Gelman, Andrew, et al. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008. Summary
: Everything you thought you knew about how Americans vote is wrong. The culture war isn't between wealthy, liberal elites in the Northeast versus God-fearing, working class conservatives in the Midwest. It is, rather, between the rich people
of the red and blue states. Comments
: I'm pretty sure Gelman's book went to press before Obama's infamous "clinging" comment because it would otherwise have surely been mentioned as being typically wrongheaded. What this book shows (convincingly, armed with a boatload of statistical data and graphs) is that Thomas Frank should not have been asking, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" He should have been asking, "What's the Matter with Connecticut?" Because, individually speaking, wealth is personally correlated with Republication voting. All things being equal, the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican. However, this trend does not hold equally across state borders. In the famed blue states of the Northeast and West, wealth has a much weaker correlation to party affiliation than in the red states. In other words, people with equal amounts of money are much more likely to vote Democrat in Massachusetts than they are in Texas. This is quite clear. Unfortunately, the book does decidedly less of a good job teasing out the exact reasons for this, but a lot of it has to do with self-sorting and comparative religiosity of the rich in red and blue states. Race, by the way, is a factor...but not the only one. Gelman also explains succinctly why Democrats always tack rightward when they want more votes (hello there again, Obama), though the argument in favor of such behavior does not strike me as especially airtight. Anyway, need I say that this is an awesome, accessible read? Man oh man, if I were to do quantitative social science research, I'd want it to do it like this! Rating
- A must-read book if you want to start to understand the political and ideological schisms underlying U.S. voting patterns.