Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Synopsis

On the night of the 2000 presidential election, Americans watched on television as polling results divided the nation's map into red and blue states. Since then the color divide has become symbolic of a culture war that thrives on stereotypes--pickup-driving red-state Republicans who vote based on God, guns, and gays; and elitist blue-state Democrats woefully out of touch with heartland values. With wit and prodigious number crunching, Andrew Gelman debunks these and other political myths.


This expanded edition includes new data and easy-to-read graphics explaining the 2008 election. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of today's fractured political landscape.

Excerpt

OK, but here's the fact that nobody ever, ever mentions—
Democrats win rich people. Over $100,000 in income, you are
likely more than not to vote for Democrats. People never point
that out. Rich people vote liberal. I don't know what that's all
about.

—Tucker Carlson, 2007

CARLSON was half right. Nowadays the Democrats win the rich states, but rich people vote Republican, just as they have for decades.

What makes the statement interesting, though, is that it sounds as if it could be right. Consider the 2000 and 2004 elections, where GeorgeW.Bush won the lower-income states in the South and middle of the country, while his Democratic opponents captured the richer states in the Northeast and West Coast. As we shall discuss, this pattern is not an illusion of the map—the Democrats really have been doing better in richer parts of the country, and this pattern has become more noticeable in recent elections.

The paradox is that, while these rich states have become more strongly Democratic over time, rich voters have remained consistently more Republican than voters on the lower end of the income scale. We display this graphically in figure 1.1. Tucker Carlson's statement sounds reasonable given the voting patterns in states, but it doesn't match what individual voters are doing. If poor people were a state, they would be “bluer” even than Massachusetts; if rich people were a state, they would be about as “red” as Alabama, Kansas, the Dakotas, or Texas.

The point of this book is to explain where the red–blue paradox comes from and what it means for American politics. To answer these questions, we first ask who votes for whom. It seems that there . . .

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