysis

  • Luís Aguiar-Conraria
  • Pedro C. Magalhães
  • Maria Joana Soares


We take a new look at electoral sectionalism and dynamic nationalization in presidential elections. We treat this problem as one of synchronism of electoral cycles, which we estimate by using wavelets. After providing a self-contained introduction to wavelet analysis, we use it to assess the degree and the dynamics of electoral synchronization in the United States. We determine clusters of states where electoral swings have been more and less in sync with each other and with the national cycle. Then, we analyze how the degree of synchronism of electoral cycles has changed through time, answering questions as to when, to what extent, and where has a tendency towards a “universality of political trends” in presidential elections been more strongly felt. We present evidence strongly in favor of an increase in the dynamic nationalization of presidential elections taking place since the 1950s, largely associated with a convergence in most (but not all) Southern states.


Electoral cycles synchronism Nationalization Wavelet analysis 

JEL Classification

H70 C32 D72 



Earlier versions of this article were presented at the American Political Science Association meeting in September 2010, at the Department of Economics of the University of Minho, and at the Lisbon Group for Institutions and Public Policy of the Nova School of Business and Economics and the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. We are grateful for all the comments we received there. We thank the editors of Public Choice and three anonymous reviewers for the comments and suggestions they provided. We would also like to express our gratitude to Bernard Grofman, Paul A. Beck, Samuel Merrill, and Thomas L. Brunell for their comments to earlier versions of the paper and for their encouragement. Pedro C. Magalhães worked in this article while he was FLAD Visiting Professor at the Department of Government of Georgetown University, and wishes to thank and the department and the Luso-American Foundation for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luís Aguiar-Conraria
    • 1
  • Pedro C. Magalhães
    • 2
    • 3
  • Maria Joana Soares
    • 4
  1. 1.NIPE and Economics DepartmentUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Department of GovernmentGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.NIPE and Department of Mathematics and ApplicationsUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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