As the 2008 election season reaches its peak, media pundits will speak gravely of the deep ideological divisions reflected in a political map of red and blue states, but according to Gelman (statistics & political science, Columbia Univ.), much of the analysts' glib assessments is misguided and does little to advance our understanding of why Americans have voted as they have. He crunched U.S. survey and election data as far back as 1952; compared his data where appropriate to similar data from Mexico, Canada, and other countries; and discovered that the economic status of individuals and the economic conditions of each state as a whole lead to two different conclusions: on the one hand, the less wealthy a voter is, the more likely the voter is to cast a ballot for a Democrat; the better-off the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. Yet states with a higher average income are more likely to support a Democratic presidential candidate. He discovered that wealthy voters in a poor state (e.g., Mississippi, with many poor) consistently support Republicans, while Connecticut, with many wealthy, regularly backs Democrats. Ohio is near the center of income distribution and alternates between the parties. This seeming paradox is lost on the media's talking heads because they focus only on the state-level data, leading them to the simplistic red-blue paradigm, ignoring the importance of individual voters' decisions. Gelman finds that the above relationships hold on a county level as well. After examining other factors such as religiosity and cultural values for clues to explain voting behavior, he offers suggestions about how the Democratic Party can improve its chances in the 2008 election. This is a fascinating, well-written, and thoroughly researched work that deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended for all libraries.—Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., PA
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If you're interested in understanding the state of the art in the geography and demographics of American public opinion as we head down the final stretch of the presidential race (and who isn't!), this is a book you shouldn't miss.
(Will Wilkinson The Fly Bottle
Gelman works his way, state by state, to help us better understand the relationship of class, culture, and voting. The book is a terrific read and offers much insight into the changing electoral landscape.
(Sudhir Venkatesh Freakonomics blog
Attempting to explain 'why Americans vote the way they do,' Gelman and a group of fellow political scientists crunch numbers and draw graphs, arriving at a picture that refutes the influential one drawn by Thomas Frank, in What's the Matter with Kansas?
, of poor red-staters voting Republican against their economic interests. Instead, Gelman persuasively argues, the poor in both red states and blue still mostly vote Democratic, and the rich, nationally speaking, overwhelmingly vote Republican.
(Leo Carey The New Yorker
The thesis of this topical book is that how Americans vote depends on where they live as well as who they are. Gelman makes this argument clearly and repeatedly in colloquial language, in black and white graphics and in maps coloured red and blue. . . . A major strength of the book is that it shows the importance of changes in America in the past half century.
(Times Higher Education
The most creative analyses in Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State
use Gelman's multilevel methods. But the technical background is nearly invisible: Here there are no equations and few numbers--rather, one finds dozens of revealing graphics, all of which are very clear. The book is unusual in aiming to enlighten the general lay reader through a step-by-step analysis, not merely to engage in a debate with other political scientists. Through a clear and crisp writing style, it quotes and refutes many widespread views of journalists and political pundits, even as it builds on the political science literature . . . this fun-to-read book may become a minor classic.
(Terry Nichols Clark and Christopher Graziul Science
The aim of this book, Mr. Gelman tells us, is to debunk the media's oversimplified account of what happened in red and blue states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Writing in the same spirit as Freakonomics
authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Mr. Gelman sets out to 'correct' the received wisdom. . . . This is the Freakonomics
-style analysis that every candidate and campaign consultant should read.
(Robert Sommer New York Observer
According to Gelman, much of the analysts' glib assessments is misguided and does little to advance our understanding of why Americans have voted as they have. He crunched U.S. survey and election data as far back as 1952 . . . and discovered that the economic status of individuals and the economic conditions of each state as a whole lead to two different conclusions: on the one hand, the less wealthy a voter is, the more likely the voter is to cast a ballot for a Democrat; the better-off the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican. Yet states with a higher average income are more likely to support a Democratic presidential candidate. . . . This is a fascinating, well-written, and thoroughly researched work that deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended for all libraries.
(Thomas J. Baldino Library Journal
Commentators on both the left (Thomas Frank) and the right (David Brooks) have theorized about why working-class Kansas farmers and latte-sipping Maryland suburbanites vote against their economic interests. Gelman says, 'Both sides on this argument are trying too hard to explain something that's simply not true.' The real paradox, he says, is that while rich states lean Democratic, rich people generally vote Republican; while poor states lean Republican, poor people generally vote Democratic.
(Alan Cooperman Washington Post Book World
Looking at the numbers as far back as 1952, this book debunks much of what we think we know about voting trends. Buy one today! Amuse your friends! Annoy your enemies! Bring cocktail party conversations to a grinding halt.
(Susan Campbell The Hartford Courant
Andrew Gelman's Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State
can be summed up with extreme concision: Rich people vote Republican, but rich states vote Democratic. Poor people vote Democratic, but poor states vote Republican. That's pretty weird. But to Gelman, it's worse than weird. It's unknown. . . . At the most basic level, this is an argument for complexity. The country is not as simple as some would have it, and if that means political discussion segments need to be lengthened from two minutes to four minutes, then tough. But it's also an argument for data, and for increased rigor among the chattering class.
(Ezra Klein Barnes and Noble Review
Full of interesting arguments and insights that will turn many deep-seated beliefs about American politics on their head, and make a lot of people reconsider their assumptions and biases.
(Stefan Fergus Civilian Reader
Gelman provides an invaluable corrective and an excellent launching pad for future research on the reasons why people vote and affiliate with the parties as they do.
(Katherine Cramer Walsh Journal of Public and International Affairs