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Gelman, Shor, Bafumi and Park on income and voting

Abstract:We find that income matters more in “red America” than in “blue America.” In poor states, rich people are much more likely than poor people to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, but in rich states (such as Connecticut), income has a very low correlation with vote preference. In addition to finding this pattern and studying its changes over time, we use the concepts of typicality and availability from cognitive psychology to explain how these patterns can be commonly misunderstood. Our results can be viewed either as a debunking of the journalistic image of rich “latte” Democrats and poor “Nascar” Republicans, or as support for the journalistic images of political and cultural differences between red and blue states— differences which are not explained by differences in individuals’ incomes. For decades, the Democrats have been viewed as the party of the poor, with the Republicans representing the rich. Recent presidential elections, however, have shown a reverse pattern, with Democrats performing well in the richer “blue” states in the northeast and west coast, and Republicans dominating in the “red” states in the middle of the country. Through multilevel modeling of individual-level survey data and county- and state-level demographic and electoral data, we reconcile these patterns. Key methods used in this research are: (1) plots of repeated cross-sectional analyses, (2) varying-intercept, varying-slope multilevelmodels, and (3) a graph that simultaneously shows within-group and between-group patterns in a multilevel model. These statistical tools help us understand patterns of variation within and between states in a way thatwould not be possible from classical regressions or by looking at tables of coefficient estimates.

Andrew Gelman. Boris Shor, Joseph Bafumi, and David Park, “Rich state, poor state, red state, blue state: What’s the matter with Connecticut?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

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