Demographics != destiny

Louis points to this news article by John Harwood, “Dissent Festers in States That Obama Seems to Have Forgotten,” which has this bit:

Whites make up 90 percent of its population, which is fewer than one million people and mostly in rural areas. Its proportion of people 65 and over exceeds the national average. There was never a chance that North Dakota would give Mr. Obama its three electoral votes.

Louis writes:

The conclusion might be true, but the reasoning is bad, right? New Hampshire is 95% white, population ~1 million, largely rural, and proportion of people 65 and over exceeds national average. New Hampshire gave Mr. Obama its four electoral votes. (Same applies for Maine and Vermont.)

I agree.

Also, as a side note, I see no reason to trust Donna Brazile about any of this stuff. Just from the outside, I haven’t ever seen any evidence that she’s much of a “strategist,” even though that’s what she’s labeled as in the newspaper.

12 Responses to Demographics != destiny

  1. Total June 20, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    That was a remarkable stupid article by Harwood.

    • JG June 20, 2013 at 10:43 am #


  2. Nameless June 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    NH and VT are anomalous compared to the rest of the country. Their populations are mostly comprised of recent migrants from New England, who bring their liberal values with them.

    • JG June 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Aren’t NH and VT in New England (Yes, they are)?

      …or did I just kill a joke?

      • Nameless June 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

        Make that “urban New England” (mainly Boston metro?) Point is, NH rural whites haven’t been rural long enough for their social characteristics to match characteristics of rural whites elsewhere in the country.

        If you plot, for example, the share of urban population vs. gun ownership for all 50 states, you get a nice correlation pattern with only a few outliers. On the lower-than-expected gun ownership side, there are three outliers: NH, VT and ME, all three having gun ownership rates about 15% lower than expected for their urbanization rates. On the other hand, MA, where many of their residents come from, fits into the pattern perfectly well, with third-lowest gun ownership rate and fifth-highest urbanization rate in the country.

        (Incidentally, on the higher-then-expected gun ownership side, five biggest outliers are AK, ID, UT, NV and WY – low density, frontier wilderness states. If you exclude these 8 outliers, the remaining 42 give you a quadratic regression with R^2=0.88.)

  3. RobC June 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Let’s also note the delightful contribution of the New York Times headline editor: “Dissent Festers in States That Obama Seems to Have Forgotten.” Festers! Defined by the Random House Dictionary as “(1) to form pus; generate purulent matter; suppurate, (2) to cause ulceration, as a foreign body in the flesh, (3) to putrefy or rot and (4) to rankle, as a feeling of resentment.” Because dissent from President Obama is not legitimate, it’s an infection, a scourge. No point of view there, just good honest journalism, delivered by the always fair New York Times.

    • JG June 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Maybe the NYT is stooping to the journalistic standards of Fox News and the Washington Times in an effort to dispel perceptions about it’s liberal bias.

    • Andrew Gelman June 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm #


      Good catch.

    • Carey June 21, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Definition number 4 fits the precise meaning of what the author was saying. There is no controversy here.

  4. Amy Fried June 22, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Ah, but Maine is not full of migrants from urban New England. In fact, it has very low rates of residential mobility and it’s among the oldest, whitest states in the country.

    By the way, the last time a Republican won Maine’s electoral votes was 1988.

    When discussing voting and demographics with my University of Maine students I point out to them the following: Nationally whites vote Republican, Maine is very white, Maine votes Democratic.

    • Nameless June 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      People born in other states account for 36% of the population of Maine, 49% in Vermont and 57% in New Hampshire. (To put it in perspective, Louisiana is at 21%.)

      As of 2000, people born in Massachusetts accounted for a quarter of non-native-born residents of Maine (91k), followed by New Hampshire (41k), New York (41k), Connecticut (30k), and New Jersey (18k).

      In New Hampshire, there were 308 thousand people born in Massachusetts and 61 thousand people born in New York, out of the total population of 1.24 million.

      If we also account for the fact that some “native” residents of ME and NH are children of people who recently moved there from MA and NY, and for the fact that constant influx of migrants from MA and NY discourages conservative whites from coming there and encourages existing conservative native whites to leave, making the remaining natives unusually liberal, we can probably explain most of the difference between ME/NH whites and whites elsewhere.

  5. David T June 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    It reminds me of Thomas Frank trying to figure out why Kansas has been so Republican lately, as if it hadn’t been for ages–even in 1948 it went for Dewey while Truman was shocking pundits by winning farming and ranching states like Iowa and Colorado, which had gone Republican even in 1940 and 1944.