What’s the Matter with Knicks Fans? And Guys Named Jonathan?

Thomas Frank famously asked What’s the Matter with Kansas?, where he argues that people in Kansas tend to vote against their economic interests, that “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about.”  To wit, he wonders why people in a relatively poor state like Kansas overwhelmingly vote Republican year after year.

Columbia’s Andrew Gelman has a simple explanation: They don’t.

In a series of papers culminating with Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do, Gelman shows that there is a direct relationship between income and voting Republican — higher incomes, higher Republican vote shares — and this relationship holds in both Red and Blue states.

Lower-income Americans don’t, in general, vote Republican — and, where they do, richer voters go Republican even more so…(16)  In 2004, Bush received 62% support among voters making over $200,000, compared to only 36% from voters making less than $15,000. (9)

Here are some of Gelman’s numbers from the 2008 Obama landslide.

This leaves the question, why do Democrats tend to win richer states (states with higher median family incomes), while poorer states go to Republican candidates? The answer, Gelman contents, boils down to cultural differences mattering more in Blue states than Red states.  In short, high-income voters overwhelmingly vote Republican in Red States, whereas the difference isn’t so significant in the Blue states.

It isn’t as simple as that, of course.  Academics and other professional are at the higher end of the income scale, and they overwhelmingly vote Democrat, so that goes against the grain.  But, Gelman acknowledges as much, and he parses the data every which way he can to paint a picture of what’s going on.

You can learn a lot about American politics even by flipping through his work and checking out some of his data plots. Voters split along other margins than income, but income is a big one.

So what are some of these other margins?  

Well, moving from Red and Blue states to pink and blue gender differences is an obvious one.  The gender split doesn’t manifest itself as much at the state level, as one would expect that most states have approximately the same numbers of male and female voters (women voters actually outnumber men on the order of 7:6).  Over at Yahoo news there is a neat little interactive graphic that allows you to see how many people of various names give to Republicans and Democrats.

The results show that the climb up to Capitol Hill is very gender specific — Jack gives to Republicans (69% R, 31% B) and Jill gives to Democrats (46%R, 54%D).  As the graphic below shows, this gender division holds true for most male (the boys in blue) and female donor names.

Except for guys named Jonathan and women named Betty.


This gender split could have some pretty serious long-run implications, as deviant political ideologies are increasingly a deal breaker in the dating game.

You can also do the search by last names — Jacksons favor Democrats, Johnsons favor Republicans, and the Joneses split 50-50.

Another demographic group of major import comes to us from the wide world of sports. If you were at a Ultimate Fighting event this past weekend, do you think many of your fellow fanatics are likely to vote?  And, if so, who do you think they would vote for?

The National Journal has some answers.

As you can see from the graphic, fans of blood sports such as UFC and WWE don’t get to the polls much, but they seem to lean to the left.  On the other hand, golf fans head to the polls at very high rates and vote Republican at even higher rates than NASCAR fans.  I wouldn’t have seen that coming.  Fans of women’s professional sports — the WNBA and women’s tennis, in particular, vote Democrat.

Monster truck fans are more middle-of-the-road when they manage to get out to the polls, which isn’t often.

The National Journal site also has this broken down by allegiances to individual sports franchises.  The voting patterns often follow the team’s state — Alabama Crimson Tide fans are rabid Republicans, and they get out to vote.  Out on the left coast, San Francisco football and baseball fans get out and vote Democrat.  New York Knicks fans tend to be Democrats, but they really don’t tend to vote.

And, Packer fans get out to vote Republican.

Okay, that’s my election preview.  Get out to the polls if you are so inclined (i.e., you don’t happen to be an economist), and here’s hoping your team wins.

Vote ’em if you Got ’em.