Thursday, November 08, 2012

Wild America

  And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him

Genesis 16:12

Florida is one of those places where wild men, or more accurately from the Hebrew, "wild asses" have a lot of presence.  Looking, county by county, precinct by precinct, you can see how much influence place of residence has on one's voting choices.  In a sea of red, virtually any county having a university is blue, for instance, but life is more complex than that and there are many factors that affect what kinds of people vote in certain ways. But Florida is not much different than the US in general other than that Florida is usually quite near 50/50 in any election and so small differences have a big influence on elections. posted some fascinating data yesterday; the sort of thing that delights a Freakonomics fan eager to see correlations between things we don't ordinarily think about as well as those things we usually do.  Sure, some of the categories are tautological.  Conservatives and Republicans vote red. That white men tend to be red and white women only a bit less so, isn't surprising either, but the way income plotted against political leanings varies by income bracket surprised me, at least.  It's not quite true that more money makes for more red leanings.

But age is a very strong factor with those over 65 being substantially more Republican  and those under 30 being even more strongly biased the other way.  Not much surprise at all there, nor is racial identification Vs. politics surprising even if it's possibly the strongest correlation.  People identifying themselves as white are about 69% red Vs. about 7% for claimants to African-American status.

But the one of so many factors that screams for attention and doesn't get enough of it I think,  is that religion, or religious identification seems to be one of the most dominant factors of all and that if you want to predict how someone will vote, asking what group they identify with and how often they attend functions  will give you a good prediction. In terms of religious fervor alone: if you never attend services, you're 62% likely to be blue. Go more than once a week and that drops to 36%.

Call yourself Protestant and you're 42% likely to be blue, but Catholics, not surprisingly to me, are closer to 50% Liberal minded.  But lump Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others together into "other" and any one of those others has a  whopping 74% chance of  voting blue.  Atheists?  Almost the same at 70%.  The name you call God, if you in fact believe in one, may have more influence on your choices than all the reasons you give yourself regarding economic or foreign policy.

No, there's nothing intrinsically weird about any of these many categories, but it's sometimes not what you would have thought and there are quite a number of things that obviously are factors in that complex equation determining what we perhaps not so accurately call our free choice!  We all like to think we make our choices independently and based on facts, but the numbers suggest strongly otherwise. They suggest that what we accept as truth and as facts has everything to do with our micro-cultural involvement. Whether we're skeptical or gullible, authoritarian or libertarian may have something to do with life experience but obviously not entirely.  We're tribal animals and although we're able and eager to find tribes to belong to, some of our illusion of free will may be just that.  Illusory.

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