Connecting One’s Favorite Sport and One’s Favorite Party

A fascinating part of politics is exploring what makes people vote as they do. The political belief that a person holds often is linked with something entirely unrelated. Several studies have shown correlations between, for instance, personality traits or hormone levels and support for the Democratic or Republican Party.

One such study was undertaken by Hotline and the National Journal, which can be found here. They compared the relationship between the sports people watch, the national parties they vote for, and their turn-out rate.

The results were graphed below:

Link to Graph of Relationship Between One's Favorite Sport and One's Favorite Party

This chart compares the voting rates and political skew of each sport’s audiences to the average (mean) American. The numbers indicate percentages; for instance, fans of WWE wrestling are about 59% more Democratic than the average American but only 66% as likely to vote as the average American.

The results are quite interesting. Unsurprisingly, most sports viewers tend to vote Republican; this is because sports fans are generally males, and males lean Republican. Political analysts may be interested to see that NASCAR fans are less Republican than college football and PGA watchers – although this may just be an artifact of randomness.

There does not seem to be much of a consistent difference of type between “Democratic” sports and “Republican” sports. Viewers of NBA basketball are left-leaning, but viewers of college basketball are right-leaning. NASCAR fans are more conservative, but sports car racing fans are liberal. On the other hand, there is a link between the type of sport a person watches and his or her likelihood to vote. Sports with low-voting viewers tend to have small audiences, and to be relatively obscure. Once again, it would be quite interesting to explore why this is so.

Indeed, this graph leaves us with a whole set of puzzling questions. Why are college basketball viewers so much more Republican than NBA viewers? Why are NBA fans so liberal in the first place, unlike any other major sport? Why are people who watch non-mainstream sports less likely to vote?

Until somebody comes up with a convincing set of answers, this Democratic-voting NBA fan will keep on wondering.




The White Vote in Washington D.C.

When Republicans attack American liberalism, they prefer to use San Francisco as a punch bag. Indeed, San Francisco does constitute quite a liberal city; in the 2008 presidential election, 84.0% of the good folk of San Francisco preferred Democratic candidate Barack Obama over Senator John McCain.

San Francisco was far from the most Democratic-voting city in 2008, however. Mr. Obama’s percentage total was greater in several places; Washington D.C., for instance, pummeled San Francisco in the contest of who votes more loyally Democratic. In the capital of America, an astonishing 92.5% of voters supported the Illinois senator.

Most people who will hear this will probably start thinking something quite politically incorrect. The line of thought goes that “Washington is full of black people, all the blacks voted for Obama, so of course it voted that way.”

This is half true and half false. It is true that the capital’s black population voted uniformly for the president – something that occurs with almost all Democratic candidates. The census, however, estimates that blacks compose only 54.4% of Washington’s overall population. This may surprise a lot of Americans who think the city is all-black. Even if every single black person in Washington voted Democratic, Mr. Obama still is quite a ways off from 92.5%.

Let’s look at another place with similar demographics to Washington D.C. – Montgomery County, Alabama where the Civil Rights movement started. Like Washington, Montgomery’s population is 52.9% black. Unlike Washington (where Mr. Obama won 92.5% of the vote), however, Montgomery only gave Mr. Obama 59.3% of the vote. Blacks are not responsible for this 33% difference; there is not much variation in how African-Americans voted in both cities.

The trick is with the white population. According to exit polls, Mr. Obama won 10% of whites in the state of Alabama. The results from Montgomery County reflect this low level of support.

In Washington, however, Mr. Obama won an astounding 86% of the white vote, according to exit polls. This is how the Illinois senator was able to get up to 92.5% of the vote in Washington, which is about one-third white. If white people alone had voted in Washington, Mr. Obama would still have done better than he did in San Francisco.

It would be quite interesting to explore why whites in the capital vote so loyally Democratic. Washington, of course, constitutes the center of the federal government; it would not be unusual for much of the white population to work for the government and thus vote more Democratic. But what type of work do they do – do they deliver the mail for the Post Office, or do they run the Post Office? Is Washington’s white population composed of  mostly working-class, union-type Democrats? Or is it composed mostly of “wine-track” liberals, the type that populate cities like San Francisco and Seattle?

Whatever the answer, this statistic remains one of the most curious and interesting ones to come out of the 2008 presidential election. Indeed, until now this blogger was unaware that such one-sided Democratic voting patterns existed among whites anywhere in the nation. To get 86% of the vote anywhere is a burdensome feat. For a Democrat to get that support from whites is something that one does not see often in the United States.


Previewing Senate Elections: California, Section 2

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing competitive Senate elections in blue states. It is the second section of two posts focusing on the greatest state in the union (otherwise known as California). The first part of the series can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Suburban SoCal

Southern California (SoCal, in short) is where the battle for California will be won or lost. Ms. Fiorina must accomplish two tasks in the region.

First, she must clean the clock in the suburban counties outside Los Angeles. It is in places like Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire that the votes to counter the Democratic bases in the Bay Area can be found. In the 2008 presidential election, there were one million more votes cast in the six SoCal counties above (excluding Los Angeles) than in the entire Bay Area.

This task is not too difficult. Unlike liberal NorCal, the suburbs in this region are more like the rest of the United States in their political leanings; in fact, they are probably more conservative than the median. Orange County and San Diego County are nationally known as conservative bastions (although they are not as red as in the past). Ms. Fioina probably needs to win above 60% of the vote in both counties. Historically, Republicans have often done this. The trouble is with Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

Ms. Fiorina’s second task is to run closely in Los Angeles. It is here that Republicans face their greatest challenge. Los Angeles – sprawled, extremely populous, and arguably more diverse than even the Bay Area – constitutes a Democratic stronghold. President Barack Obama ran off with 69.2% of the vote here; Senator John Kerry took 63.1%. Ms. Fiorina must reduce this Democratic margin to within the single-digits.

Link to Map of Los Angeles, 2008 Presidential Election

The math here is simple.  There are just not enough Republican votes in Central Valley, the Orange County-San Diego metropolis, and the Inland Empire to offset the Democratic bastions of the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Republicans must therefore break one of the two strongholds. It is impossible to do this in the Bay. So the choice must be Los Angeles.

The key are the outer, wealthier suburbs within Los Angeles county. Some are liberal Hollywood areas, typified by Congressman Henry Waxman’s 30th congressional district. Republicans probably cannot win these. Others are more conservative and even voted for Senator John McCain (see, for instance, the patches of red north of Pomona and south of Redondo Beach). Ms. Fiorina will have to expand upon this core and win places like the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena – suburbs which rarely vote Republican.


When the voting booths close and the precinct results start pouring in, look at Los Angeles County. Ms. Fiorina’s performance there will be most indicative of her overall strength. If Democrats are winning the county by double-digits, then she is in trouble. Conversely, if their margin is less than five percent – or if Republicans are winning the county – then Republicans are in good shape. A Democratic margin between five and ten percent signifies that a long night is ahead.

On a state-level basis, modeling a close Republican victory is somewhat difficult; Republican candidates haven’t won a close race for a long time in California. There is, however, a substitute that fits well:

Link to Map of California, Proposition 8

These are the results of the famous Proposition 8, which passed by a 4.5% margin. On a county-by-county basis, a Fiorina victory will probably look quite similar to this. There are minor differences; the margins in Orange and San Diego Counties would probably be greater; Republicans probably wouldn’t win Los Angeles County.

Overall, however, the picture would not be too different. Heavy margins from the SoCal suburbs and Central Valley counter Democratic strength in NorCal, while a strong Republican performance in Los Angeles dilutes Democratic margins there.

There is one final complication for Republicans. California constitutes the most diverse state in the country; winning minorities is a must. The Republican Party is not very good at this, which why California is a blue state today. It must change this, if candidates like Ms. Fiorina are to win the state.

Some minorities are easier to win than others. Blacks are most loyal to the Democratic Party, but they number only 6.2% of the state’s population. While more numerous Asians and Latinos do not vote their numbers (their share in the voting electorate is slightly more than half their share of the overall population), their votes are easier to get.

Here Proposition 8 is less useful as a guide. In Los Angeles County, for instance, all of South Central voted for the proposition. Unless Republicans start winning Compton and Watts, they will have to find support from a different section of California’s majority-minorities.

Winning minorities constitutes a novel challenge to the Republican Party; until now it has drawn an ever-increasing percentage of the white vote to offset increasing numbers of minorities. This is no longer possible in places like California. If Republican candidates like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are to win the state, they will need to envision a new strategy.




Previewing Senate Elections: California, Section 1

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing competitive Senate elections in blue states. It will focus on California. Because California is such a big and complicated state, it will have two sections – of which this is the first. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

California, Section 1

In the greatest state of the union, a fierce senatorial battle is brewing. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina is mounting a tough challenge to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. In an anti-Democratic national environment, polls show the race close and competitive. This post will examine the obstacles Ms. Fiorina will face as she seeks to overcome California’s formidable Democratic geography.

Link to Map of California, 2008 Presidential Election

As America’s most populous state, California contains a number of distinct regions. This post, and the one following, will examine each.

Upper California and the Sierra Nevada

When people think of California, the northern forests and year-round snow of the Sierra Nevada generally do not come into mind. These regions, geographically expansive yet thinly populated, tend to vote loyally Republican (although until the 1970s Democrats had a base of support in several northeastern counties).

Not all of this region is Republican-voting, unpopulated wilderness. Exurban Placer County, for instance, contained 173,812 voters in 2008. Other parts – especially the liberal coast – tend to vote Democratic, eating in to Republican strength.

Ms. Fiorina will probably need something like 70% of the vote in places like Placer County to win. Strong margins from this Republican stronghold constitute the first, easiest step to a Republican victory.

The Bay Area

In many ways, the Bay Area is what makes California a blue state. Without the Bay Area, for instance, President George W. Bush would – almost – have won California in 2004, losing by a mere 0.7%.

Link to Picture of Bay Area, 2004 Presidential Election

 Unfortunately for Republicans, the Bay Area – one of the richest, most diverse, and most liberal places in the country – does indeed exist, and it votes strongly Democratic. A popular attack against Senator Boxer is to call her a San Francisco liberal; this generally works less well in San Francisco.

In addition, voting habits in the Bay Area tend to be “sticky.” If the rest of California moves ten points more Republican, the Bay Area will tend to move only five points right. San Francisco and Alameda counties are sometimes the last two counties standing during Republican landslides.

There is a glimmer of hope for Republicans, however. The counties surrounding San Francisco and Berkeley tend to be one degree less intense in their liberalism. Ms. Fiorina will not win them, but a well-run campaign can reduce Democratic margins somewhat.

Central Valley

Home to some of the richest farmland in America, the counties composing Central Valley once leaned Democratic but now vote Republican in all but Democratic landslides. Conservative and heavily populated – although not by California standards – Central Valley provides somewhat of a reservoir to offset the enormous Democratic margins radiating from the Bay Area.

There is, however, one important exception: Sacramento, a populous county whose Democratic leanings deny Republicans a vast store of potential votes.

In the long run, Central Valley is a ticking time bomb. Democratic-voting Latinos compose 30-50% of the population in many of these counties, and their numbers will only increase. For now Ms. Fiorina is safe – Latinos do not vote their numbers, especially in mid-terms – but future Republicans cannot take Central Valley for granted.

The Challenge of Southern California

It is in the urban sprawl of SoCal, however, where Republicans face their greatest challenge. Ms. Fiorina has two tasks here. The first is to win the counties outside Los Angeles, and win them big. The second is to keep Los Angeles itself within single digits.

The next post will expand upon SoCal and offer a conclusion on Republican prospects of winning California.



Polarization: Past and Present

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

A number of commentators have lamented increasing polarization in Washington. Conventional wisdom has it that America is as divided and partisan as it ever has been. Sectional divisions are tearing this country apart and preventing problems such as the deficit from being addressed; the differences between blue America and red America, in this view, are rapidly approaching crisis point.

There is some justice to this view. Polarization has probably increased, by a number of metrics, over the past few elections. Indeed, I previously noted something to this exact effect.

Let’s take another look, however, at the hypothesis, using a different type of measurement. We will consider the composition of the House of Representatives, specifically examining partisan divisions by state. Do blue states elect Republican representatives, and vice versa? In a polarized nation, this would probably not be the case.

Here is a map of a House with a Republican majority:

Map of 108th House of Representatives

This House was the result of 2002 congressional elections. Republicans had done well in the wake of 9/11, and they had a 232-201 majority.

In the map there are relatively few states with 80-100% of representatives from one party. Blue states elect Republicans; red states elect Democrats. Moreover; for some states (e.g. Delaware, the Dakotas) it is mathematically impossible to be less than 100% Democratic or Republican.

Here is the House today:

Map of 111th House of Representatives

This is a fascinating map in that it almost perfectly matches the 2008 electoral college. One sees the Republican corridor of strength in the South and Mountain West. Most of the map is blue since Democrats have a 255-178 majority, the result of two previous Democratic landslides.

Let’s move back several decades:

Map of 88th House of Representatives

The date is 1960; President John Kennedy has just been elected. Democrats hold a 258-177 majority, almost identical to that today.

There are a lot more “one-party states” compared to the current map. Sectional division is far more pronounced; there is a line between North and South that simply does not exist in today’s House. In 1960 – especially in the still-standing Solid South – blue states generally did not elect Republicans, and vice versa.

Polarization grows even worse if one goes back further. Here is 2002, once again:

Map of 108th House of Representatives

Here is 1894:

Map of 54th House of Representatives

Republicans have just won 130(!) seats. They hold a 254 to 93 majority.

In this incredible map, there are only six states with congressional delegations less than 80-100% from one party. In it one can literally trace the battlefields of the Civil War.

This is real polarization, the results of a nation so divided it had literally torn itself in two. This is the type of polarization that results from scars so deep that they took more than a century to heal.

Perhaps today America is indeed growing more polarized, more divided into red states and blue states. But when one compares the present situation to past ones, there is literally no comparison. The United States has a long way to go before it gets as polarized as it did during the latter half of the 19th century.



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