Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Are The United States of America Still Conservative?

President Donald J. Trump
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  President Donald J. Trump's administration is off to flying start.  First there was the controversial, ill conceived travel ban, the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the brewing scandal over just how much contact did Trump campaign staff have with Russia and what they did or did not say.  Blogger said this administration was going to be a wild ride.

For today, we are going to look at the Conservative States of America.  Not one to beat an already dead horse but the 2016 federal election was a real shock to the world-wide system.  Republicans took the White House and both chambers of Congress.  Richard Florida writes in his CityLab article, "The (Still) Conservative States of America," "Today's political map remains dominated by shades of red, indeed, conservatives outnumber liberals in 44 out of 50, according to new polling results, "US Conservatives Outnumber Liberals by Narrowing Margin," from the Gallup Organization." (

The states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Alabama rank as the top five most conservative states. Conservatives in these states have a 30 percent advantage.  In the next thirteen states on the list, Conservatives hold a 20 to 30 percent advantage and another fifteen states, Conservatives hold a 10 percent advantage.  Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Washington state rank as the top five Liberal states, where Conservatives are at a numeric disadvantage (California is number 9).  (Ibid)

Ideological map of the United States of America
Taylor Blake
The map on the left, by Taylor Blake of the Martin Prosperity Institute, charts how the states break down according to ideology.  On average, 36 percent of the states  identify identify as Conservative while 25 percent of the states identify as Liberal. (Ibid)

Take a look at the center of the map.  What you will find is "A broad conservative belt cuts across much of the middle of the country, being especially pronounced in the Deep South and Plains."  The remaining firmly liberal pockets are located in the Northeast, the West Coast, Illinois, and Colorado.  The salmon color states (Rust Belt states) that leaned toward POTUS remain split, as do Florida and Alaska.  States that leaned toward former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Delaware, conservatives outnumbered liberals by margins on par with the national average.

United States-Canada border
  Before shell shocked liberals flood the Canadian borders, Mr. Florida offers this caveat: "The difference is not as sharp when we combine moderates and liberals."  According to the Gallup survey 34 percent of Americans identify themselves as moderates, compared to 36 percent who call themselves conservatives and 25 percent who identify as liberal. (Ibid)  Mr. Florida writes, "In fact, the conservative share of the electorate has tracked down somewhat from its peak in the mid-2000s and the liberal share has tracked up a bit."  The survey observes,

Despite the dominance of conservative states, the conservative advantage has decreased within most states with 42 states becoming at least marginally less conservative since 2009.

In total, the number of moderates and liberals outnumber conservatives in 46 states, Wyoming being the outlier, where there are more conservatives than liberals and moderates.  That still does not explain the sea of red across the electoral map.  Let us move on.

"Americans' Political Views by Year"
 The process of self-segregation based on class and ideological has been happening at least a decade.  it is what Bill Bishop described to Mr. Florida, in a 2016 CityLab article "America's 'Big Sort' Is Only Getting Bigger." (  Mr. Bishop first described this phenomena in 2004 in the book The Big Sort, the untold story of why Americans are culturally and politically divided. (  Mr. Florida writes, "The deep and overlapping cleavages of class and geography-knowledge and density-were the crucial fault lines of the 2016 election."  However, what were the key economic, demographic, and cultural factors that accounts for the conservative streak in the American states?

"Democrats' Political Views Since 2001"
To understand why this is the case, Mr. Florida's colleague Charlotta Mellander conducted a basic correlation analysis  on the Gallup poll numbers, comparing them to political ideology to economic, demographic, and cultural determinants by state.

Once again, Mr. Florida points out, "...I point out that correlations simply reflect associations between variables and do not imply causation."  Taken together with previous finding (2011 and 2012), they accentuate an increasingly red tide across the states and deep divisions of class, income, education, urbanity, and religion.

"Republicans' Political Views Since 2001"
First of all, these political schisms align with actual votes for POTUS and Madame Secretary across the states.  The correlations are: "...conservative identification is positively associated with Trump votes (0.88) and negatively associated with Clinton votes (-0.90), while liberal identification is positively associated with Clinton (0.84) and negatively associated with Trump votes (-0.82)."  No surprise.

Education is a factor in political identification.  "Conservative states are significantly less educated than liberal ones.  There is a strong negative correlation between conservative identification across states and the percent of adults who are college graduates (-0.74)."  This correlation is similar to the one in 2012.  The converse is true for liberals and moderates.  "Education levels across states are positively correlated with liberals (0.69), moderates (.40) and moderates and liberals combined (0.75)."

"U.S, Political Ideology In 2016"
Class is another key determinant of political ideology.  Conservative states strongly  lean working class.  Mr. Florida writes, "Conservative identification across states is positively correlated with the percentage of a state's workforce in blue-collar occupations (0.74).  And it is highly negatively correlated with the proportion of the workforce in knowledge-based professional and creative work (-0.64).  The creative class share of the workforce is positively associated with liberals (0.62) and moderates and liberal combined (0.65), but not significantly associated with moderated by themselves."

"Self-Identified Conservatives, Moderates in U.S. In 2015"
Income was another factor in ideological identification.  Less affluent states tend to skew conservative.  The correlations are: "Conservative political affiliation is negatively correlated with state income levels (-0.64) and economic output (-0.49)."  It is the opposite situation in more affluent states that identify liberal and moderate.  The correlations are: "...Income levels across states are positively correlated with liberals (0.57), moderates (0.32), and moderate and liberals combined (0.62)."

"Top 10 Liberal States"

Another dividing line is urbanity.  States that skew conservative is "...negatively associated with both the share of a state's population that lives in urban areas (-0.37) and the overall urbanization of a states, measured by the urban share of state land area (-0.45)."  Again no surprise.  "Urbanization is positively associated with liberals (0.39), and moderates and liberals combined (0.41), but not significantly associated with moderated by themselves."

"Top 10 Republican States"

"Top 10 MSAs Religiosity"

Religion is another place where conservatives and liberals are split.  The chart below left present the top and bottom ten religious cities.  Richard Florida writes, "Conservative political affiliation across states is highly correlated with religiosity, measured as the share of state population for which religion is a very important component of daily life (0.76)."  Again, the opposite is true for liberal and moderates.  "Religiosity across states is negatively correlated with liberals (-.075), moderates (-0.29). and moderates and liberals combined (-0.78)."

"Composition of Political Parties by Racial, Ethnic, and Ideological Groups"
Another unsurprising fact is conservative states tend to be less diverse,  Mr. Florida, "Conservative political affiliation is highly negatively correlated with the percent of the population that are immigrants (-0.60), or gay and lesbian (-0.68).  Both immigrant and gay and lesbian share of the population are positively associated with liberals (0.50 and 0.73 respectively), and moderates and liberals combined (0.54 and 0.64), but not significant significantly associated with moderates by themselves."

Based on these facts, conservatism is more pronounced in states that are less affluent, educated, and more economic distressed.  In 2011, Richard Florida wrote at the time,

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 innovate, and productive ones.  American politics is increasingly disconnected from its economic engine.  And this deepening political divide has become the biggest bottleneck on the road to long-run prosperity.

President Donald Trump's administration is barely a month and Republicans control both houses of Congress.  The ball is in their court.  While liberals remained clustered in fewer states, conservatism is slow overall decline.  Conservatism has gained an edge in larger sections of the country, particularly in key swing states.  The razor-thin victories in less populated states mean dramatic change.  Even as the nation creeps toward liberalism on the whole, the real question is will the states reflect this trend or remain firmly in the red column?

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