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

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Is it any better to live in a predominately Republican than a Democratic state? We, as a country, certainly argue for one party being better than the other, but is one actually a better place to live? I can’t answer for you, but perhaps with some information, you can choose for yourself. 

Recently, after reading an article, and many of the pointed comments which followed it, I wanted to look at the relative differences of a variety of factors. The author of the original article referred 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 Intelligentsia) 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 each state leans politically, and then continue with metrics about each.

The current political maps (red, blue, and purple) try to show the direction that each state leans politically, usually based on a current poll which is likely biased by the poll taker’s own politics; certainly on the particular questions asked and the manner in which they are asked. This graphic shows the outcome of the 2008 presidential election; 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
• 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 indicates many more 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 Democratic. The top six Republican states are: Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. On the Democratic side, the five 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, Colorado, are Minnesota, Maine, Oregon, and Kentucky; all five of which count as Democratic using my system. The swing states were determined by drawing a line at 60 percent – 40 percent for either party; that close to 50 percent 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.

In my opinion, unemployment is inextricably linked to income, so that, too made my list. Of the ten states with the highest unemployment, the top four are Democratic; although there are five of each. At the bottom of the list are four Republican states, as are 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 much too fat, so I looked at those stats. Again, to their shame, Mississippi came in at the bottom of the list with 34.5 percent of the residents considered obese. In the bottom 10 states the average rate of obesity was more than 32 percent, with seven states being Republican. On the lighter side, the leanest state is Colorado at a little less than 22 percent, and predominately Democratic, with eight of 10 being Democratic.

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 Mississippi, 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 percent are Republican, while in the half with the least, 64 percent 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 tops the list at 11.2 per 100,000 people, while the safest (at least in these terms) state is New Hampshire at fewer than 1 per 100,000. The worst state for murder had 58 percent being Republican, and in the bottom, safer states it was 52 percent 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 eight other democratic states out of the upper 10, and sadly or surprisingly, Mississippi finished last, along with seven other republican states out of the lower 10. Shown here is a chart of the rankings for each category, by state.

Even though it appears that 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 collated data with the resultant ranking. All of the base data came from the links I provided above.

All in all, it would seem that a person living in a Democratic 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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About One Americans Rant

  • Curious

    I might have missed the answer to Paul’s question, but what does “population” indicate on the table? It isn’t population size or density…

  • His Prissiness Lord Igor

    I’d like a pink state! Red and (shudder) Blue are too masculine and stinky! I want a state with a lot of women and girls because they’re more fun and they smell better.

  • Paul

    What is your metric for population? You have California as one, and New York as two. But Florida and Texas rank way down, below Nevada, even though Texas is the second most populous state and Florida is fourth. Is the measured by pure population numbers? Or another metric? Why is this important as far as quality of life?

  • Ron

    Ready to LEAVE blue state living for good and DON’T FOLLOW ME BLUE STATE PEOPLE!!! LOL… All you do is create high taxes, political correctness, anti religion.. Am sick of it.. NEVER EVER again will live in a blue state.. YUCK… PS.. your murder and pregnancy rate is a bit off regarding blue/red state.. Those are black folks that are responsible for BOTH Heavily and they are as blue state( even if they live in a red one) as they come… Give me low taxes, no PC Bullcrap and JESUS… I have had YEARS of the OPPOSITE.. NO MORE! See YA.. PS.. vote this fool we have for president OUT this year…

  • Glenn,

    Do you remember the post that had something about either schooling or education? You commented that the author was probably misrepresenting something… I looked for it but I didn’t expect that it would take me 3-4 weeks to finish this.

  • Doc,

    I realize that that are other, perhaps better, metrics to use, in fact I cut down the list just because the data got overwhelming.

    This was half whimsical, and half serious; really a response to a post that I can’t find now.

  • Exactly, Baronius.

    Which is why when Money Magazine, and others, publish their lists of the best places to live, they almost invariably rank them by city, not by state.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – You may recall that I was part of that conversation three years ago as well, and I made the same point I’m making here.

    I think there are a lot of reasons for greater liberalism in urban areas. One is transportation. Densely-populated areas have greater need for public transit. Also, there’s a tendency toward impersonalism in urban areas, which may make private charity less efficient than public. But whatever the many reasons are, we can agree that a red/blue analysis has more meaning when the rural/urban split is taken into account. The ultimate analysis would include demographics: ideological changes over age, and movements between red and blue areas. OAR’s effort took a lot of work as it stands now; a person could go crazy trying to accumulate all the information.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    About three years ago I pointed out the differences in between the red states and the blue states…and – after having been schooled in logical thinking by Clavos – came to realize that ‘good’ or ‘bad’ statistics in a state are NOT due so much to ‘blue’ or ‘red’ governance. Instead, it’s due to the level of urbanization of that state.

    The reason why urbanization makes such a huge difference is that one doesn’t find the best universities out in the sticks. One doesn’t (usually) find high-tech centers out in the boonies. These are a couple of reasons why blue states generally pay more in federal taxes than they receive from the federal government, and blue states generally have a higher level of populations with health insurance than do red states. But the benefits of living in blue states have less to do living in blue states than it does with the level of urbanization.

    But you’re wondering why it is that urban areas strongly tend towards voting blue, right? The answer’s easy once you really think about it. Because people in urban centers have a great deal more interaction with people from other races/cultures/religions/economic-situations/sexual-orientations than do people in rural areas…all of which means that people in more urban areas – thanks to their direct and daily contact with people so different from themselves – are more likely to understand those “other” people, and are more likely to approve of social services to help the disadvantaged…

    …unlike those out in rural areas whose exposure to “other” people is often limited to not much more than they see on the television screen, and who really don’t see a need for, say, crisis lines for LGBT’s. Sure, out in the countryside you’ll see poverty, see Hispanics and Blacks and a few Native-Americans…but as for interactions with, say, Muslims selling halal shwarmas on the street corners or Ethiopian taxi drivers or South Koreans having a monopoly on the dry-cleaners or the Vietnamese owning almost all the nail-art boutiques…no, you won’t see much of these out where “Dueling Banjos” is enjoyed by all and doesn’t bring to mind the phrase “Squeal like a pig, boy!”

    All of the above are reasons why more urbanized areas tend to vote blue, and more urban areas tend to vote red.

  • Baronius

    What’s striking about the list to me is how strongly regional the patterns are. Some pairs of states are next to each other in ranking, even though they differ in party affiliation. For example, Vermont/NH, Virginia/Maryland, and Alabama/Mississippi. Not that geographically-adjacent states are necessarily similar – it still amuses me that Nevada and Utah are next to each other.

    I have two problems with this analysis, aside from Dread’s legitimate point about controlling wages for cost of living. First of all, I don’t see how population is a good measure of desirability. But the bigger problem is that state party affiliations break down when you look within a state, specifically at the rural/urban split. Austin votes like Seattle. Rural Massachusetts lives like rural Indiana. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons that either party’s candidates are viable in most any state. I’d have no idea how to take that into account.

  • Hmm.

    Rating good places to live on a state-by-state basis, since quality of life and cost of living can vary wildly within states, can be very misleading. For example California, where I live, is commonly perceived to have a very high cost of living, whereas this is only actually true of the coast and the metropoli of San Diego, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

    There are a few other important metrics you seem to have omitted. And no, I’m not talking about abortion rates, a discussion of which you wisely eschewed and which is a peripheral factor anyway.

    But there are things like rates of state taxation, what the state does with its revenue (and how efficiently) and the liberality (or otherwise) of its laws which I would have thought merited serious consideration.