FDL Book Salon Welcomes Andrew Gelman: Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State

andrew-gelman-red-state-blue-state.thumbnail.jpgDiscussions of American politics in the media are dominated by conventional wisdom and lazy stereotypes rather than serious inquiry into the data. The cure to this disease is Andrew Gelman’s < Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State an inquiry into "why Americans vote the way they do" that’s brief and about as readable as a rigorous, data-driven book can be. Gelman crunches the numbers and uses words and graphs to explode much of what people think they know about American political behavior.

In fact, for all the talk in recent years about working class conservatives and latte liberals, Gelman shows convincingly that rich people remain loyal Republicans while those further down the economic ladder support the Democrats. What is true is that wealthier states such as Connecticut back the Democrats while poor states such as Mississippi prefer the GOP, with middle income states such as Ohio forming the swing constituency. Still, though Mississippi as a whole is poor and Republican, the base of Republican support in the state is wealthy Mississippians not poor ones. The famous red/blue maps are misleading in this regard, prompting people to use a fallacy of composition and assume that Republican voters have the characteristics (low income) of Republican states.

Nor, Gelman shows, is it true that downscale voters are ruled by their religious or moral sentiments rather than economic self-interest. On the contrary, religiosity and opinions about hot-bottom cultural issues have little impact on the voting behavior of poor Americans. It’s among the wealthy where you see cultural issues making a big difference and religiosity highly correlated with voting behavior. (more…)