Steve Sailer writes:
Based on the extremely similar results in 2000 and 2004, I [Sailer] had invented a novel and ambitious theory explaining why American states vote in differing proportions for Republican or Democratic candidates. My Affordable Family Formation theory isn’t about who wins nationally, it’s about how, given a particular national level of support, which states will be solid blue (Democrat), which ones purple (mixed), and which ones solid red (Republican). . . .
My basic theory is that Democrats do best in states with metropolitan areas where land for homes is scarce because they are hedged in by oceans or Great Lakes; while Republicans do best in inland areas where homebuyers can look around for homes in a 360 degree radius around job sites. I call this the Dirt Gap: Republicans are found more in areas with more dirt and less water.
This means that homes in inland areas tend to be cheaper because the supply of land within a certain commuting time is greater. In turn, cheaper homes mean that non-Hispanic whites tend to marry earlier and have more children, which means they attract family oriented people and their cultures tend to be more family-oriented, making Republican family values appeals more appealing there. . . .
Take a look at the Average Years Married between ages 18 and 44 among non-Hispanic white women in the 2000 Census. That’s a statistic I invented to be the marital analog of the well-known total fertility rate measure (which estimates from the latest available year’s birth behavior how many children a woman will have in her lifetime). Likewise, Average Years Married estimates how many years out of the 27 between 18 through 44 will a woman be married. The Average Years Married for non-Hispanic white women does a remarkably good job of predicting McCain’s (or Obama’s) share of the total vote across all races in the states.
Thus, McCain carried 19 of the top 20 states on Average Years Married among non-Hispanic whites, while Obama carried 18 of the 19 lowest states. The correlation coefficient was r=0.88 . . . By the way, this explains much of the Sarah Palin Hysteria: with her five children, she elicits the SWPL [“stuff white people like,” although when I looked at that website, it didn’t make any sense to me–maybe I’m not white enough??] whites’ secret dread that they are being outbred by the non-SWPL whites.
1. The affordable family formation story makes a lot of sense to me; as we discussed in Red State, Blue State, it’s consistent with the red-state, blue-state distinction being more important among upper income voters (who are more likely to be buying houses and, I suspect, have more flexibility in deciding where to live) and it’s also consistent with these changes arising in the past thirty years, during which time we’ve seen huge housing price increases in coastal cities.
2. As Sailer notes (see also my scatterplots here), 2008 at the state-by-state level wasn’t much different from 2004, which in turn was nearly a replay of 2000.
3. I’m not so sure why he focuses on non-Hispanic whites, especially given that the Hispanic vote is increasingly important. I mean, I recognize that excluding minorities makes the statistical picture clearer, and so from a social-science perspective he’s explaining the data. A 90% correlation is indeed impressive. But then at some point I’d think you’d want to go back and put the minority votes back in to complete the story.
4. I’m skeptical about Sailer’s analysis of reactions to Sarah Palin. Why not the simpler story that she’s on the far right, and liberals don’t like that very much. Similar to the reaction that Republicans might have if Obama had chosen a running mate on the left wing of the Democratic party. I don’t really see how the children fit into this–I’d guess that a childless Palin with the same positions and qualifications would evoke similar attitudes.