As part of his ongoing research into how much mileage you can get out of one sociological theory, Richard Florida has produced this terrifying examination of statistical conservatism in the United States. Props to “Mirko” Mike Sebba for the link. If you’re excited to see which states are more conservative than others, I urge you to close your eyes and visualize them right now, because you will be exactly right. Mississippi is the only state where more than 50% of respondents in a Gallup poll identified as conservatives, with a gang of mini-ssippis—North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota and South Carolina, where nobody really followed up on why this happened—close behind. Does that list seem familiar to you? That’s right: they’re the suck states.
Florida—whom, to avoid confusion with the state of the same name, I will henceforth refer to as Flo-rida—has run a series of correlation analyses suggesting that may not be mere coincidence. Not surprisingly, the states where the most people identify as religious also have the most conservatives. Given the increasing congruence of evangelical Christianity and Republicanism, that is not so much a correlation/causation problem as a tautology. If you love Jesus, you probably know what you’re doing on the first Tuesday of every November between now and 2048.*
The graphs become more interesting when they get into socioeconomic data. It turns out that conservative identification correlates inversely with what Flo-rida calls “human capital”—that is, the percentage of adults with college degrees. That glumly unsurprising factoid is just the pickle, however, next to the shit sandwich that is the news that conservatism correlates with income at -.65, and with hourly wages at -.79. The poorer most people in a state are, the more likely that state is to go Republican. “While rich voters trend Republican,” Flo-rida notes, citing Andrew Gelman, “rich states trend Democratic.”
Which presents conservative strategists with an interesting problem. In the area of education, the way forward is clear: you increase the number of conservative voters by decreasing the number of people with college degrees. I submit that the Republican Party has explored this strategy to pretty much its furthest reaches, given that it addresses schools in roughly the same way that Japan addresses whales. But what should conservatives do with personal income in order to win future elections? Rich individuals vote Republican, but if you make too many rich individuals, you raise the median income and everything skews liberal. If only there were some way to increase the number of rich people without increasing median incomes.
Wait—here we go. Looks like we’re good forever, then. I myself welcome our new master caste of wealthy theocrats, and I hope they will keep making me dumber, so I can finally be happy.