Thursday, May 14, 2009

Red region, blue region, smart region, dull region

One of the major themes discussed by Andrew Gelman in Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is how affluence tracks more strongly with the tendency to vote Republican in poorer states than it does in wealthy states. Since blue states are on the whole wealthier than red states are, this translates into a larger income gap between Republicans and Democrats in red states than in blue states. As affluence correlates with intelligence, the IQ gap presumably follows the same pattern.

In states like Massachusetts, liberal whiterpeople who vote Democratic and whose friends all vote Democratic think of Republicans as simpletons of a lower social class than themselves. And in the Bay State, that's understandable. Gelman points out that this is a problem when those localized assumptions are projected across the entire country, because in other regions of the country, they simply don't hold. In the South, the monied classes are overwhelmingly Republican.

There are no data tracking IQ and voting patterns at the state level. The GSS, however, does break respondents up into the nine broad geographic regions used by the US Census.

First, I should point out that during the Bush years, in aggregate Republicans are smarter than Democrats are (with IQ scores converted from Wordsum results of 100.5 and 98.6, respectively--independents are lower than either, at 95.3). This holds in every region of the country except for New England, where Democrats average 4.9 IQ points higher than Republicans do*.

But in the interracial status games whites play against one another, minorities are often invisible. Considering the same period of time, white Democrats are slightly more intelligent than white Republicans are (102.1 to 101.7, with independents at 97.6). A noisome Republican can use this to force a whiterperson into a politically incorrect corner where he has to choose between conceding that Republicans are smarter than Democrats are or admitting that the Democratic average is dragged down by its one-third non-white contingent.

Among whites alone, Republicans and Democrats differ in red and blue states. Following is a table showing Obama's advantage among white voters and the IQ advantage (converted from Wordsum scores with the assumption the white mean is equivalent to an IQ of 100 with a standard deviation of 15) of self-identified white Democrats by region**. Only responses from 2000-2008 are included to ensure that what we're looking at is contemporary:

RegionObama vote+ (%)White Dem IQ+
New England14.37.4

Middle Atlantic

East North Central0.20.2
West North Central(6.4)1.2
South Atlantic(24.0)(0.6)
East South Central(47.0)(1.4)
West South Central(49.3)(2.6)

By region, white Republicans in red states are a little more intelligent than white Democrats are. In blue states, it is the reverse, with white Democrats being smarter than white Republicans. The correlation between Obama's level of white support and the average white Democrat's IQ advantage over the average white Republican's is .72 (p=.03) at the regional level. This provides some explanation for why people in the Northeast may see the GOP as the party of rustic dummies while those in the South see it as the party of merit and prosperity.

Bundling states into nine broad geographic regions isn't optimal, because red and blue states are lumped together in varying degrees, especially the East and West North Central areas. That such a pattern is nonetheless apparent suggests that at the state level it is even stronger. This isn't surprising. After all, it's implied in Gelman's book, as IQ and earning power are correlated at the group level.

Data are available here.

GSS variables used: WORDSUM, YEAR(2000-2008), RACECEN1(1), PARTYID(0-2)(3)(4-6), REGION

* The Democratic IQ (dis)advantage by region for all races:

RegionDem IQ+
New England4.9
West North Central(0.8)
East North Central(1.7)
East South Central(2.1)
South Atlantic(3.1)
West South Central(4.1)
Middle Atlantic(4.2)

The only region that jumps out in surprise is the Middle Atlantic, which includes New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. My guess is that many people involved in the financial industry from New York and New Jersey are Republicans, buoying the average. In the other direction, those three states are all heavily unionized, translating into lots of working class Democrats.

** To obtain white votes by region and compare them, I used exit polling data by state to obtain white percentages of each state's total vote and multiplied them together. I then added up the total white votes for each candidate for all the states in a particular region to arrive at that region's vote distribution for the 2008 Presidential election.


The Undiscovered Jew said...


One theory I've promoted is that SWPLs and high IQ professional white Democrats are voting against their economic interests because Clinton moved the Democrats to the center on economic issues.

Because Clinton was centrist or even center right on economics, high IQ professionals on the Pacific Coast and Northeast and parts of the Upper Midwest such as Illinois and Michigan started moving to the Democrats in the 90s because taxes were low enough under Clinton that they felt they could vote primarily on social issues without jeopardizing their economic interests.

So I looked up how New Englanders view income taxes and abortion for any reason in the GSS.

I found that white New Englanders, Pacific whites and Middle Atlantic whites were about average in terms of saying income taxes were too high but these three regions were by far the most likely to say abortion should be allowed for any reason.

This indicates the GOP might be better off trying to downplay social issues by advocating "cutlural federalism" but be very conservative on fiscal matters and immigration - immigration being both a social and fiscal issue.

My rows were TAX and ABANY.

My variables were REGION, RACE(1) and YEAR(2000-2008).

I'll try and factor in WORDSUM scores to see how high IQ whites vary on social and fiscal issues by region.

The Undiscovered Jew said...


I added WORDSUM as a control and I found high wordsum scoring New Englanders were, except for New Englanders with wordsum scores of 10 for which there were very few numerically speaking, were average in terms of saying taxes were too high.

But New Englanders of wordsum scores of 8-9 were fanatically pro abortion compared to the average for other regions of the country.

It would appear that social issues are what is hurting the GOP in the Northeast.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

Basically, the GOP needs to find a way to satisfy social conservatives without alienating moderate, high IQ Democrats and high IQ moderate Republicans.

I think cultural federalism is the way to go.

With cultural federalism, the GOP argues for throwing social issues - as much as realistically possible - to the states while promising to better manage the national economy.

If each state is allowed to do its own thing social conservatives will be satisfied that their states will be left alone from social engineering and the SWPL parts of the country can do their own thing socially.

Anonymous said...

Cultural federalism requires the overturning of Roe v. Wade, something that will be seen as the SWPL crowd as just as anathema as the staunchest pro-lifer position.

What's needed in my opinion is an end to the elite Republicans attempts to screw over their base. The various groups within the Republican party need a lot more group solidarity. Here is a proposal that I believe could obtain electoral success.

Every group in a coalition needs to rationally believe they're better off with the coalition than without it. That means their vital interests need to be pressed in good faith and aggressively by the coalition as a whole. The theme needs to be no-holds barred, no rules of engagement political and social warfare. Nothing is out of bounds except attacking other members of the coalition. I think these groups could be cobbled together:
Gun Owners: Promise a vigorous fight on all fronts against any and all gun control measures. Deliver on your promises. This would probably get you 5-10 million votes.
Anti-immigration/anti illegal immigration: Promise to eject all illegal immigrants from the US and actually control the border like almost every real nation on the planet does (i.e., with guns and a willingness to use them). Also reduce legal immigration substantially, especially from groups with the potential to drastically alter the demographic or political realities in the US. You'll be called racist, nativist bigots, but just respond with a loud 'piss off'. As before, deliver on your promises.
Pro-lifers: Promise to attack the legality of abortion through all means possible. Make no bones about your goals (to overturn Roe at minimum, and probably to outlaw within the US the abortion of any child that could plausibly be delivered at that time, which at the present level of technology is around 4.5 months or so). This is potentially a huge voting block. Note that to have credibility with them, you HAVE to piss off the pro-choicers.
Smokers: Promise simply to stop picking on them as a group. An honest estimate of their costs to society is probably slightly negative, because they frequently die less expensively than the rest of us, and collect less Social security. Work to allow them to have bars/restuarants where smoking is explicitly permitted alongside the 2/3 to 3/4 of such establishments that are nonsmoking. If this group could be mobilized as a single issue group, it'd give the coalition a huge boost.
The last group are the Marijuaana users. Work to end the war on at least this drug. The other coalition mates have to suck it up and support them. There is likely to be very small overlap between this group and the others, and it's probably worth at least a couple million votes nationwide---if you convey credibility with your promises.

The common thread with these groups is that they have far lower political/electoral/social power than their numbers would indicate and they feel embattled and put upon. Harness their rage and deliver on their desires and you'll win elections. You need people for your candidates that aren't afraid of being called names--in fact you want people who enjoy thumbing their noses at the cultural elite and being the 'bad boys' of politics. You also need to impress on your supporters that absolutely nothing matters in their candidates other than their competence and commitment to advancing the coalition agenda (i.e., you need to push not giving a rat's ass about various petty scandals because the media WILL go over every one of their lives with a fine-toothed comb and a lack of charity).

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks for quantifying that. I've held the notion in my head of whites in New England ranging from the socially moderate libertarian types of New Hampshire to the leftist/socialist Bernie Sanders' supporters.

I'm working on a "smarty party" political platform and yes, those in the upper Wordsum range are very supportive of abortion rights.

Couldn't agree with you more on the GOP's potential selling points. Of course, I backed Ron Paul, and what you suggest pretty much describes his Presidential platform. That stock has gone up since the GOP's thrashing last November and the trashing of the US' fiscal structure.


That sounds sort of like a Jesse Helms' strategy on the national stage--appeal to supporters and ignore detractors. Perhaps it could work, but that would be portrayed as moving in the Palin/Wurzelbacher direction, which will inevitably bring protests from the liberal right media establishment.

What it does sound like to me is a viable third-party coalition, if ever there could be a viable one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the idea is just to unashamedly appeal to your coalition, and if anything, to deliberately inflame your opposition. You just need to motivate a majority come election day. Let's face it, you're not going to get fair coverage from the media no matter what you do if your base is these groups. Instead of trying to make nice, meet their vitriol with twice as much of your own. Your coalition will be pretty ironclad if you can convey credibility on your intentions. I agree that the Republicans will never do this, but a party with a core similar to this is the only way that these marginalized groups will get their due.

The Undiscovered Jew said...


Paul does support a cultural federalist position. But people are not really aware of his social positions because he spent most of his time on cultural issues. Paul exerted most of his energy towards foreign and fiscal policy.

In fact, cultural federalism was technically the position of Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates. For example, Romney and others claimed they opposed Roe v Wade so the issue could be thrown back to the states. I don't remember anyone - including Paul - say they wanted to get rid of Roe and also start banning non-late tetrm abortions at the federal level.

I think high IQ moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans are under the impression that the GOP wants to overturn Roe and then procede from there to ban abortion nationwide with federal legislation.

If the GOP adopts cultural federalism, they need to do a better job explaining that overturning Roe will not ban abortion. Instead abortion will simply be thrown back to the states.

As of now, many voters do not understand the legal implications of Roe getting shot down.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

because he spent most of his time on cultural issues.

should be

because he spent most of his time on other issues.

Blode0322 said...

I don't remember anyone - including Paul - say they wanted to get rid of Roe and also start banning non-late tetrm abortions at the federal level. - Undisco

I don't remember this either, although I think this position is projected onto the right by the left. My guess is that Paul wouldn't be able to find any constitutional power for the Federal government to ban abortion in most circumstances; it could be banned in DC, on military bases, etc. "Leaving the matter to the states" is a centrist position to the people who hold it and an extremist anti-abortion position to the Roveewaders.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

"Leaving the matter to the states" is a centrist position to the people who hold it and an extremist anti-abortion position to the Roveewaders.

Hardcore white liberals will never vote GOP. But many pro-choice white Democrats are not extreme leftists.

Cultural federalism is designed to both satisfy cultural conservatives and woo more mainstream white Democrats living in large swing suburbs such as suburban Chicago, Northern Virginia, and suburban Philadelphia where centrist Republicans and Democrats have been trending Democrat since the 90's.

Again, technically cultural federalism is the GOP's position. They just need to clearly frame and explain the issue so people understand Republicans want to give the states more power over local issues, rather than forcing cultural conservatism from DC down to the states.

Audacious Epigone said...

UJ & Blode,

Huckabee did, but I think he was the only one. The problem with your suggestions (which I agree with) is that by taking the abortion=slavery position, Huckabee received the backing of the life movement. It was probably the reason he was the one big 'surprise' on the GOP side. In my state's caucus, Huckabee supporters were everywhere outside with tape, etc over their mouths, in solidarity with the silent unborn.

Anonymous said...

Ask yourself if you agree with all the GOP positions, except abortion. Then ask is abortion so important to you (in an abstract sense) that it is worth it to you to vote against pro-life candidates in order continue promoting abortion to the somewhat more intelligent women to abort their smarter kids while aggressively subsidizing the lazier dumber women to have more kids and using immigration to increase our population rather than the smarter aborted kids.

Statistically the growth in the US population is strongest among the non-working elderly and the poor.

Taxpayers are the one group not growing, due partly to the overuse of birth control by the smart and the severe underuse by the dumb. By over and under use I mean a net below replacement rate birthrate for the smart and productive and the above replacement rate for the dumb and non-productive. That can't go on forever ya know.

Keep on voting "pro-choice" because it makes you feel good and ignore the consequences.

Not what you wanted to read, I'm sure. But hey, an anonymous commenter obviously isn't looking for popularity.