The Myth of the Red-state Blue-state Map

Blue staters, are you tired of working for a living but being portrayed as a “latte drinking” liberal by meatheaded pundits who think that blue staters are a bunch of rich snobs? Red state Kerry voters, are you tired of having your “values” being thought to be the same as the deluded folks who actually voted for Bush? Regardless of where you live or how much money you make, haven’t you HAD IT with people who think that “elites” were the only ones who voted for Kerry while the “working folk”, “heartland,” “middle class” etc., made up the bulk of Bush voters?

Then this study is for you. In Rich State, poor state, red state, blue state: What’s the matter with Connecticut? mutiple political researchers (from red and blue states) utterly and totally debunk the notion of “rich latte Democrats” and poor Nascar Republicans. In fact, it turns out that the “typical” Democratic voter is a “lower income resident of a rich state” while the “typical” Republican voter is an “upper-income” resident of a poor state.

Nick, how is that possible? Can’t you read a map? Can’t you see all those low-income low cost of living states that voted for Bush while high cost of living states like New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland were the bluest states around?

Yes I can read a map (and unlike most men I even asked directions when I’m lost). I can also read statistics, statistics like those that show that in Mississippi (where median household income is barely over $30,000 a year) “62 percent of Mississippians reporting a family income below $15,000, and 54 percent of those making between $15,000 and $30,000 backed Kerry. Bush’s success in this poor state, in other words, was due to his strength among relatively rich voters.”

Well of course poor and middle class Mississipians voted for Kerry, Nick, most of those folks are black? Well, yeah. I don’t deny that Mississippi blacks (along with blacks in other states) know which party has their best interests at heart. But the theory that middle and lower income vote in MS. went to Kerry because of the black vote is faulty. Why?

Well for one thing Kerry won a majority of votes from folks from households making less than $50,000 in 34 states. This includes states where whites make up an overwhelming majority (over 85%) of the population like Massachusetts, Washington, and Iowa. But if that isn’t enough, the authors of “Matter with Connecticut” show that Kerry”s strength among these voters wasn’t…

“merely a result of Democratic strength among African American and Latino voters — the “Connecticut” authors consider this possibility and conclude based on NES data that higher income positively correlates with Republican-voting, both on a national level and within states, even while controlling for race and ethnicity. This correlates with another study by Larry Bartels demonstrating that “White voters in the bottom third of the income distribution have actually become more reliably Democratic in presidential elections over the past half-century, while middle- and upper-income white voters have trended Republican.” What’s more, he finds, Frank’s cultural backlash just isn’t real. Social issues have even less salience than economic ones, Bartels writes, ‘for whites in the bottom third of the income distribution than for more affluent whites.’”

So why did wealthier states vote Democrat? Well wealthier states tned to have higher cost of living, so a voter in those states making 50K-75K is more likley to identify with the party of the working man. In contrast, a voter making 50K (or even less) in a poorer-and lower cost of living-state is more likely to identify with the “party of business” (at least the party of very, VERY, big business).

Think of it this way: Higher personal income positively correlates with higher rates of Republican voting. Higher state income negatively correlates with higher rates of Republican voting. This explains why, with one or two exceptions, Bush’s margins of the vote were always greater among higher income voters regardless of how that state voted.

The poorer you are the more likely you are to vote Democrat almost regardless of how your state was colored on Election Night, 2004. The difference between red and blue states hinges more on how great the gap is between the votes of lower-income vs. higher income voters.

In wealthier blue states like Connecticut and Maryland the under 50K crowd votes Democrat by larger margins than the over 50K crowd-but not by much. In fact, Kerry was favored by under 50K and over 50K voters in Connecticut.

In contrast, many poorer red states show large gaps in the vote preferences of the rich vs. poor. While poorer Mississippians favored Kerry, wealthier Mississippians favored Bush by an even larger margin. In Ohio, Kerry was favored by 58% of Ohio voters that made less than 50K. Among Ohioans making more than 50K-58% voted for Bush.

The next time a red-state Republican accuses Democrats of fomenting “class warfare” remember these red-state Republicans know what they’re talking about. After all, red states are more likely to have bigger gaps in voting preferences of the different classes than blue states have.

Or try this explanation: in 14 of the 20 states (19 plus DC) that Kerry won, Kerry won both the under 50K and over 50K vote (though he almost always did better among the under 50K crowd in all states). In only six Kerry states did the 50K crowd favor Kerry while at the same time the over 50K crowd favored Bush: New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Meantime, in the 31 Bush states: the over 50K crowd favored Bush in all 31 of these states. In nearly half of the red states (14 of 31) a majority of under 50K voters (including 8 in the South) favored John Kerry. So in just under 50% of red states, Bush’s margins were due to large GOP margins among rich, not poor voters.

So if your in a red state and making less than 50 grand, chances are your political “values” are not the same as your wealthier counterparts-keep fighting the good fight.

If you are making over 50K, living in a red state, but voted for Kerry- You are to be commended for your bravery- just don’t expect to be all that popular among your peers.

Over 50K blue staters, especially those in the six states cited above-you are the true eptiome of the “enlightened affluent.”

Under 50K blue staters, forget what true elitists like Joe Klein say, you are the base of the Democratic Party.

Up Next: The Truth About Elitist Pundits.

Bookmark and Share

About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Myth of the Red-state Blue-state Map

  1. Ron Chusid says:

    There are a lot of myths in politics, some of them even contradictory. On the one hand, the Democrats are portrayed as the party of the poor who cannot survive without government programs. On the other hand, when faced with evidence that many of the affluent are voting Democratic we are written off as latte drinking elites. (What is wrong wtih drinking lattes anyways?)

    Looking at these numbers, see the problem a bit different than Nick. We need more people to see the latte drinking elites as voting for Kerry. Of course we don’t want it worded this way–such wording is actually the right wing’s spin to try to downplay the increasing number of affluent voters who did vote for Kerry.

    For Democrats to become a majority party, they can’t just be seen as the party of the poor. Current Republican policies only benefit the ultra-wealthy–either those with considerable inherited wealth or at the tops of corporations. We need to get more upper middle class voters who do not benefit from GOP policies to vote for Democrats. The more Democrats are seen as the party of those making under $50,000 (varied by state), the less likely small businessmen, professionals, and those below top management in corporations will see voting Democratic as acceptable.

    This gets back to the New York Magazine article I discussed this week. People who agree with Democrats on the issues are disillusioned with Republicans but for various reasons they cannot identify with Democrats. Fortunately many do identify as independents and vote Democratic. Unfortunately they do so without enthusiasm, and long for some sort of third party to vote for instead.

  2. Ginny in CO says:

    I’m thinking of the maps that show red states usually get more federal money than they pay in taxes. Because of the gap between the wealthy and the poor, they receive more federal assistance? I know in some states it is due to the federal facilities there. Alaska certainly benefits from the Stevens/Young Pork Barrell gluts. It also has 2 Air Force bases that play a critical role on the US- Russian border.
    It has the longest coastline of any state, and the coast guard facilities for that. Plus a significant % of the population being Native Americans.
    I think my point is that red staters with incomes over 50K, who don’t want Government entitlement programs for the poor, are asking for more social problems associated with poverty in their state. Probably too nuanced…

    Ron, I can’t resist the literal answer to your tongue in cheek question. Lattes have too much caffeine and probably sugar; bad enough alone, worse together.

    And Nick, in addition to the great stats and analysis, this is even better:
    “Yes I can read a map (and unlike most men I even asked directions when I’m lost).”
    Thanks for setting an example. 🙂

    (Had a horrible ending to an otherwise magical trip to Japan. By the time my son got to the airport well over an hour after the call to pick me up- max 45 minute drive- I had called my sister, mother, the hospitals and cried a bucket envisioning both my kids’ bodies on the road somewhere. All because he wouldn’t listen to his sister tell him that he had just passed the exits marked to DIA -several times)

  3. Ron Chusid says:


    I make my lattes without sugar. What’s wrong with a little caffeine in a shot of espresso? (So I sometimes make them a double).

  4. Ginny in CO says:


    You’re the one with MD after your name. Is this what you tell your patients about caffeine consumption?

    I really do agree, lattes have become pretty standard. I think Krispy Cremes are far worse – not just because they are in the Twinkie culinary class. It goes along with the stupid comments about Kerry’s windsurfing and duck hunting. He doesn’t fall off his sporting equipment, and when he goes hunting, only the birds get hit.

    BTW, your daughter may have had similar experience with this. I was telling Lauren about the ongoing, marijuana is a gateway drug, argument today. She rolled her eyes and said, the hard drug users don’t even start with mj. They do acid, ecstasy, ETOH etc. (She once received a written invitation to a rave party, we were about numb with disbelief) The weird thing she brought up is that in the younger grades, when these kids start, the harder drugs are easier to get than mj. The bozos arguing this stuff need to put that in the pipes and smoke it.

  5. Ginny in CO says:

    And Ron,

    Better be careful about the doubles, next they will be triples…

  6. KJ says:

    “If you are making over 50K, living in a red state, but voted for Kerry- You are to be commended for your bravery- just don’t expect to be all that popular among your peers.”


  7. Nick says:


    I agree Dems should (and in some cases do) have appeal to the over 50K crowd. I’m not arguing in favor of Dems neglecting to win any votes from people making over 50K. The point of “What’s the Matter With Connecticut” is not that Dems are solely the party of under 50K crowd.
    The point is that it debunks the theory so popular among pundits: that the two major parties have essentially shifted constituencies with the GOP as the party of the “middle class” and the Dems as the party of rich people who vote.
    Michael Barone in the Almanac of American Politics especially pushes this notion of cultural-and not economic-views driving how people vote.
    I don’t reject the notion that cultural views influence who we vote for. Nor do I reject any over 50K voter who wants to vote Democrat-I can think of a lot of reasons for upper middle class voters to vote Democrat.
    What I do reject is the notion that income does not matter and does not influence how people vote. Additionally, I see statistical analysis like “Connecticut” as debunking the stupid pundit notions that Kerry lost because he came from an upper class backgronund, windsurfed, spoke too fancy, blah blah blah, and other BS that pundits (many of whom were anti-Kerry to begin with) spew forth.

  8. Nick says:


    LOL! Well sort of. I don’t mean to laugh at your trauma. JUst wanted to let folks know that not all of us Y chromosome possessors are allergic to getting directions.
    My advice to anybody when confronted with some bozo who thinks he isn’t lost is to use one (or both) of the following lines:
    1) Fine! I’ll stop, get out and ask directions. Too bad YOUR not man enough to do it.
    2) (For use if the man in question is a Democrat) “While your driving around insisting we’re not lost, this car is eating up our gas dollars. You may not need directions, but I don’t feel like giving the Saudis and Dick Cheney any more of my money.
    (if the man in question is a Republican add the following to #2: “C’mon George Bush says it’s my money, not the government’s money. And I don’t want to give any more of my money to the US or the Saudi government.”

  9. Nick says:


    Just so there’s no confusion, I’m all in favor of drinking lattes. We’re gonna need the caffeine to keep us pumped up to get out the vote on election day 2006.
    In the run-up to election day, Drink lattes, don’t smoke marijuana! The last thing we need is a bunch of Dem party workers wondering where they left the list of voters they’re supposed to drive to the polls.

    Let’s not forgot the real reason pot has not be legalized: the folks in favor of legalization can’t remember where they left the petitions.

  10. mother of US Special Forces Soldier says:

    Just the FACTS

    RED STATES = Lowest SAT scores; Low PSAT Scores; LOWSET AP SCORES; Lowest college level obtained; Low INCOME per family ratio; lowest READING level rate; Lowest book sales per person;

    NEED I SAY MORE……………

    They need EDUCATED!
    Mother of US Special Forces Soldier

  11. Ron Chusid says:


    Recent studies have disputed previous biases against caffeine and show it even has benefits. Obviously there are people who can’t drink it.

    There’s no connection between Krispy Creams and lattes (especially when I make them with low fat milk). A shot or two of espresso, frothed low fat milk, a pack of splenda, and a bit of cinnamon is pretty benign (and both the coffee and cinnamon may have beneficial cardiac effects).

  12. Ron Chusid says:


    As I said before, they are quite contradictory on this. There is no doubt that a major target of the Republicans is those with upper incomes who allow the prospect of tax breaks to win over all other considerations (even if the tax breaks will cost more in the long run).

    The claims of affluent latte drinking Democrats is just a tactic they use to go after working people who have no sensible reason to vote Republican. Plus this helps to keep people from questioning the conventional wisdom when they see more and more affluent people voting Democratic. They avoid arguments that it might be in our self-interest to vote Democatic by writing us off as a liberal elite.

    The difficulty with a two party system is that we have to get diverse groups together. The two of us deal with different types of voters. When off line, I’m more likely to be trying to convince people making over $200,000 per year that it is in our best interest to throw out the Republicans even if there will be a modest increase in taxes.

    Therefore I cringe at statements such as “you are the true eptiome of the ‘enlightened affluent.'” This gives the impression that we vote Democratic contrary to our self interests–and that is a tough sell. Plus, as long as Democrats are perceived as the party of those making under $50,000 (perceived as an alien race by most people I know)they are not going to vote Democratic. I’d much rather see the arguments based upon what is best for the country and economy in general–with all benefiting by Democrats regardless of income, and only the ultra-wealthy benefiting from Republcian policies.

  13. Ron Chusid says:


    Check out this article on coffee.

  14. Nick Says: April 23rd, 2006 at 7:35 am

    Let’s not perpetuate the concept here, that volunteers might do what you’re insinuating.

    Honestly there are people in both parties that see the benefits of legalizing for medical use and get that people don’t forget things any more than they might if they drink alcohol, and perhaps it’s far less harmful.

  15. Nick says:


    Sorry, didn’t mean to insinuate anything. Kerry on

  16. Nick

    freepers are always lurking…

  17. Nick says:


    Didn’t mean to make you cringe, I just didn’t do a good job explaining what I meant by “enlightened.” I’m sending a post to Pamela on how one can be rich, vote Democrat, and not be voting against one’s self-interest.

  18. Nick says:


    How true, how true.