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

by Andrew Gelman
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

As the 2008 election season reaches its peak, media pundits will speak gravely of the deep ideological divisions reflected in a political map of red and blue states, but according to Gelman (statistics & political science, Columbia Univ.), much of the analysts' glib assessments is misguided and does little to advance our understanding of why Americans have voted as they have. He crunched U.S. survey and election data as far back as 1952; compared his data where appropriate to similar data from Mexico, Canada, and other countries; and discovered that the economic status of individuals and the economic conditions of each state as a whole lead to two different conclusions: on the one hand, the less wealthy a voter is, the more likely the voter is to cast a ballot for a Democrat; the better-off the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. Yet states with a higher average income are more likely to support a Democratic presidential candidate. He discovered that wealthy voters in a poor state (e.g., Mississippi, with many poor) consistently support Republicans, while Connecticut, with many wealthy, regularly backs Democrats. Ohio is near the center of income distribution and alternates between the parties. This seeming paradox is lost on the media's talking heads because they focus only on the state-level data, leading them to the simplistic red-blue paradigm, ignoring the importance of individual voters' decisions. Gelman finds that the above relationships hold on a county level as well. After examining other factors such as religiosity and cultural values for clues to explain voting behavior, he offers suggestions about how the Democratic Party can improve its chances inthe 2008 election. This is a fascinating, well-written, and thoroughly researched work that deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., PA

Freakonomics blog
Gelman works his way, state by state, to help us better understand the relationship of class, culture, and voting. The book is a terrific read and offers much insight into the changing electoral landscape.
— Sudhir Venkatesh
Times Higher Education
The thesis of this topical book is that how Americans vote depends on where they live as well as who they are. Gelman makes this argument clearly and repeatedly in colloquial language, in black and white graphics and in maps coloured red and blue. . . . A major strength of the book is that it shows the importance of changes in America in the past half century.
Science
The most creative analyses in Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State use Gelman's multilevel methods. But the technical background is nearly invisible: Here there are no equations and few numbers—rather, one finds dozens of revealing graphics, all of which are very clear. The book is unusual in aiming to enlighten the general lay reader through a step-by-step analysis, not merely to engage in a debate with other political scientists. Through a clear and crisp writing style, it quotes and refutes many widespread views of journalists and political pundits, even as it builds on the political science literature . . . this fun-to-read book may become a minor classic.
— Terry Nichols Clark and Christopher Graziul
New York Observer
The aim of this book, Mr. Gelman tells us, is to debunk the media's oversimplified account of what happened in red and blue states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Writing in the same spirit as Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Mr. Gelman sets out to 'correct' the received wisdom. . . . This is the Freakonomics-style analysis that every candidate and campaign consultant should read.
— Robert Sommer
Washington Post Book World
Commentators on both the left (Thomas Frank) and the right (David Brooks) have theorized about why working-class Kansas farmers and latte-sipping Maryland suburbanites vote against their economic interests. Gelman says, 'Both sides on this argument are trying too hard to explain something that's simply not true.' The real paradox, he says, is that while rich states lean Democratic, rich people generally vote Republican; while poor states lean Republican, poor people generally vote Democratic.
— Alan Cooperman
Civilian Reader
Full of interesting arguments and insights that will turn many deep-seated beliefs about American politics on their head, and make a lot of people reconsider their assumptions and biases.
— Stefan Fergus
Journal of Public and International Affairs
Gelman provides an invaluable corrective and an excellent launching pad for future research on the reasons why people vote and affiliate with the parties as they do.
— Katherine Cramer Walsh
The Fly Bottle
If you're interested in understanding the state of the art in the geography and demographics of American public opinion as we head down the final stretch of the presidential race (and who isn't!), this is a book you shouldn't miss.
— Will Wilkinson
The New Yorker
Attempting to explain 'why Americans vote the way they do,' Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the influential one drawn by Thomas Frank, in What's the Matter with Kansas?, of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican.
— Leo Carey
The Hartford Courant
Looking at the numbers as far back as 1952, this book debunks much of what we think we know about voting trends. Buy one today! Amuse your friends! Annoy your enemies! Bring cocktail party conversations to a grinding halt.
— Susan Campbell
From the Publisher

"If you're interested in understanding the state of the art in the geography and demographics of American public opinion as we head down the final stretch of the presidential race (and who isn't!), this is a book you shouldn't miss."--Will Wilkinson, The Fly Bottle

"Gelman works his way, state by state, to help us better understand the relationship of class, culture, and voting. The book is a terrific read and offers much insight into the changing electoral landscape."--Sudhir Venkatesh, Freakonomics blog

"Attempting to explain 'why Americans vote the way they do,' Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the influential one drawn by Thomas Frank, in What's the Matter with Kansas?, of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican."--Leo Carey, The New Yorker

"The thesis of this topical book is that how Americans vote depends on where they live as well as who they are. Gelman makes this argument clearly and repeatedly in colloquial language, in black and white graphics and in maps coloured red and blue. . . . A major strength of the book is that it shows the importance of changes in America in the past half century."--Times Higher Education

"The most creative analyses in Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State use Gelman's multilevel methods. But the technical background is nearly invisible: Here there are no equations and few numbers--rather, one finds dozens of revealing graphics, all of which are very clear. The book is unusual in aiming to enlighten the general lay reader through a step-by-step analysis, not merely to engage in a debate with other political scientists. Through a clear and crisp writing style, it quotes and refutes many widespread views of journalists and political pundits, even as it builds on the political science literature . . . this fun-to-read book may become a minor classic."--Terry Nichols Clark and Christopher Graziul, Science

"The aim of this book, Mr. Gelman tells us, is to debunk the media's oversimplified account of what happened in red and blue states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Writing in the same spirit as Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Mr. Gelman sets out to 'correct' the received wisdom. . . . This is the Freakonomics-style analysis that every candidate and campaign consultant should read."--Robert Sommer, New York Observer

"According to Gelman, much of the analysts' glib assessments is misguided and does little to advance our understanding of why Americans have voted as they have. He crunched U.S. survey and election data as far back as 1952 . . . and discovered that the economic status of individuals and the economic conditions of each state as a whole lead to two different conclusions: on the one hand, the less wealthy a voter is, the more likely the voter is to cast a ballot for a Democrat; the better-off the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. Yet states with a higher average income are more likely to support a Democratic presidential candidate. . . . This is a fascinating, well-written, and thoroughly researched work that deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended for all libraries."--Thomas J. Baldino, Library Journal

"Commentators on both the left (Thomas Frank) and the right (David Brooks) have theorized about why working-class Kansas farmers and latte-sipping Maryland suburbanites vote against their economic interests. Gelman says, 'Both sides on this argument are trying too hard to explain something that's simply not true.' The real paradox, he says, is that while rich states lean Democratic, rich people generally vote Republican; while poor states lean Republican, poor people generally vote Democratic."--Alan Cooperman, Washington Post Book World

"Looking at the numbers as far back as 1952, this book debunks much of what we think we know about voting trends. Buy one today! Amuse your friends! Annoy your enemies! Bring cocktail party conversations to a grinding halt."--Susan Campbell, The Hartford Courant

"Andrew Gelman's Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State can be summed up with extreme concision: Rich people vote Republican, but rich states vote Democratic. Poor people vote Democratic, but poor states vote Republican. That's pretty weird. But to Gelman, it's worse than weird. It's unknown. . . . At the most basic level, this is an argument for complexity. The country is not as simple as some would have it, and if that means political discussion segments need to be lengthened from two minutes to four minutes, then tough. But it's also an argument for data, and for increased rigor among the chattering class."--Ezra Klein, Barnes and Noble Review

"Full of interesting arguments and insights that will turn many deep-seated beliefs about American politics on their head, and make a lot of people reconsider their assumptions and biases."--Stefan Fergus, Civilian Reader

"Gelman provides an invaluable corrective and an excellent launching pad for future research on the reasons why people vote and affiliate with the parties as they do."--Katherine Cramer Walsh, Journal of Public and International Affairs

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400832118
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
12/07/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
7 MB

What People are saying about this

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about political misconceptions and counterintuitive properties of elections--my view of political data will never be the same.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "The Black Swan"
Fiorina
This impressive social science analysis stands much political punditry on its head. So far as voting goes, the question is less why poor Americans are victims of false consciousness than why affluent Americans in wealthy states are traitors to their class.
Morris P. Fiorina, author of "Culture War?: The Myth of a Polarized America"
Bryan Caplan
Andrew Gelman has turned his eagle-eyed research on the American voter into an excellent book, Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State. If you ever doubted the value of empirical research, this book will change your mind. It's full of novel, data-driven results.
Bryan Caplan, author of "The Myth of the Rational Voter"
Richard Florida
Andrew Gelman has been poring over data trying to get at the driving forces at work in American politics. His findings suggest that the divides in America run deep and are linked to an ongoing, internal battle between two increasingly distinct American economies.
Richard Florida, author of "The Rise of the Creative Class"
Thomas Edsall
Occasionally, there are books providing insights into the political process that force a basic change in the way people think about elections. This is one of them. The author makes clear that while North-South or red-blue divides reflect both 'have versus have-not' conflicts and the more recent liberalization of the upscale 'creative class,' the state-by-state reality is much more nuanced and complex. This volume points the way to whole new lines of research and is essential reading for those interested in the future of American political parties.
Thomas Edsall, Columbia University, political editor of the "Huffington Post"
Dionne Jr.
The divide in American politics is about more than the ideological distance between the two parties. Through careful statistical analysis, Andrew Gelman solves the mystery of how Democrats can do so well in certain places where rich people live, yet still not be the party of the rich. This book will help people on all sides to see politics more clearly, and it will require all of us to toss many pieces of conventional wisdom into the dustbin.
E. J. Dionne Jr., author of "Why Americans Hate Politics"

Meet the Author

Andrew Gelman is professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. His books include "Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks". He received the Presidents' Award in 2003, awarded each year to the best statistician under forty.

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