Steven Pinker: Why Are States So Red and Blue?

Steven Pinker in the New York Times:

25stone-artA-tmagArticleRegardless of who wins the presidential election, we already know now how most of the electoral map will be colored, which will be close to the way it has been colored for decades. Broadly speaking, the Southern and Western desert and mountain states will vote for the candidate who endorses an aggressive military, a role for religion in public life, laissez-faire economic policies, private ownership of guns and relaxed conditions for using them, less regulation and taxation, and a valorization of the traditional family. Northeastern and most coastal states will vote for the candidate who is more closely aligned with international cooperation and engagement, secularism and science, gun control, individual freedom in culture and sexuality, and a greater role for the government in protecting the environment and ensuring economic equality.

But why do ideology and geography cluster so predictably? Why, if you know a person’s position on gay marriage, can you predict that he or she will want to increase the military budget and decrease the tax rate, and is more likely to hail from Wyoming or Georgia than from Minnesota or Vermont? To be sure, some of these affinities may spring from coalitions of convenience. Economic libertarians and Christian evangelicals, united by their common enemy, are strange bedfellows in today’s Republican party, just as the two Georges — the archconservative Wallace and the uberliberal McGovern — found themselves in the same Democratic Party in 1972.

But there may also be coherent mindsets beneath the diverse opinions that hang together in right-wing and left-wing belief systems.

More here.

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