Saturday, February 11, 2012

Red State or Blue State, Which Would You Rather Live In?

Article first published as Red State or Blue State, Which Would You Rather Live In?
 on Blogcritics.

After reading an article a while back, and many of the pointed comments, I wanted to look at the relative differences in a variety of factors, between these United States.  The author of the original article made reference to the supposed difference between the education of the “left” and the “right”, but I don’t think he meant it in terms of schooling.  I think he meant to say, that in his opinion, republicans were more politically astute and questioned why the party that frequently claims to be smarter (the “Intelligencia”) could not see his, or their, viewpoint.

The basis of this article is statistics on a variety of areas from education and income to unemployment and teen pregnancy, and ranking each state in those categories.  But to begin this article, I want to look at which way (politically) each state leans, and then continue with metrics about each.

The current political maps (red, blue, and purple) try and show the direction that each state leans politically, usually based on a current poll, is likely biased by the poll takers own politics, and certainly on the particular questions asked and the manner in which they are asked.  This graphic shows the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, and if you follow this link, the map is interactive and shows the results by state.  There is one of these maps for every national election, but I have never seen one that shows the general, everyday political bent of the states, so I made one.

I determined the “party” of the state by using the following:
·         The party of the state’s Governor
·         The party of the Lt. Governor
·         The parties of the two U.S. Senators
·         The U.S. House of Representatives parties
·         And the parties of the state legislative members

I expect some disagreement over the method used to determine state party affiliation, but of course, you are free to make your own map using whatever criteria you choose.  I think though, that no matter how you split up the states, the conclusions that I came to will still hold.

So my map, as can be seen in this graphic, has some differences from the 2008 presidential map shown in the above link.  My map shows many states as moderate, what the pundits will probably call swing states.  There are also a few that are just plain backwards, both from the 2008 map, and from what I expected.  By using the rating system described above I have also ranked the states from most republican to most democrat-ian.  The six top republican states are: Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota, and New Hampshire.  On the Democrat side, the six most left are: Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, West Virginia, and Vermont.  The “moderate” states, centered about the state with the most evenly divided politicians – which is Colorado, are Minnesota, Maine, Oregon, and Kentucky; all five of which count as democrat using my system.  The “swing” states were determined by drawing a line at 60% - 40% for either party; that close to 50% makes them moderate in my book.

To begin with, I have a few statistics about the state populations.  There are 24 democratic states with 154.05M residents, and for republican ones 156.93M in the remaining 26 states.  The highest three democratic states have more people than the top four republican ones, and the republicans have five states with less than 1M citizens while the democratic states have only two that small.  All in all I think that the country is pretty evenly split, as is frequently seen with very close national elections.

The first comparison I made is basic education, using SAT scores as the metric.  I believe that this is a good measure of education, and although comparing college or university grades might be better to judge adult knowledge, there is no good way to determine past or future state citizenship or party affiliation.  Before anyone complains, I considered using the ACT, but it is both less frequently taken, and the SAT in one form or another has been given since 1926.  In the top 15 states, with Iowa being number one – combined average SAT of 1798 – 10 of the states were predominantly Republican, and in the lowest 15 scoring states 8 were republican.  Just to round out this topic, Maine came in last with a combined average score of 1389.

The next category of interest is income, using the median value per household.  New Hampshire seems to be well off with $66,652 per family, while (I don’t think this is a shock) Mississippi comes in last at $36,499.  In the top wealthiest states, eight are predominately republican with their average income being $55,239.  In the lower end, republicans have an average of only $44,838, only six are democrats.

Inextricably, in my opinion, linked to income, is unemployment so that too made my list.  Of the ten states with the highest unemployment, the highest four are democrat; although there is five of each.  At the bottom of the list are four republican states, as is seven of the bottom ten.

I personally feel, as might have been noted in some of my earlier rants, that as a country we are way too fat, so I looked at those stats.  Again, to their shame, Mississippi came in at the bottom of the list with 34.5% of the residents considered obese.  In the bottom 10 states the average rate of obesity was more than 32%, with 7 states being republican.  On the lighter side, the leanest state is Colorado at a little less than 22%, and predominantly democrat with 8 of 10 being democrat.

Another interesting set of statistics was for teen pregnancy rates, and you will never guess which state topped that list; you’re right it’s Ole Miss at 65.7 per 1,000; the lowest on the list was New Hampshire with only 19.8 per 1,000.  In the half with the most pregnancies, 68% are republican, while in the half with the least 64% are democrats.  For completeness sake I should have also reported on abortion rates, but I’m not touching that powder keg.

Which state is the murder capital of the U.S.?  As it turns out, Louisiana top the list at 11.2 per 100,000 people, while the safest (at least in these terms) state is New Hampshire at less than 1 per 100,000.  The worst states for murder had 58% being republican, and in the bottom, safer states it was 52% democrat.  Just in case you had started keeping score, Mississippi came in third for murder.

Using this data, I established the best and worst states to live in.  I ranked every state in each category, and summed all of the rankings; the best having the lowest aggregate scores and the worst with the highest.  Minnesota topped the list along with 8 other democratic states out of the upper 10, and sadly or surprisingly, Mississippi finished last along with 7 other republican states out of the lower 10.  Shown here is a chart of the rankings for each category, by state.

Even though it seems as if republicans are slightly smarter, they don’t seem to be very good with their own money so I surely can’t see trusting them with everyone’s.  It’s also not surprising that given their own lack of health, they can’t seem to come to grips with a national healthcare program.  They, on the whole, have higher rates of teen pregnancy, but seem to kill each other more often, so maybe that’s a push.

Here is the compiled chart, with the ranking for each state.

All in all, it would seem that a person living in a democratically run state is better off, in general, than someone living in a republican state.  That’s certainly a gross generalization, but if you were thinking of moving anyway, it may be something to think about.


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