Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Red State & Blue State Education

Just to keep this blog going (for no apparent reason) while my current project finishes, I'll put up some more data I collected a few years ago.

While not a whole hearted democrat (I would have voted for McCain), I am one of those people who truly felt that electing Bush to office would truly degrade American quality of life, liberty, safety, education, environment, etc etc. Unless, you actually feel safer, your kids are better educated, and you are better off, I'm guessing you may agree with me. If not, you probably are high up in a big corporation (drug, oil, insurance, whatever). When he was re-elected I couldnt fathom the reason. Failure after failure, proven issues with scientific censorship, continued harm to our economy, world opinion, trade relations, educational performance, and yet, he was elected again.

While its true I have calmed down now, I still cant get over the fact that it happened. How is it possible that despite all the data that showed his programs are not helpful to our country, and possibly detrimental, and many simply morally wrong, he was elected again. Political spin? Mass hypnosis? I have no idea, except for the power of faith.

I dont just mean religious faith. I mean faith in authority, faith in you party, faith that an elected official will tell you things as they are (despite the data). Faith is one of the most powerful human traits there is. People will do things becuase of faith, even in the face of contrary facts. Its quite an amazing (and disturbing) phenomenon.

In my frenzy I took year 2000 census data that gave me the educational level of the population of each state, I compared this with the states that voted for bush and those that voted for Kerry (who by the way, I certainly didnt think was a panacea by any means). Anyone is welcome to repeat this exercise. I would post the excel spreadsheet, but I dont think this will let me post files.

Here are the results :

For you statisticians out there: These two groups are statistically significant with a confidence of 95% (alpha = 0.05).

For everyone else, there is a statistically significant difference between these two groups. Meaning, people in red states, on the whole, have achieved a lower level of education than those in blue state.

Does this mean they are dumber? No way. (although others seem to think so). It could mean they are not as wealthy. It could mean they are given more incentive to go to work than to seek higher education. Statistics like this do not determine cause and effect very well. They can however correlate two things well or show relations between two things. All this chart shows that states with higher educated people in it tended to vote for Kerry. My reading of this is that people who are trained to examine, question, and research, tended to vote for Kerry. It sure doesn'tmean they were going to go out and sign up for the ACLU. But looking at Bush's failures, seeing past the painfully obvious spin the Bush campaign slandered Kerry with (and for that matter McCain also, in the previous election, go look up push polling), they chose to vote of Kerry.

I was told by someone that this is simply because those higher educational institutions are bastions of liberalism and they train their students to think liberal. Well, I went through a PhD and I sure dont remember any liberal brainwashing (perhaps it was in my sleep?). I would love to see any data at all to support that theory. My guess it that it has more to do with growing up with a certain type of parents and church than anything provided in college.

Like all statistics there are outliers, points that dont fit the groups. For example. Colorado has a very high level of education and voted for Bush. It was pretty much the only outlier.

update: Look like someone else performed a similar analysis
Update II: I have noticed that this remains one of my most commonly googled posts. I wrote this 2005. The mention of McCain was with respect to that election, not the 2008 election.


On 4/27/06, 11:50 AM , ChipCost said...

"All this chart shows that states with higher educated people in it tended to vote for Kerry. My reading of this is that people who are trained to examine, question, and research, tended to vote for Kerry. "

My reading of this is that people who tended to vote for Kerry also tended to get educated in fields where an undergraduate degree is pretty much worthless (anthropology or philosophy or political science, for example, I would name more but they might be too incendiary). They were then forced to continue their education or starve or bag groceries. Folks in the heartland though tend to be more pragmatic and study something that might actually put food on the table, nursing, engineering, construction. They don't need a PhD to gain employment

On 4/27/06, 5:33 PM , TechSkeptik said...

Hey ChipCost!

I agree plenty could be made of this data. My opinion and yours are both equally valid without data. There is no way for either of us to know what people in the various states actaully studies (perhaps there is, i just dont know the method) so your supposition is just fine. however, im not sure how 'worthless' anthropology, philosophy or political science is. While someone can certain bail out and do nothing with their degree, much can be made of any of those you mentioned.

On 4/27/06, 5:33 PM , TechSkeptik said...

oh my god, so many typos... sorry.

On 4/27/06, 8:08 PM , ChipCost said...

By 'worthless' I only meant worthless in that it is very hard to earn a buck with a PhD, much less with a BS in those areas.

For knowledge sake they are just fine.