Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State is a tour de force. It’s a cliche to say that in book reviews, but just because it’s a cliche doesn’t make it wrong. There are so many people pontificating on the subject matter laid out clearly here, mostly without any real examination of much data. Andrew Gelman clears up the misconceptions spread by such people and does so in a readable manner. Really, anyone interested in political demography has already been reading Gelman (or maybe Bartels and some others) or has no business opining. Each graph in a book may halve its ultimate sales, but Red State is packed with them. There’s one on nearly every other page. I said in my review of the Bell Curve that it’s just the sort of book I would want for such a subject, but Red State takes it to an even further extreme albeit at less length. (with many such pages actually containing multiple graphs). The graphs make it easy to see relationships that you wouldn’t grok with just a number. They also led me to see what appeared to be a couple inconsistencies, the only mar I can think of in the book (even the frequent repetition is justified).

On p. 106 we find the quote “For example, religious attendance in Britain is only weakly related to voting for the conservatives, but in other northern European democracies such as Norway and Sweden the correlation is stronger, reflecting a stronger link between political parties and controversies over moral and lifestyle issues”. But right on the previous page we find “In Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Russia, and several other countries, there is essentially no difference between how the religious and nonreligious vote”. The graphs support the later statement on Norway, not the former. On p. 104 a graph for Mexico has very slight incline for income-conservative correlation. On p. 103, Mexico more visibly has a difference in poor vs rich vote for conservatives, just above that of the U.K. But on p. 104 the U.K shows a higher income-conservative correlation! They are measuring slightly different things, but I’d like to hear what the deal is there.

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