Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The tea party's social conservatism

In a previous post, I tried to convey that self-described tea party members are essentially uber conservative (in the contemporary American political context) rather than being decidedly libertarian in their emphasis. I didn't articulate the point too well, because, well, verbal articulation isn't my forte. So let's turn to the Arizona exit poll results for some clarification.

The following table shows how Rick Santorum (the least libertarian and most socially conservative of the Republican contenders) and Ron Paul (clearly the GOP's most libertarian candidate) fared among voters who support, are neutral towards, and oppose the tea party:

Tea PartySantorumPaul
Support31%6%
Neutral19%10%
Oppose6%19%

For simplicity, Gingrich's and Romney's results are not shown (they're more consistent than Santorum and Paul are, with tea partiers showing a relatively gentle preference for Gingrich and against Romney). Tea party supporters were five times more likely to support Santorum than they were to support Paul, while those opposed to the tea party backed Paul over Santorum by a three-to-one margin.

If the tea party was primarily driven by libertarian concerns, I'd expect relative support among members to flow as follows, from most to least: Paul, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum. In fact, here it flows in exactly the opposite direction, with the most socially conservative candidate getting the greatest amount of tea party support relative to support from the rest of the Republican electorate while the least socially conservative candidate is received more coldly by tea partiers than he is by non-tea party Republican primary voters.

Parenthetically, Michigan's tea party exit poll numbers are more of a muddle, though opposition among tea partiers to Ron Paul is still pronounced, while tea partiers were modestly more relatively supportive of all three of the other candidates. To make sure Arizona's results weren't a fluke, I looked at the biggest and putatively most nationally representative state thus far, Florida. The tea party results shake out in much the same way as they do in Arizona.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On impaling civilians, owning slaves, and eating meat

One of my favorite rhetorical devices to use on those who cast moral aspersions on the actions of historical figures involves a thought experiment about the consumption of meat, or more precisely, eating animals slaughtered for the sole purpose of becoming our dinner. It doesn't seem inconceivable to me that in the future, the thought of engaging in such behavior comes to be seen as being as morally abhorrent as slavery seems to us today. Should they, and nearly everyone else they know, be at risk of being written off by posterity as perpetrators of turpitude for something that wasn't even controversial in the early 21st century society in which they lived?

That such a shift sounds somewhere between far-fetched and inconceivable to a contemporary audience, of course, is exactly the point, just as the abolition of slavery would've sounded to 2nd century Romans and their contemporaries or the idea of amnesty for the resisting residents of Jerusalem following the first crusade's successful siege of the city would've sounded to the crusaders and their contemporaries, including the saracens they put to the sword.

One reason I employ the animal eating device is because it's usually a leftist sympathetic to vegetarianism who is passing haughty judgment on people in the past, and I can't help but experience a little thrill from making people squirm. But it's plausibly grounded, too, I think, and I don't just mean because of the popularity of documentaries like Food, Inc. In vitro meat, presaged by Winston Churchill eighty years ago, could portend a future in which synthetic meats are grown by using a protein to cause muscle cells to grow into chunks of meat to such an extent that a single animal (or maybe a sacrificial Noah's ark's worth, for the sake of variety) could conceivably feed the world many times over.

See any glaring problems with this conversational approach? It's been pretty effective for me, but in real life most of the people I talk to are less knowledgeable and intelligent than I am, while in the virtual world, most people are more knowledgeable and intelligent than I am, so TAE is a great personal resource for soliciting feedback on this kind of thing!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

For whom Jeffrey tolls

In last weekend's featured editorial page interview, the WSJ's James Taranto wrote about longtime Republican political operative Jeffrey Bell. It makes for interesting reading from a perspective that many WSJ readers probably don't have much firsthand experience with. There are a couple sloppy assertions made, however, that are worth addressing. First, by Taranto:
The rise of the tea-party movement heartened many libertarian conservatives, who saw it as leading the Republican Party away from social conservatism.
While the impetus for the tea party's formation and the primary public focus it places is on reducing the size and scope of the federal government, the presumption that those self-identified as belonging to the tea party movement are more distinctly libertarian than the broader base of Republican voters doesn't seem to be clearly substantiated by the actual data. Taken from a Pew Research survey on tea party voters, the following table compares the percentages of self-identified tea party members from the rest of the Republican electorate on red meat economic and social issues:

Issue
Tea party
Other GOP
Prefer smaller government
88%
80%
Government almost always wasteful
87%
79%
Corporations make too much profit
30%
37%
Favor same-sex marriage
26%
24%
Abortion should be illegal in most/all cases
59%
56%
Better border security should be a priority in dealing with illegal immigration
51%
45%
Protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership
78%
72%

With the exception of same-sex marriage, for which tea partiers are marginally more supportive than the rest of Republican voters are, tea party types are generally more conservative versions of the GOP electorate. Pew didn't query respondents on their foreign policy views, but I suspect tea partiers also tend to be more hawkish on Iran and more firmly supportive of Israel than other Republican voters are.

As summarized by Pew in the aforementioned report:
Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.
Secondly, from Bell:
Mr. Bell, for his part, sees in social conservatism opportunities for the GOP to expand its appeal among minority communities. "Latino voters tend to be more socially conservative," Mr. Bell says, noting that in 2008 they backed California's Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling establishing same-sex marriage, by 53% to 47%. Non-Hispanic whites narrowly opposed the measure.
Nothing stated here is explicitly incorrect, but there are problems by way of omission. Blacks voted for Proposition 8 by a 70%-30% margin, so by Bell's logic, blacks should be riper targets for Republican conversions than Hispanics are. But most (though not all) conservative pundits, including Bell and Taranto, know better than that.

Further, to point to Hispanics voting a whopping 4 points to the right of a leftist white electorate (whites opposed Prop 8 51%-49%) like California's as evincing a major opportunity for the Republican party is just silly.

Bell also expresses sympathy for the WSJ's view that immigration restrictionism hurts the Republican party... by turning Hispanics away from it, of course--no one appears to care or have anything to say about how it will affect the much more consequential white vote. In neighboring Arizona, however, where white voters are considerably further to the right than California's whites are (only 40% of white Arizonans voted for Obama, while 52% of white Californians did), Hispanics voted in favor of Proposition 202, which increased penalties on those employing illegal immigrants, by 56%-44%, a level of support just 4 points to the left of white Arizonans. While restrictionism won't win over a naturally hostile voting bloc, the evidence shows again and again that it doesn't do much, if anything, to repel them, either.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flat Florida, acrophilic Alaska

At Taki's Magazine, the Derb writes the following:
Stupid? The Republican Party’s EEG trace is flatter than Kansas.
Technically, Kansas isn't actually flat. As a person travels upstream over four hundred miles from the state's eastern end to its western one, he rises more than half a mile higher as he approaches the great continental divide. There are actually 20 states that exhibit less change in elevation from their lowest points to their highest ones than Kansas does.

To be as annoyingly precise as possible, Florida is the most flat, barely able to raise itself out of the Atlantic or the gulf from the panhandle to Miami. At least it offers plenty of opportunities for alliteration.

Of course, Derb's intention is to conjure up images of western Kansas, devoid of the woods and hilliness of the state's eastern end, which, to the south, resembles the Ozarks more than it does the Kansas-Colorado border. That the state's highest natural point, "Mount Sunflower", is located less than a mile from Colorado and is indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain, attests to this. The gentle but steady incline across the state measures around 0.1 degree. The Derb's point is well taken, I promise!

The rank ordering of US states by the change in elevation from each state's lowest point to its highest:

State
Change (ft)
1. Alaska
20320
2. California
14785
3. Washington
14417
4. Hawaii
13803
5. Nevada
12665
6. Arizona
12565
7. Idaho
11955
8. Utah
11338
9. Oregon
11249
10. Colorado
11123
11. Montana
11003
12. Wyoming
10709
13. New Mexico
10323
14. Texas
8751
15. North Carolina
6684
16. Tennessee
6466
17. New Hampshire
6288
18. South Dakota
6276
19. Virginia
5729
20. New York
5343
21. Maine
5270
22. Georgia
4784
23. Oklahoma
4686
24. West Virginia
4623
25. Nebraska
4587
26. Vermont
4300
27. Kentucky
3887
28. South Carolina
3560
29. Massachusetts
3489
30. Kansas
3361
31. Maryland
3360
32. Pennsylvania
3213
33. North Dakota
2757
34. Arkansas
2698
35. Alabama
2413
36. Connecticut
2379
37. New Jersey
1802
38. Minnesota
1700
39. Missouri
1542
40. Michigan
1408
41. Wisconsin
1372
42. Iowa
1191
43. Ohio
1094
44. Illinois
955
45. Indiana
937
46. Rhode Island
811
47. Mississippi
807
48. Louisiana
543
49. Delaware
447
50. Florida
345

As tangential to this post as this post was to the Derb's article, does this guy's photo epitomize everything that is wrong with the modern white male or what?



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Let Melissa have them

As I was perusing WVS responses to questions about who constitutes an undesirable neighbor, the aversion to Gypsies among those in the five countries where the specific question was asked jumped out at me. Nearly 7 in 8 Italians said they wouldn't want to live near them. Nearly half of those in Spain and Slovenia feel the same way. Majorities of Moldovans and Romanians want nothing to do with the 'Romani', either.

Indeed, disdain for Gypsy neighbors is higher than it is for gays, immigrants, people of a different race, of a different religion, or who speak a different language, criminals, unmarried cohabitating couples, militant minorities, and political extremists. Only heavy drinkers and drug addicts are more shunned than Gypsies are (and in Italy, even these dregs are preferred over the Roma).

Being the parochial American that I am, the closest I ever come to the little filchers are the periodic stories from across the pond I read in curious amusement about governments, with popular consent, taking action against them. Gypsies are almost surreal to me. They're make-believe, like elves, gremlins, and eskimos. But apparently to know them is to hate them, or at least not want to have anything to do with them.

WVS variables used: V43MD

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happiness and loneliness by age

In a post on the British government's push to keep people working into their seventies, Parapundit's Randall Parker excerpted remarks from a senior aide:

He told delegates at the Stockholm summit that more than half of those older than 75 in Britain described themselves as lonely “all or most of the time”.

“Work matters, particularly for older people, not just for money, but absolutely for social contact,” he said.

I wondered if there was much in the way of detectable differences in feelings of self-reported loneliness and happiness strictly by age. Obviously, a host of factors other than age influence how lonely and how happy people feel, but I was more curious as to whether or not there are differences as is, not after trying to control for everything like income and marital status. Simply, at what age(s) do levels of loneliness tend to be lowest and happiness greatest in the US?

The following table shows the percentage of respondents, by age range, who reported at their time of participation in the GSS that they had not felt lonely at all over the course of the previous week:

Age
Not lonely
18-24
48.6%
25-29
53.0%
30-34
51.6%
35-39
50.0%
40-44
55.0%
45-49
73.5%
50-54
56.7%
55-59
66.5%
60-64
72.0%
65-69
63.7%
70-79
61.0%
80-89
51.7%

Plotting loneliness and age exhibits a bit U-shape--it tends to be a little worse when people are younger and still finding their ways in the world, and when they're elderly, especially once they get into their late seventies and eighties and people around them really begin dying off. From the mid-forties to the mid-sixties looks to be our least lonely years, when people are established in the social institutions important to them.

The same table for happiness, but on a 3-point scale, inverted so that a higher value indicates greater happiness:

Age
Happiness
18-24
2.14
25-29
2.21
30-34
2.23
35-39
2.22
40-44
2.21
45-49
2.22
50-54
2.23
55-59
2.22
60-642.26
65-69
2.30
70-79
2.28
80-89
2.22

One standard deviation is 0.63 points, so the average difference from the least happy age to the most happy is one-quarter of one standard deviation. Not much here, but hey, I ran the numbers so why not share them?

GSS variables used: AGE, LONELY(0)(1-7), HAPPY

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Super Bowl and conference championship point differentials over time

Following this year's superb* Super Bowl, Steve Sailer wondered if the big game keeps getting better. He writes:
My impression is that Super Bowls are seldom the stinkers they used to be so regularly.
To try and quantify this, I looked at point differentials for every Super Bowl and averaged them by decade in an attempt to get some sense of how accurate that impression is:

Decade
PtDif
'60s
17.3
'70s
11.6
'80s
21.9
'90s
14.2
'00s
9.8

I was introduced to football as a second-grader living in Coppell, a Dallas suburb, the year the Cowboys put an exclamation mark on the NFC East's domination of the Bills. The eighties, though, is the decade when some of the most lopsided games in the league's history occurred. Just take a look at Super Bowls 18-24. Only the Montana-Esiason matchup was 'worth' watching.

Yet as Steve points out, there are ineptly played games where the final score nonetheless ends up being close, as the seventh Super Bowl illustrated. Defensive ineptness isn't something spectators tend to get too upset over, as long as it isn't limited exclusively to one side. For a general audience, the higher scoring, the better. The average combined total score in Super Bowls by decade:

Decade
AvgPts
'60s
36.3
'70s
37.0
'80s
49.7
'90s
53.4
'00s
46.1

Super Bowl 46 comes in on the low-end of scoring by the standards of the last few decades, adding to the perception that it was a boring game. This seemingly permanent shift towards higher scoring that has been firmly in place for the last few decades is probably the biggest reason games today feel better than they did when Steve was a kid. Something around 34-31 is probably ideal in terms of maximizing viewer satisfaction.

Steve also recalls observing when he was younger that:
Conference championship games were often thrilling, but Super Bowls were typically a waste of time.
Using the same simple point differential method employed previously, the following table additionally includes the average point differential for conference championship games by decade from the time of the NFL-AFL merger to the present:

Decade
SB Dif
Conf Dif
'70s
11.6
14.5
'80s
21.9
14.0
'90s
14.2
13.2
'00s
9.8
11.7

My historical impression is that conference championship games have been a lot better since I started following the league than they were when before then, but maybe that's skewed by the fact that shutouts didn't used to be the rarity that they are today. As late as the mid-eighties, the NFC championship game featured three consecutive shutouts in a row, as the Bears (who proceeded the following year to shutout LA), Rams, and Redskins were each held to zero. It's only happened once since in either conference since then, when the Giants drubbed the Vikings during the '00-'01 post-season.

* A commonly held perception of the game is that while it was unarguably competitive, it was boring. The Super Bowl draws twice the number of viewers that each conference championship does, and they're of course more watched than any of the other contests throughout the season are. So it's probably not much of a stretch to say that the majority of Super Bowl viewers aren't really fans of the league. For many of them, it's the only NFL game they'll watch all year.

I understand that perspective (though it's not one I share). From it, huge gains, momentous errors, and lots of lead changes are exciting highlights (along with the commercials, which have become a great selling point in getting people who have no interest in the sport to watch the game at parties) in an otherwise bland four hours of faceless men running into each other. The only especially memorable play was Mario Manningham's terrific catch (off a beautifully placed Manning pass) along the sideline just minutes after he'd given up a reception by losing track of the sideline. There was only one turnover, and it might as well have been a punt. Both offenses were efficient and both defenses played well, with the difference being a series of dropped balls by Patriots' receivers and Brady's bizarre intentional grounding that resulted in a safety on the first play from scrimmage for New England's offense.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Proposition 8 being struck down

As if you were interested, my reaction to the morally haughty, celebratory spurt of facebook posts from SWPL friends that have cropped up over the course of the last week in response to the US court of appeals in San Francisco's striking down of proposition 8 follows.

Personally, I'm not moved one way or the other on the question of same-sex marriage. The way it's being progressively (heh) shoved down the throats of a generally oppositional but increasingly browbeaten and apathetic public, however, really rubs me the wrong way. Yes, I know the little zinger about blacks and civil rights is tawdry. So I have moments of weakness. Give me a break already!

---

I wish I had attained such a level of moral enlightenment to be able to summarily reject quite literally millenia of moral teachings from, again, quite literally, every civilization great and small in the history of the world, on account of a perspicaciously unique understanding of what constitutes human dignity. Hubristic? Not in the least!

Regarding the hidebound dissenting judge, he probably clings to the antiquated notion of judicial restraint, preferring instead to let the public set the moral parameters of the democracy they live in instead of having them dictated by a federal judiciary.

At least the 9th circuit soldiers on despite being overturned by the SCOTUS more than any other in the country. And why shouldn't it? The judges were seated in California, after all, the most prosperous, egalitarian, and unified state in the nation. If only the other 49 would follow California's lead, all of our problems would be solved!

And as far as what the actual voters were thinking, we should narrow our target down to "black voters", since they backed Prop 8 70%-30%, while whites narrowly rejected it. Of course, blacks don't know a damn thing about civil rights, so we shouldn't be surprised by their bigoted intolerance.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

That Jew won't hunt

After OneSTDV articulated his hypothesis that Jews are to blame for the spread of vegetarianism, Half Sigma angrily rejected it, asserting as unlikely that Jews are anymore disproportionately atop the vegetarian movement than they are at the tops of virtually every other movement on account of enjoying an average IQ advantage of nearly one standard deviation over white gentiles.

Half Sigma insinuates that Jews are basically no less carnivorous than the rest of the population is by referencing the GSS and pointing to a woman he guesses to be Jewish who writes about hunting (the latter being an odd single data point to refer to, since it is already serves as a sort of "exception that proves the rule" since the writer is female).

For what it's worth, IHTG pithily relays the impression I have:
Contemporary vegetarianism probably comes from the same place as environmentalism and hippie culture, the roots of which are not Jewish.
But Half Sigma's utilization of the GSS to bolster his view is suspect by way of omission. He writes:
In 1993 and 1994, the General Social Survey asked the question “And how often do you refuse to eat meat for moral or environmental reasons?” The majority of Jews responded “Never.”
That's accurate. However, it doesn't really address OneSTDV's point. By this metric, no group can be considered to have taken the lead so-to-speak in pushing any particular behavior or belief that is not undertaken by at least a sizable minority if not a majority of the larger population. Similarly specious arguments are made on behalf of protecting the blank-slate egalitarian myth on other fronts--most blacks don't commit violent crimes so criminality has nothing to do with race; most illegal immigrants aren't members of violent drug gangs, so immigration has nothing to do with the spread of gangs and drugs in the US, etc.

So let's consider the GSS more objectively. The following table shows the percentages of respondents who either "always" or "often" avoid eating meat for environmental or moral reasons by broad religious affiliation:

Religion
Avoids meat
Protestant
7.0%
Catholic
11.5%
Jewish
19.6%
None
14.9%
Other
20.5%

As of the mid-nineties, one-in-five Jews regularly avoided eating meat, compared to about one-in-nine Catholics and one-in-fourteen Protestants. There are undoubtedly some irreligious ethnically Jewish people who are classified here under "none" or "other" as well, but the proportions of those groups who avoid meat is similar to that of religiously affiliated Jews. The percentages by political orientation are 13.0% for liberals, 8.3% for moderates, and 8.6% for conservatives. While liberals are more apt to avoid meat than moderates and conservatives are, they are less likely to do so than Jews are. Judge for yourselves.

The GSS also asks respondents whether they or their spouses hunt. The survey has done this since its inception and continues to do so into the present. The following table shows the percentages of respondents who either hunt or have a spouse who does, again by broad religious affiliation:

Religion
Hunts
Protestant
22.6%
Catholic
18.9%
Jewish
2.6%
None
18.2%
Other
16.8%

Wow. Sample sizes are enormous here (n = 28,681).

Jews are more heavily concentrated in large cities than non-Jews are, but two-thirds live outside them in suburbs or in small towns (compared to four-fifths of the rest of the population), so that's only a partial explanation that still leaves a lot of ground to cover. OneSTDV is not far off the mark when he flatly states that "Jews do not hunt".

GSS variables used: RELIG, NOMEAT(1-2)(3-4), HUNT(1-3)(4), COMTYPE, POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Political orientation of doctors and lawyers

Listening to Michael Savage is a guilty pleasure of mine. His presentation is not known for being measured in its delivery or factually precise in its content. Thankfully, there's a whole list of places listed on the right side of this page that one may visit to get one's fill of that. Savage is appealing because he is a politically incorrect bull in a cultural Marxist's china shop. As a middle level cog in a corporate machine who isn't industrious enough to make it as an entrepreneur, if I let fly like he did, I'd have a pink slip shoved in my face faster than all my casual acquaintances could unfriend me on facebook.

Sometimes his intuitive assertions also provide a good pretense to take an empirical look at just how accurate those assertions are. He regularly recalls from his youth that among the sharpest kids, those who turned out to be productive members of society (ie, conservatives) wanted to be doctors, while the nastiest ones (ie, liberals) all wanted to be lawyers.

The GSS allows us to look at the political orientations of doctors and lawyers in the US. The following table shows the political distributions of practitioners of law (n = 222) and of medicine (n = 108):

Occupation
Liberal
Moderate
Conservative
Lawyer
39.3%
32.2%
28.5%
Physician
32.5%
21.4%
46.0%

Stripping away Savage's value judgments, his characterization isn't too far off the mark. Parenthetically, it's not surprising that legal and medical professionals are more ideologically committed than the population at large is. Moderates tend to be of modest intelligence.

GSS variables used: ISCO88(2221)(2421), POLVIEWS(1-3)(4)(5-7)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Changes in the importance of religion by country over time

In the comments to a previous post looking at changes in positions on social behaviors over time across several countries participating in the WVS, Ed Tom Kowalsky wrote:
I wonder if one could similarly track global views on immigration, religion, crime (in general) and the United States.
I thought we'd be 2 for 4, but it turns out the question on immigration policy wasn't asked in the survey's earlier years, so religion is the only additional variable the WVS provides insight into on this front. Ah well, .250 isn't terrible in baseball, so we won't complain about the survey's restrictions too much.

Parenthetically, one question related to perceptions of the United States was posed to Iraqis in the fifth wave (2005-2008) asking how much confidence they had in American troops. A staggering 88% responded with "none at all" (n = 2,577). That's what our blood, sweat, and tears got us. Awesome!

There are 26 countries that participated in the WVS during both the 1990-1991 and 2005-2008 periods, but Argentina is excluded because the question about the importance of religion in the respondent's life was not asked in the earlier take and Slovenia is excluded because the data for that country are apparently corrupt.

In the following table, a religious importance index is computed for the countries listed based on respondents' answers to the question asking how important religion is in their lives. There are four possible responses, ranging from "very important" to "not at all important". The former is assigned a multiplier of 3, the latter of 0, the "somewhat important" response of 2, and the "not too important" of 1. The percentages of respondents giving each answer are then multiplied correspondingly, and the total for each country is divided by 3 to create an index scale of 0-100, with 0 indicating that the entire population says religion is not at all important, and a 100 indicating that the entire population says it is very important.

Religious importance index scores are shown for both periods, and the column furthest to the right shows the change in score from the end of the Cold War to today:

Religious importance90-9105-08Change
Brazil78.879.60.8
Bulgaria34.350.916.6
Canada59.758.5(1.2)
Chile74.668.4(6.2)
China
9.127.218.0
Finland43.549.56.0
France42.441.8(0.6)
Great Britain47.2
45.4(1.8)
India74.775.60.8
Italy
64.667.93.3
Japan31.227.1(4.1)
Mexico
66.380.213.9
Netherlands45.734.6(11.0)
Norway44.739.1(5.6)
Poland79.277.3(2.0)
Romania69.982.112.2
Russia37.247.910.8
South Africa83.685.92.3
South Korea55.849.9(5.9)
Spain49.741.4(8.3)
Sweden34.436.31.9
Switzerland54.146.6(7.5)
Turkey70.187.817.8
United States
76.0
70.1
(5.9)

Without pretending to be an amateur historian, the shifts over time initially to appear to be pretty straightforward to me. In the former Soviet Union, people had lived for four decades in a society in which the elimination of religion was an official state goal and every good citizen claimed to be an atheist. Religious property was confiscated and the orthodox church was subjugated. It's not surprising that as the iron curtain was lifted and the masses were free to rediscover religion again, it made a comeback. The uptick in religious importance in China over the 15 year period presumably has a similar though less rigid explanation, as the mainland is now comparable to Japan in its self-described religiosity.

In the table above, Turkey's results also tracks well with that country's recent history. Ataturk's republic was to be a secular one, and through most of the last century, Turkey has consistently been described as the most modern, moderate Islamic country in the MENA. More recently though, Turkey has been becoming more accommodating towards pious Muslim sensibilities. Erdogan, prime minister since 2003, has overseen a shift away from secularism in the country. That's what Western media report anyway, and the WVS lends credence to it.

Hindus are holding the line. Good for them.

So are South Africans. Running a few more of those unbelieving Dutch devils out since apartheid ended couldn't have hurt the cause!

The US, along with Catholic Poland and to a lesser extent Italy, are still far more overtly religious than the rest of western Europe is, with Canada falling in between, but in the Occident and its offshoots, the story has been one of gentle and steady decline at roughly equal rates across countries.

Being a good American, I don't know much about the cultural happenings in distant Mexico, choosing instead to focus my attention on places that are of greater relevance to me like Israel and Afghanistan. Consequently, the fairly substantial increase in religious importance to my south isn't something I'm easily able to account for. I think the ruling National Action party is more socially conservative and religious than the other two major parties in Mexico are, and it's held the presidency since 2000, so maybe the two are related. Or perhaps the increasing violence and instability that has characterized the country over the last several years as its government fights with drug cartels has pushed people towards greater spirituality, as I think Agnostic would predict.

WVS variables used: V9, V146ZA

Monday, February 06, 2012

Race-based death threat hoax in Wisconsin

++Addition++BB points out that the SPLC, learning nothing from previous hoaxes like the Duke Lacrosse case, has egg on its face after being naively credulous from the beginning.

For a little comic relief, here's an excerpt from the first comment on the SPLC's "Hatewatch" (tagline: Keeping an eye on the radical right) thread reads:
These pranks are no joke and must be taken seriously. [sic] By enforcing the laws upon that racist enemy. And by the way, I'm not black.
---

A reader living in Kenosha County, Wisconsin pointed out the following story about a hate crime hoax that was recently exposed on the UW Parkside campus, located between Milwaukee and Chicago. He feels that it is not being given adequate national media coverage (that is, it hasn't received any at all). Rather than rehash it here, just follow this link if you're interested.

Personally, I don't find it particularly nationally newsworthy, since nothing significant happened. But there is little question that had the threat been legitimately issued by a white guy, or if a bunch of "hate whitey" tripe had been posted all over the place by a white nationalist, it would've become a national story with lots of supercilious lamentation about intolerance and hate in America.

Parenthetically, you have to put two and two together to realize the girl who perpetrated the hoax--she is only described as a "female student" in the news story--is black.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ron Paul's thick blue line

The fact that Ron Paul blows the rest of the GOP presidential field out of the water when it comes to campaign contributions from military personnel is one that the Republican establishment can't profitably address. This isn't 1975. In 2012, US military personnel are among the most respected and honored people in the country. Consequently, asserting that the soldiers making the contributions are "nutty" or "disgusting" as they do Ron Paul isn't viable.

So it ends up being discussed on leftist networks like MSNBC more than it does on neocon organs like Fox News or in the WSJ, where ignoring it is the favored tactic. The working assumption among those who do confront it is that those who are on the ground actually doing the legwork for the nation-building efforts that define contemporary US foreign policy are the most strongly opposed to them. It serves as a pretty powerful endorsement of Paul's views.

But occupations aside, Paul's civilian base of support--conservative- and libertarian-leaning young men--is demographically similar to that of active US military personnel. So it's conceivable that this overlap, more than any specific affinity for Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy, explains his popularity among American soldiers.

The country's police forces are comprised of men and women cut from a similar cloth as its military personnel are, but in their day-to-day lives, police officers are presumably a lot more concerned about domestic policy issues and correspondingly less focused on foreign policy than their military brothers are.

Following this line of reasoning, I went to the FEC's website and downloaded the donor listing for all individuals who listed "police" as their employer or occupation through the end of 2011, and then backed out MPs from those listings. The proceeding table ranks all 2012 (current and former) presidential aspirants who have received campaign donations from those in police forces across the country by the amount of money each has taken in:

Candidate
$ received
1. Barack Obama
$26,836
2. Ron Paul
$10,896
3. Newt Gingrich
$3,760
4. Rick Perry
$3,120
5. Herman Cain
$3,067
6. Michelle Bachmann
$2,925
7. Mitt Romney
$2,137
8. Rick Santorum
$1,830
9. Tim Pawlenty
$250
10. Charles 'Buddy' Roemer
$165

In contrast to military money, nearly two-thirds of which flows to the GOP candidates, police money is almost evenly split among Republicans and Democrats (Obama). Paul's police advantage over the rest of the GOP field is not as gargantuan as his $6-to-$1 military advantage is, but he still beats the next highest Republican recipient by a $3-to-$1 margin.

To the extent, then, that this crude attempt to tease out how much of Paul's support among the military is due to his non-interventionist foreign policy and how much is due to the general appeal of a less intrusive, less bureaucratic, and less powerful federal government to right-leaning young guys full of testosterone is useful, it suggests the answer resides somewhere in between.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Nativist!

"Nativist" is one of many terms used almost exclusively as a pejorative in contemporary American media disourse, but unlike "anti-Semite", "warmonger", "isolationist", and others of the conversation-chilling ilk, I suspect that while few people would self-describe as being hostile towards Semites, trying to precipitate war, or isolating one's country from the rest of the world, a solid majority of the public is favorably inclined towards definitional nativism. The dictionary definition of nativism:
A policy of favoring native inhabitants as opposed to [favoring] immigrants.
My polemical advice to those labelled as nativists is for them to respond to such "attacks" by merely describing what the term means and and let it stand for itself at that.