Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Where Conservatives Come From

Richard Florida has an interesting article at The Atlantic analyzing recent polls and the correlation between conservative political views and other factors like religion, education and income. The bottom line: conservatives tend to be more religious, less educated and less affluent than liberals. This is hardly a shock, the data has shown that for a long time. But it’s interesting how this works on a state level.

The states that skew the most conservative are the states that also skew the most religious, least educated and least affluent — and most dependent on federal aid than the more liberal states on a wide range of things.

Not surprisingly, states with more conservatives are considerably more religious than liberal-leaning states. The correlation between conservative political affiliation and religion (the share of state population for which religion is an important part of daily life) is considerable (.63)…

Conservative states are also less well-educated than liberal ones. The correlation between conservative affiliation and human capital (that is, the percent of adults who have graduated college) is substantially negative (-.53).

States with more conservatives are less diverse. Conservative political affiliation is highly negatively correlated with the percent of the population that are immigrants (-.59) or gay and lesbian (-.66)…

Conservative states are more blue-collar. Conservative political affiliation is strongly positively correlated with the percentage of the workforce in blue-collar occupations (.73) and highly negatively correlated with the proportion of the workforce engaged in knowledge-based professional and creative work (-.61)…

States with more conservatives are considerably poorer than those with more liberals. Conservative political affiliation is highly negatively correlated with income ( -.65) and even more so with hourly earnings (-.79)…

Conservatism, at least at the state level, appears to be growing stronger. Ironically, this trend is most pronounced in America’s least well-off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states. Conservatism, more and more, is the ideology of the economically left behind. The current economic crisis only appears to have deepened conservatism’s hold on America’s states. This trend stands in sharp contrast to the Great Depression, when America embraced FDR and the New Deal.

Liberalism, which is stronger in richer, better-educated, more-diverse, and, especially, more prosperous places, is shrinking across the board and has fallen behind conservatism even in its biggest strongholds. This obviously poses big challenges for liberals, the Obama administration, and the Democratic Party moving forward.

But the much bigger, long-term danger is economic rather than political. This ideological state of affairs advantages the policy preferences of poorer, less innovative states over wealthier, more innovative, and productive ones. American politics is increasingly disconnected from its economic engine. And this deepening political divide has become perhaps the biggest bottleneck on the road to long-run prosperity.

I thought about this when I was covering the protests at the state capitol in Lansing a couple weeks ago. I saw the corrections workers union and the police officers union there protesting the anti-union activity of the Republicans in charge and I wondered how many of their members who are upset about what the Republicans are doing nonetheless voted Republican last November.

I know a lot of prison guards and police officers; I don’t know a single one that is at all liberal. Yes, I know that’s anecdotal but I’m quite certain that surveys of those professions would back that up. Those who do such jobs are just far more likely to have conservative, law-and-order, America right or wrong views than to have more liberal views.

This article in Politico backs that up, noting that the largely Republican rank and file of police and firefighter unions is getting increasingly angry about the GOP attacks on unions this year.

The power of demagoguery is that it has the ability to make people scared enough — of communists, terrorists, gays, other races, etc. — to vote against their own interests.