It is commonly assumed that how individuals identify on the political spectrum-whether liberal, conservative, or moderate-has a universal meaning when it comes to policy stances and voting behavior. But, does political identity mean the same thing from place to place? Using data collected from across the U.S. we find that even when people share the same political identity, those in "bluer" locations are more likely to support left-leaning policies and vote for Democratic candidates than those in "redder" locations. Because the meaning of political identity is inconsistent across locations, individuals who share the same political identity sometimes espouse opposing policy stances. Meanwhile, those with opposing identities sometimes endorse identical policy stances. Such findings suggest that researchers, campaigners, and pollsters must use caution when extrapolating policy preferences and voting behavior from political identity, and that animosity toward the other end of the political spectrum is sometimes misplaced. © 2017 Feinberg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Feinberg, M., Tullett, A. M., Mensch, Z., Hart, W., & Gottlieb, S. (2017). The political reference point: How geography shapes political identity. PLoS ONE, 12(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171497