A few weeks ago I reiterated that the most parsimonious explanation for why Asian Americans have been shifting to the Democratic party over the past generation (George H. W. Bush won Asian Americans according to the 1992 exit polls) is a matter of identity politics (reiterated, because I noticed this years ago in the survey data). In short, since the 1950s a normative expectation that America was defined by its historic white Protestant majority has receded. The proportion of “Others,” non-whites, non-Christians, etc., has grown to the point that for all practical purposes these groups have found a secure home in the Democratic party, and the Democratic party has been able to benefit electorally from this support (this would not be the case in 1950, because not enough Americans were non-white or non-Christian). Naturally then the Republican party has become the locus of organization for white Christians, and more specifically white Protestants.
GeoCurrents on the political anomaly of the “Driftless” zone of the upper Mississippi (via GLPiggy). The anomaly has to do with the fact that this area is very white, very rural, and not in the orbit of a larger cosmopolitan urban area (e.g., “Greater Boston,” which extends into New Hampshire). The post goes into much greater detail, but concludes with a request for more information. This is the area where local knowledge might be helpful.
I went poking around old county level presidential election maps, and I can’t see the Driftless blue-zone being a shadow or ghost of any past pattern. But, I did stumble upon again the 1856 presidential election map by county…can there be a better illustration of the “Greater Yankeedom” (the red are Republican voting counties, the first year that the Republicans were a substantial national party):
I decided to go with my own blog, rather than return to EconLog, because I want to have total control over the blog content. I want to model a very particular style of discourse, as indicated by the tag line “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” In June, I wrote
Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can
(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author
So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic?
My goal is to avoid (c). I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say. So, if what you most enjoyed about my past blogging efforts were the put-downs, be prepared for disappointment with this incarnation.
Following up my request a reader crunched the numbers (here is his data table) to show the association between supporting supporting Proposition 37 and voting for Barack Obama by county in California:
From what I know this issue really polarized people in highly educated liberal enclaves in the state of California. Many of my Left non-scientist friends supported the measure because of an anti-corporate animus. But, another issue that sometimes came up was transparency and fair play, in a “teach the controversy” fashion. My own contention is on the scientific point there is no controversy.
I am currently reading Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. The review will go live concurrently with Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled, which I finished weeks ago. The two works are qualitatively different, but fundamentally they’re both concerned with epistemology. I do have to admit that halfway through The Signal and the Noise I long for Manzi’s density and economy of prose. As someone on the margins of the LessWrong community I’m already familiar with many of the arguments that Silver forwards, so perhaps this evaluation is not fair.
Last spring I made a bet with a friend that Mitt Romney would win. He gave me 5:1 odds, and I assumed a 40% chance that Romney would win. So I expected to lose, but if I won I’d win big. At this point I assume I’m out that money, because I’d put Romney’s chances at less than 40% (though I think people underweight uncertainty, so I believe there’s a lot of variation in this prediction). But now I’m hearing/reading that many Republicans are under the impression that the polls are skewed. If you believe that the polls are skewed would you be willing to bet money that the polls are skewed? Specifically, I want to wager that “unskewed polls” turn out to be further off the mark than the regular polls in reference to the final election results. I’m not 100% sure that the pollsters are correct, and I don’t know more than a superficial amount as to the weighting methodologies, but the track record of skew-skeptics is suspect enough that I think this is a way I can make money off people who I perceive to be suckers. Of course, the people who I perceive to be suckers think I’m the sucker, which is fair enough. Take my money! Please speak up in the comments if you want to make a bet. I’d want it to be public, and you have to put your real name out there. Also, I want to know if you’ll give me some odds, because I assume you are moderately confident in your assessment that the polls are skewed.
In the comments below there was a question as to political party consistency over the decades in terms of voting by state. A quick correct impression is that the Democratic South shifted toward Republican, while New England went the opposite direction. In contrast much of the Midwest remained Republican over the whole period. How does this comport with the quantitative data?
I went about this in a relatively straightforward manner. First, I computed the national average Democratic vote in presidential years since 1912 (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and D.C.) using the states as input values (so this would differ from the popular vote percentages, as low population states would have the same weight as high population states). Second, I then converted the state results into standard deviation units. Then, I computed the standard deviation of these values. So, for example, Mississippi tended to have larger positive values in the first half of the 20th century (voted more Democratic than the nation as a whole), but shifted toward negative in the later 20th century (less Democratic than the nation as a whole). Because of this shift Mississippi had a high standard deviation over the years, since its national position was highly dispersed over time. In contrast, New Mexico was much closer to the national mean over time.
Here’s the rank ordered list:
The two maps above show the Democratic and Republican counties in blue and red respectively. Carter in the 1976 presidential election, and Obama in 2008. A few days ago it was brought to my attention that Matt Yglesias was curious about how Maine become a Democratic leaning state in the past generation. How is a deep question I’ll leave to political scientists, but how about the patterns of voting Democratic over elections by state for the past 100 years? That’s not too hard to find, there’s state-level election data online. So I just calculated the correlations between past elections and Democratic results, and Obama’s performance in 2008. If you’re a junkie of political science I assume you’ve seen something like this….
I often hear in the media that Hispanics are “socially conservative.” For that sort of thing you do need “quick & dirty” rules-of-thumb, and the assertion seems broadly plausible. On the other hand, the Hispanic attitude toward gay marriage isn’t really that different from non-Hispanic white (see GSS MARHOMO variable). So I decided to query non-Hispanic white and Hispanic attitudes to a range of “hot-button” social issues in the GSS. I also broke it down by college vs. non-college educated cohorts. All results are from the year 2000 and later.
Update: There was a major coding error. I’ve rerun the analysis. No qualitative change.
As is often the case a 10 minute post using the General Social Survey is getting a lot of attention. Apparently circa 1997 web interfaces are so intimidating to people that extracting a little data goes a long way. Instead of talking and commenting I thought as an exercise I would go further, and also be precise about my methodology so that people could replicate it (hint: this is a chance for readers to follow up and figure something out on their own, instead of tossing out an opinion I don’t care about).
I basically repeated the title from Michael Eisen, who has the details over at his weblog. A minor side point, if I blog on a paper you can’t get access to, contact me and I’m sure I can fix that situation. In any case, the point here is that apparently Congress, thanks to the prodding of representative Carolyn Maloney, is attempting to end the practice whereby NIH funded research becomes “open” after 12 months. Here’s what Michael suggests you do:
So I urge you to call/write/email/tweet Representative Maloney today, and tell her you support taxpayer access to biomedical research results. Ask her why she wants cancer patients to pay Elsevier $25 to access articles they’ve already paid for. And demand that she withdraw H.R. 3699.
Twitter: @RepMaloney @CarolynBMaloney
Email: Use this form
You can also write your own representative. If you don’t have a blog, or this issue isn’t part of your purview as a blogger, please “share” Michael’s post on Facebook, twitter, etc.
As I’ve noted in this space before many of my “web friends” and readers are confused why I call myself “conservative.” This is actually an issue in “real life” as well, though I’m not going to get into that because I’m a believer in semi-separation of the worlds. I’ll be giving a full account of my political beliefs at the Moving Secularism Forward conference. A quick answer is that I’m very open to voting for Republicans, and have done so in the recent past. And, my lean toward Mitt Romney* in the current cycle is probably obvious to “close readers.” But I’m not a very “political person” in the final accounting when it comes to any given election. I didn’t have a very strong reaction to the “wave” elections of 2006, 2008, and 2010, except that I was hopeful but skeptical that Democrats would actually follow through on their anti-war rhetoric (I’m an isolationist on foreign policy).
Rather, my conservatism, or perhaps more accurately anti-Left-liberal stance, plays out on a broader philosophical and historical canvas. I reject the very terms of much of Left-liberal discourse in the United States. I use the term “discourse” because for some reason the academic term has replaced the more informal “discussion” in non-scholarly forums. And that’s part of the problem. I am thinking of this because of a post by Nandalal Rasiah at Brown Pundits commenting on a piece over at Slate, Responding to Egregious Attack on Female Protester, Egyptian Women Fight Back. Whether conventional or counter-intuitive Slate is a good gauge of “smart” Left-liberal non-academic public thought. Nandalal highlights this section:
Newt Gingrich is high in the polls right now. I’m moderately skeptical of the persistence of this surge, though I’m biased since I’m rooting for Mitt Romney (and Ron Paul, though he has no chance) in the Republican field. But in any case, I keep seeing Newt’s face in news reports, and something is off. That’s because we haven’t had a fat president in a long time. About 90 years. In fact, as the American population has gotten heavier, the heads of state have gotten thinner (on average). This came to the fore when people were mulling Chris Christie’s potential run.
Of course in politics the sample size is small enough that trends are trends until they’re not. As you can see from presidential portraits we hadn’t had any black presidents until recently. Newt would be the first twice-divorced president. And the second with a Ph.D.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore
Over the past few days the American media has reacted with some consternation at the fact that it seems likely that Islamist political forces will probably control around two-thirds of the Egyptian legislature. This bloc is divided between a broad moderate element which emerges out of the Muslim Brotherhood, at around ~40 percent, and a crazy and savage Salafist component, at around ~25 percent. Terms like “moderate” need to be standardized though in their cultural context. The Muslim Brotherhood is moderate in an Egyptian framework. But it is not moderate in, for example, a Tunisian context, let alone a Turkish one. Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahaway has pointed out that while the Tunisian Islamist party, Ennahda, has women in substantive positions (e.g., 42 or 46 women in the Tunisian legislature are members of Ennahda) the Muslim Brotherhood gives women only token representation, with no leadership role. And, as I have observed before the Islamist prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was greeted with great anger by North African Islamists when he proposed the shocking idea (to them) that all religions be treated equally. My point is that what is moderate in Egypt is going to be very reactionary in North Africa, and what is moderate in North Africa is going to be very reactionary in Turkey. In fact, what is moderate in Turkey is going to be very reactionary in the West. To a great extent, this is common sense, but for some reason this sense is lacking from our broader discussion on these issues.
A few months ago I pointed out that there’s strong circumstantial evidence that Rick Perry is not very smart. Or, he’s very lazy. While George W. Bush had a reputation as dull, his standardized test scores indicated that he wasn’t without any raw material. This makes sense in light of the fact that his father is reputedly bright, having graduated from Yale with an economics degree in three years. Perry in contrast may be the real deal in terms of a dumb authentic Texas politician.
All that being said, one reader pointed out that Perry did have the intellect to become an officer in the Air Force. Since the military uses standardized tests a fair amount you can put a floor on his intelligence. So I let the matter rest, especially since Perry dropped a great deal in the polls.
But all this came back to mind over the past few days, after Rick Perry’s famous brain freeze during the recent debate. I don’t judge Perry too harshly on this matter in regards to intellect, as I suspect a lot of the problem here is that he hasn’t campaigned very long with the same talking points. Nevertheless, he did forget about the Department of Energy, which should be high on his mental checklist recalling his priorities in this area.
Kevin Drum is in no mood for apologies:
New York Magazine has a rundown of the attitudes of some of the G.O.P. candidates for the nomination in regards to evolution. Remember, this is an issue which is split down the middle in the American populace, but elites have a strong skew toward accepting evolution. This is probably why despite a majority Creationist primary electorate in 2008 the majority of Republican candidates still agreed with the evolutionary position. In 2012 it looks like the Creationism or semi-Creationist contingent is going to get larger.
In the General Social Survey they asked in the late 2000s whether respondents accepted that “humans developed from animals.” The response was dichotomous. Here are some results for various population groups:
At The Intersection Chris Mooney points to new research which reiterates that 1) political ideology exhibits some heritability, 2) and, there are associations between political ideology and specific genes. I’ll set #2 aside for now, because this is a classic “more research needed” area at this point. But as I mentioned in the comments the heritability of political ideology is well known and robust. From what I can gather most people assume it’s mediated through personality traits. In the comments Chris asks:
That sounds sensible. What i find amazing is that if the heritability of politics is so robust–and I agree, it would happen via personality–why is this so widely ignored?
There are I think several issues at work. First, many people are not comfortable within imagining that beliefs which they attribute to their conscious rational choice are not only subject to social inculcation, but that may also have an element of genetic disposition. Second, most people have a poor grasp of what heritability implies. Take a look at some of Chris’ commenters. The response is generally in the “not even wrong” class. Finally, what’s the actionable component to this? In other words, what are people going to do with this sort of information?
In recent years, many scholars have explored the degree of polarization between red and blue states (red states are those carried by Republicans at the presidential level; blue states are those carried by Democrats). Some claim that red- and blue-state citizens are deeply polarized, while others disagree, arguing that there are only limited differences between the two groups. All previous work on this topic, however, simply uses difference-of-means tests to determine when these two groups are polarized. We show that this test alone cannot determine whether states are actually polarized. We remedy this shortcoming by introducing a new measure based on the degree of issue-position overlap between red- and blue-state citizens. Our findings demonstrate that there is only limited polarization—and a good deal of common ground—between red states and blue states. We discuss the implications of our work both for the study of polarization itself and for the broader study of American politics.
Generating a statistical construct of the distribution of liberalism and conservatism on social and economic issues the authors produced a set of plots which illustrate the differences between “red” (conservative) states and “blue” (liberal) states. In the figures below the blue line represents “blue states/regions” while the red dashed lines represents “red states/regions.”
A new study (which I can not find online yet) in The Journal of Politics has some interesting descriptive information on correlations between mates when it comes to politics:
On a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 means perfectly matched, physical traits (body shape, weight and height) only score between 0.1 and 0.2 among spouse pairs. Personality traits, such as extroversion or impulsivity, are also weak and fall within the 0 to 0.2 range. By comparison, the score for political ideology is more than 0.6, higher than any of the other measured traits except frequency of church attendance, which was just over 0.7.
The gap between physical traits and politics and religion was surprising to me, though I am not surprised by the power of politics and religion in sorting pairs. An important point of the paper apparently is that this correlation does not emerge through convergence over the term of a relationship. Rather, partners are strongly similar at the beginning of relationships. And the similarity isn’t simply due to the fact that they emerge out of a similar milieu where particular political and religious views are dominant: