Demographics: Red States & Blue States

Here is a useful analysis of data:

US 50 States Map

Red States: Beneficiaries of Tax Revenue?
By Peahippo

Of the 31 states that GAIN wealth from the federal government, 25 (81%) voted for Bush. Of the remaining 17 states that LOSE wealth to the federal government, 12 (71%) voted for Kerry.

Of the 31 “gain” states, 25 (a different 81%) are “big gain” states, using the definition of obtaining $1.10 or more back in benefits for each $1.00 paid in taxes. Of those 25, Bush won 21 (84%), and Kerry 4 (16%).

Of the 17 “loss” states, 10 (59%) are “big loss” states, using the definition of obtaining $0.90 or less back in benefits for each $1.00 paid in taxes. Of those 10, Kerry won 9 (90%), and Bush 1 (10%).

One important factor about what these numbers imply is that when a candidate wins the rural vote, he tends to win the less populous states which are still large in area. These states tend to be net importers of government goods and services. One important item in this flow is highway funding. Larger states simply have more area to cross with federally-supported roads. Hence; the rural winner is likely to be backed by “gain” states.

Another important factor is that cities are sources of wealth simply by being hubs of monetary commerce, thus are likely to be the “loss” elements in the entire US government fiscal structure. Hence; the urban winner is likely to be backed by “loss” states.

(This same conclusion is stated in stronger terms at another website:

Here it is shown more clearly:

Balance of Taxes Paid by States vs. Benefits Received from Federal Gvmt.
by “Welfare States” (dollars in millions) for the year 2001

states which
voted for Bush
Taxes sent
to Fed. Govt.
( + vs. – )
+ 10,768
+ 2,485
+ 2,335
– 7,280
– 2,899
– 1,403
+ 1,294
– 2,103
+ 1,303
+ 6,701
+ 7,878
+ 8,929
+ 7,734
+ 2,551
+ 1,054
– 4,383
North Carolina
+ 169
North Dakota
+ 2,881
– 2,786
+ 7,123
South Carolina
+ 5,271
South Dakota
+ 1,802
+ 5,761
– 13,238
+ 781
+ 21,944
West Virginia
+ 5,271
+ 241
Net Welfare RECEIVED :
+ 71,868
Million $$$
by the red conservative states
which voted for Bush
states which
voted for Gore & Kerry
Taxes sent
to Fed. Govt.
( + vs – )
– 58,099
– 11,065
– 1,118
+ 3,282
– 25,166
+ 1,798
+ 1,739
+ 9,187
– 11,591
– 11,701
– 9,135
New Hampshire
– 3,309
New Jersey
– 23,458
New Mexico
+ 8,669
– 39,564
– 1,415
+ 1,828
Rhode Island
+ 468
+ 253
– 9,418
– 5,643
Million $$$
by the blue Liberal states
which voted for Democrat
Al Gore in 2000
( & John Kerry in 2004)

Several things interested me about this data.

The correlation makes a clear point about the political divide.  Why are rich Democrats so willing to give money to poor Republicans even when the latter do nothing but complain about it?  I think poor Republicans should send a thank you note to the rich Democrats.

Along with the correlation shown here, other correlations are equally interesting.  Rich Democratic states have higher education levels, lower economic disparity, lower divorce rates, greater support for civil rights (including gay rights), and on and on.  Our country was primarily founded (i.e., where the Founding Fathers lived and where the first settlements were located) in what are now Democratic states.  The Republican states didn’t even want to be a part of this country and many conservatives are still constantly threatening about secession (as if we would miss their draining away our economic wealth).

Anyways, two other issues seemed to be relevant here.

First, I’ve previously written about the Pew Typology Test and made note about the Disaffected demographic.  Basically, they’re the bigoted and uneducated rural poor, and so I assume they’re most highly concentrated in Republican states (they don’t vote much, but when they do a fairly high percentage of them vote Republican).  I suppose some of them would be attracted to the Tea Party, but they might be too cynical and disenfranchised even to protest.  They’re a very unhappy group that hates or otherwise mistrusts everyone who isn’t like them.

The main thing I wanted to point out is that they’re critical of the government and opposed to any program that helps the poor.  This seems odd since they’re poor with high unemployment rates.  Going by the above data, the Disaffecteds probably rely on government handouts more than most other demographics and the states they live in are entirely dependent on Federal funding.  Maybe they dislike the government for the very reason that they know they’re dependent on the government.  Likewise, maybe they hate liberal elites so much because their very entire lifestyle is dependent on the compassion and generosity of liberal elites.  It’s odd that they often vote Republican if and when they vote.  If Republican policies were actually implemented, the Disaffecteds would end up in even greater poverty.

What is strange is that the Disaffecteds, instead of empathizing, are especially critical of those even more poor than they are.  So, which demographic is even more poor?  According to Pew, it’s the Disadvantaged Democrats which includes high numbers of minorities.  They’re also disenchanted with government, but they believe that the government should help the poor.  It’s strange the different response to government considering that both Disaffecteds and Disadvantaged Democrats rely on government.  The former thinks the government is doing too much and the latter thinks the government isn’t doing enough.  Oddly, the Disaffecteds think that, if you got rid of all immigrants and stopped helping the poor, then all of their problems would be solved.  The Disaffecteds seem to think that the liberal elite are colluding with poor minorities to steal their jobs and control their lives, but it’s the failure of trickle down economics of the Republicans that caused their job loss and poverty (economic disparity has been overall increasing ever since the start of Reagonomics).

This brings me to my second point.  In states with high economic disparity, the poor vote Democrat (i.e., Disadvantaged Democrats) and the rich vote Republican (with the Disaffecteds partly aligning with the rich Republicans).  In states with low economic disparity, the poor and the rich both vote Democrat.  This makes me wonder why Democrats don’t win more often.  I’ve seen various research about how the poor minorities are the most disenfranchised and have low voting rates (partly because the justice system is biased and so more of them end up in prison, and I suppose there are other obstacles such as the lack of transporation).

I’d love to see how population numbers of each group relate to the actual numbes who vote in each group.  Also, I think it would help if I knew which groups tended to vote the same way.  For a quick breakdown, here is the basic population data (from this page):

  • Enterprisers: 9% of adult population, 10% of registered voters
  • Social Conservatives: 11% of adult population, 13% of registered voters
  • Pro-government Conservatives: 9% of adult population, 10% of registered voters
  • Upbeats: 11% of adult population, 13% of registered voters
  • Disaffecteds: 9% of adult population, 10% of registered voters
  • Liberals: 17% of adult population, 19% of registered voters
  • Conservative Democrats: 14% of adult population, 15% of registered voters
  • Disadvantaged Democrats: 10% of adult population, 10% of registered voters
  • Bystanders: 10% of adult population, 0% of registered voters

These categorizations seem to show that no particular political ideology is more disenfranchised than any other.  The Bystanders demographic is merely the catch-all category for those who either stopped caring or never did care (interestingly are no more prone towards Republican or Democrat), and they apparently they are fairly disenfranchised from organized religion as well (second only to Liberals in their lack of religiosity).

What I do notice is that Liberals are the largest by far of any group in terms of both adult population and registered voters.  The second largest are the Conservative Democrats.  Together, those two groups almost a third of the adult population and more than a third of the registered voters.

Looking at the actual opinions, many of the groups that aren’t specifically liberal support certain liberal policies and values.  Social Conservatives are cynical of business and moderately support environmental protection and other regulation.  Pro-government Conservatives don’t trust the marketplace and so support government regulation and social safety nets.  Upbeats are fairly Republican and yet have positive views of immigrants.  Only Enterprisers and Disaffecteds are apparently conservative on all issues (the odd alliance between rich business owners and the unemployed/underemployed poor which seems to be the bedrock of the conservative movement).  Furthermore, Conservative Democrats represent a large percentage of Democrats and so that disproves the argument that the Democratics are radical socialists/communists (Conservative Democrats identify by far more as Democrats than do Liberals).

It’s hard to know if these 2005 statistics still apply to present demographics, but there is an odd conclusion that can be made.  During the Bush administration, Republicans did seem to represent the largest demographic.  The Republican party has decreased in number, but I’m not sure what that says about the actual beliefs of the public.  More recent data shows the majority of the population leans towards moderate positions on Progressive values.  Even in this 2005 data, many of these Republicans hold values that aren’t what many people think of as conservative.  Americans, including conservatives, aren’t necessarily against big government and many are for government regulation and assistance.  And yet, in past decades, a few social wedge issues have being wielded successfully by the Republican party to sway voters towards the GOP.

Now, I’ll list some of the other specific demographic data:

  • Enterprisers:

WHO THEY ARE: Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off (62% have household incomes of at least $50,000, compared with 40% nationwide). Nearly half (46%) have a college degree, and 77% are married. Nearly a quarter (23%) are themselves military veterans. Only 10% are under age 30.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: 59% have a gun in the home; 53% trade stocks and bonds, and 30% are small business owners ­ all of which are the highest percentages among typology groups. 48% attend church weekly; 36% attend bible study or prayer group meetings.

  • Social Conservatives:

WHO THEY ARE: Predominantly white (91%), female (58%) and the oldest of all groups (average age is 52; 47% are 50 or older); nearly half live in the South. Most (53%) attend church weekly; 43% are white evangelical Protestants (double the national average of 21%).

LIFESTYLE NOTES: 56% have a gun in their home, and 51% attend Bible study groups.

  • Pro-government Conservatives:

WHO THEY ARE: Predominately female (62%) and relatively young; highest percentage of minority members of any Republican-leaning group (10% black, 12% Hispanic). Most (59%) have no more than a high school diploma. Poorer than other Republican groups; nearly half (49%) have household incomes of less than $30,000 (about on par with Disadvantaged Democrats). Nearly half (47%) are parents of children living at home; 42% live in the South.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: Most (52%) attend religious services at least weekly; nearly all describe religion as “very important” in their lives. Gun ownership is lower (36%) than in other GOP groups. Just 14% trade stocks and bonds in the market; 39% say someone in their home has faced unemployment in the past year.

  • Upbeats:

WHO THEY ARE: Relatively young (26% are under 30) and well-educated, Upbeats are among the wealthiest typology groups (39% have household incomes of $75,000 or more). The highest proportion of Catholics (30%) and white mainline Protestants (28%) of all groups, although fewer than half (46%) attend church weekly. Mostly white (87%), suburban, and married, they are evenly split between men and women.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: High rate of stock ownership (42%, 2nd after Enterprisers).

  • Disaffected:

WHO THEY ARE: Less educated (70% have attended no college, compared with 49% nationwide) and predominantly male (57%). While a majority (60%) leans Republican, three-in-ten are strict independents, triple the national rate. Disaffecteds live in all parts of the country, though somewhat more are from rural and suburban areas than urban.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: Somewhat higher percentages than the national average have a gun in the home, and report that someone in their house has been unemployed in the past year.

  • Liberals:

WHO THEY ARE: Most (62%) identify themselves as liberal. Predominantly white (83%), most highly educated group (49% have a college degree or more), and youngest group after Bystanders. Least religious group in typology: 43% report they seldom or never attend religious services; nearly a quarter (22%) are seculars. More than one-third never married (36%). Largest group residing in urban areas (42%) and in the western half the country (34%). Wealthiest Democratic group (41% earn at least $75,000).

LIFESTYLE NOTES: Largest group to have been born (or whose parents were born) outside of the U.S. or Canada (20%). Least likely to have a gun in the home (23%) or attend bible study or prayer group meetings (13%).

  • Conservative Democrats:

WHO THEY ARE: Older women and blacks make up a sizeable proportion of this group (27% and 30%, respectively). Somewhat less educated and poorer than the nation overall. Allegiance to the Democratic party is quite strong (51% describe themselves as “strong” Democrats) but fully 85% describe themselves as either conservative or moderate ideologically.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: 46% attend church at least once a week, 44% attend Bible study or prayer group meetings, a third (34%) have a gun in their house.

  • Disadvantaged Democrats:

WHO THEY ARE: Low average incomes (32% below $20,000 in household income); most (77%) often can’t make ends meet. Six-in-ten are female. Three-in-ten (32%) are black and 14% are Hispanic. Not very well educated, 67% have at most a high-school degree. Nearly half (47%) are parents of children living at home.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: Nearly a quarter (23%) report someone in their household is a member of a labor union, and 58% report that they or someone in the home has been unemployed in the past year­ both far larger proportions than in any other group. Only 27% have a gun in the home

  • Bystanders:

WHO THEY ARE: Young (39% are under age 30, average age is 37). Lowest education (24% have not finished high school). Less religious than any group other than Liberals (26% attend church weekly). Largely concentrated in the South and West, relatively few in the East and Midwest. One-in-five are Hispanic.

LIFESTYLE NOTES: About half (49%) say they often can’t make ends meet, fewer than among Pro-Government Conservatives, Disadvantaged Democrats or Disaffecteds; 30% attend bible groups or prayer meetings; 30% own a gun.

This does show some of the demographic dividing lines.  It’s amazing how much the Republican party is dominated by whites.  It’s also quite telling that the groups with the most conservative values are dominated by males.  It’s not exactly surprising.  White males are more highly represented as business owners and in the upper socio-economic classes, and so of course they’ll vote for their own interests.  However, that doesn’t explain why some groups such as the Disaffecteds vote against their own interests.  I thought it funny that Enterprisers (who are the prototypical rich white male conservatives) are the most avid watchers of Fox News (in fact, it’s their primary source of news).

There is so much ideological posturing and the media loves to portray everything in black and white terms.  It’s hard to determine what people actually believe.  It seems to me that liberalism is fairly moderate and mainstream.  Many liberal values and policies are supported by a majority of Americans, and the Democratic party represents the widest range of the American demographic.

If this is so, why do conservatives complain so much about radical liberalism?  Also, the weatlhiest states are Democratic and the most educated people are liberal… so, why doesn’t liberalism have more power than it seems to have?   Why can’t President Obama who campaigned on Progressive ideals, who was voted into office by a majority of voters, and has a majority support in Washington, why, why, why can’t even moderately liberal bills get passed?  Most Americans want health care reform with public option and the President who they voted for wants it (heck, even most doctors want it)… but apparently the minority of conservatives have enough power to block even the most popular of bills.

News IQ, Education & Politics

I just took the Pew News IQ Test.  I surprised myself by getting 9 out of 12 right.  My results apparently mean I’m more well informed than 78% of Americans.  I don’t know if that is true because the test is rather short and limited.  It basically is only testing for factoids which I generally don’t test well on, but the multiple answer format allowed me to make educated guesses on a few questions. 

I’m more well informed about socio-historical context (poll data and demographics, history of ideas and movements, etc) and I think socio-historical context is more important than specific factoids.  Any motivated person of reasonable intelligence can look up a factoid, but understanding socio-historical context takes years and decades of wide-ranging study.  Memorizing factoids is less relevant in this age of search engines and Wikipedia.

I’ve seen different surveys over the years that show different groups as being most well informed about news and politics.  At one time, Rush Limbaugh’s audience was one of the most well informed about politics.  I think a later survey showed that Jon Stewarts audience was the most well informed.  The ironic part is that neither Limbaugh or Stewart are news reporters.  I took the Pew Political Typology Test a while ago, and I tested as a Liberal (59% Democrat; 40% Independent/No Preference, 1% Republican) which I felt proud of because it’s the mostly highly educated group and one of the top groups in following the news.  Related to this Liberal demographic, I’ve mentioned a number times recently the fact that most scientists identify as Democrat or Independent which means they’d probably fit into this Pew-defined category of Liberal.

My point for bringing up those examples is that I’m not sure what it ultimately means.  Does it matter whether Limbaugh’s conservative audience or Stewart’s liberal audience is the most well informed about news factoids?  A better measure would be how well people understand the context of those factoids, and I think general education would be a better measure of the larger context of knowledge.  The ideal of the liberal college education was that it gave you a broad range of knowledge and so made you a well informed citizen.  If every citizen could be made to memorize some basic factoids, it would probably be a good thing… but would it really create a well informed citizenry (and would it increase rational, thoughtful, and insightful public debate)?  Without knowledge of the history of culture and ideas, without knowledge of the social sciences and the physical sciences, how can one understand the larger meaning of news factoids?  Without having learned philosophy, logic, and critical thinking skills, how can the public analyze the news, look past the spin, and gain deeper insight?

Many conservatives argue that the education system is biased towards the liberal and some even believe the world is ruled by an intellectual liberal elite conspiracy.  Even ignoring the conspiracy theories, I don’t see any evidence that liberals are controlling education in any obvious way.  It’s just as likely (or even maybe more likely) that being well educated makes it more probable that one will lean towards liberal values.  A major liberal value is trying to understand from multiple perspectives (which moral conservatives dismiss as relativism).  Another liberal value is the ideal of ideological neutrality (whether or not such a thing is possible) when assessing data (whereas moral conservatives take pride in openly embracing ideology).  This is why liberal reporters have the tendency to always give equal time to both sides of any disagreement.   And this is why a Republican scientist is so rare.

Recent poll data I’ve looked at shows that the American public leans towards Progressive values and the demographics show a shift towards liberalism on many issues.  I’d be curious how this correlates to levels of higher education and general knowledge.  In the last half century, the number of college graduates has increased and so I wonder if that relates to the increase of liberalism.  Also, I wonder if an increase in higher education has led to an increase of general knowledge and specifically political knowledge.  College education has become even more important than it was in the past because there are fewer working class jobs available.  Because of this, college has become more of a career path and so has strayed from it’s original liberal education purpose.  If college was refocused on creating well informed citizens and if more people went to college, would this mean that America would become even more liberal?

Institutional Racism & Voting Rights

It is obvious that racism still exists… well, obvious to anyone who isn’t either willfully ignorant or a closed-minded bigot.  There has been tons of research proving beyond a doubt that much racism exists in our society, individually and collectively.  However, it’s nice when the government itself admits to the existence of institutional racism.

Court overturns Washington State felon disenfranchisement law

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated that the discriminatory impact of Washington‟s felon disenfranchisement is attributable to racial discrimination in Washington‟s criminal justice system thus, that Washington‟s felon disenfranchisement law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the majority.

. . .

Washington State‟s constitution previously disenfranchised felons until they repaid all of their legal financial obligations. “For some inmates … that was essentially a lifetime ban on voting,” David Ammons, communications director for Sam Reed, Republican secretary of state, said. “We thought that was unfair and that it was not good social policy.”

. . .

“That development is a positive one to be sure,” Haygood said. “But it doesn’t have any impact on our clients because they are still incarcerated. Neither does that amendment shield victims of discrimination as they enter the criminal justice system on the front end.”

. . .

“If I remember correctly, [previous circuit court cases] were dismissed earlier and plaintiffs were not even allowed to put forth their evidence,” Erika Wood, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said. “I think this is the first time plaintiffs were actually allowed to put forth evidence that demonstrates the impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color in Washington State.”That evidence came from research by University of Washington sociology professors Dr. Robert Crutchfield and Dr. Katherine Beckett, who found evidence of racial discrimination in each step of the state’s criminal justice system, from policing and investigation to prosecution and sentencing.

“The numbers in Washington State are stark. Twenty-four percent of black men and 15 percent of the black population in the state can’t vote because of a felony conviction and we argue that that result is exactly what Section 2 was enacted to proscribe,” Haygood said. “The court was clear that we provided compelling evidence of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system that served to shift any inequality into the political process.”

. . .

“At this point there are no changes being made in the way elections are administered,” Kim van Ekstrom, chief communications officer for King County elections said. “This is such a recent decision and at this time we are basically waiting to see what the state is going to advise us on. Like everyone else, we are taking our lead from them and we support statewide consistency regarding voter registration matters.”

In the meantime, Wood plans to pursue federal legislation. The Democracy Restoration Act (H.R. 3335/S.1516) was introduced in the House by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., this summer. The bill “would restore voting rights in federal elections to people who are out of prison living in the community across the country,” Wood said.

Pew Political Typology Test

I just took a political typology test designed by the Pew Research Center.  I could’ve answered some of the questions quite differently depending on interpretation which would’ve given me different results.

In response to question 25, I agreed (but not strongly) that “I worry the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality”.  My actual worry is that the debate about morality is defined and controlled by a narrow special interest group (the moral minority).  To me, issues of morality include issues of war, civil rights, poverty, health care, workers unions, regulatory agencies, and environmentalism.  Actually, I consider all of politics a moral issue and so if anything I worry that the government has become disconnected from any authentic moral sense.  In an idealistic world where the very concept of ‘morality’ wasn’t warped to the extreme right, I’d have instead agreed strongly with “The government should do more to protect morality in society”.

My test answers gave me the result of Liberal, but the test was rather general.  My liberal sensibilities were emphasized in my answers because I just spent the last day reading about conservative/corporate media bias.  I’m rather mixed up in my beliefs.  I’m libertarian in mistrusting the government, but I’m liberal in that I trust the government more than I trust big business.  I believe the government has potential for good if big business is kept out of it.  And I believe capitalism has potential for good if the government can fairly regulate.  But I’m too cynical to actually believe much good will come of any of it.  So, I’m a rather disgruntled liberal who feels equally (or maybe more) disgruntled about the even more disgruntled far right (which apparently would be labelled as Disaffected).

The Disaffecteds are so cynical that they end up voting against their own self-interests.  They’re poor and they love to complain about poverty (especially of the even more poverty-stricken minorities and immigrants), but they mistrust everyone who isn’t like them including the government and it’s programs to help the poor.  So, they wallow in their poverty and whine about the failure of the government.  They’re mostly uneducated, rural Republicans who have no interest in politics beyond how they perceive it might influence their employment.  They’re against immigrants and environmentlaism simply because they believe they will take away their jobs.

Compared to the Disaffecteds, I’m a rather optimistic Liberal.  I’m proud to be a Liberal.  According to the results, Liberals are the most highly educated of any political type.  Also: “Liberals are second only to Enterprisers in following news about government and public affairs most of the time (60%). Liberals’ use of the internet to get news is the highest among all groups (37%).”  Since I live in a town that is the most highly educated per capita in the US, it’s highly likely that I’m surrounded by Liberals.  If we could only make everyone one in America highly educated, then this would be a truly liberal country.


PAST TYPOLOGY COUNTERPART: Liberal Democrats/Seculars/60’s Democrats



PARTY ID: 59% Democrat; 40% Independent/No Preference, 1% Republican (92% Dem/Lean Dem)

BASIC DESCRIPTION: This group has nearly doubled in proportion since 1999. Liberal Democrats now comprise the largest share of Democrats. They are the most opposed to an assertive foreign policy, the most secular, and take the most liberal views on social issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and censorship. They differ from other Democratic groups in that they are strongly pro-environment and pro-immigration.

DEFINING VALUES: Strongest preference for diplomacy over use of military force. Pro-choice, supportive of gay marriage and strongly favor environmental protection. Low participation in religious activities. Most sympathetic of any group to immigrants as well as labor unions, and most opposed to the anti-terrorism Patriot Act.

Key Beliefs: GeneralPopulation Liberals
Relying too much on military force to defeat terrorism creates hatred that leads to more terrorism 51% 90%
I worry the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality 51% 88%
Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost 60% 89%
Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently 52% 80%

WHO THEY ARE: Most (62%) identify themselves as liberal. Predominantly white (83%), most highly educated group (49% have a college degree or more), and youngest group after Bystanders. Least religious group in typology: 43% report they seldom or never attend religious services; nearly a quarter (22%) are seculars. More than one-third never married (36%). Largest group residing in urban areas (42%) and in the western half the country (34%). Wealthiest Democratic group (41% earn at least $75,000).

LIFESTYLE NOTES: Largest group to have been born (or whose parents were born) outside of the U.S. or Canada (20%). Least likely to have a gun in the home (23%) or attend bible study or prayer group meetings (13%).

2004 ELECTION: Bush 2%, Kerry 81%

MEDIA USE: Liberals are second only to Enterprisers in following news about government and public affairs most of the time (60%). Liberals’ use of the internet to get news is the highest among all groups (37%).

Religious Syncretism, Paranormal Experience, and Democrats

I think I posted something about this poll recently, but I noticed something interesting in this article. 

The article is Paranormal Flexibility by Charles M. Blow.  I’m not surprised by the results because I’ve been following various poll and demographic data in recent years.  I noticed alternative beliefs slipping into mainstream religion such as with New Thought Christianity being included (under different names such as Prosperity Gospel) in the messages of some tv preachers. 

Like cultures and races in general, religions are getting all mixed together.  People are believing in whatever makes sense to them no matter what is stated in the official dogma of their religion.  Heck, even the gays are starting to be accepted by mainstream religion. 

I find it rather humorous and it just makes me happy.

Anyways, here is the bit that caught my attention:

For the first time in 47 years of polling, the number of Americans who said that they have had a religious or mystical experience, which the question defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening,” was greater than those who said that they had not.

[ . . . ]

Since 1996, the percentage of Americans who said that they have been in the presence of a ghost has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent, and the percentage who said that they were in touch with someone who was dead has increased by about a third, rising from 18 percent to 29 percent.

For those keeping political score, Democrats were almost twice as likely to believe in ghosts and to consult fortune-tellers than were Republicans, and the Democrats were 71 percent more likely to believe that they were in touch with the dead. Please hold the Barack-Obama-as-the-ghost-of-Jimmy-Carter jokes. Heard them all.

The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs — bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma. And this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less.

The main thing that interested me was the last sentence.  Moving away from unquestioned religious dogma actually increases religious experience. 

Along with this, Democrats specifically have the highest rates of religious experience.  Does this mean that the Democrats are the Chosen People?  That part wasn’t surprising either.  Liberals tend towards the personality trait that Ernest Hartmann labels as thin boundaries.  Liberals are just more open to new experiences and less fearful of the unfamiliar.  The research shows that thin boundary types not only are more likely to believe in the paranormal but also are more likely to experience it.

News Sources: Viewer Knowledge

The Pew Research Center

What Americans Know: 1989-2007

I only glanced at this article on poll data, but it is quite interesting.  The Daily Show and the The Colbert Report are at the top ranking of informed viewers (along with the major newspaper websites).  The Fox News Channel is at the very bottom keeping company with the Network morning shows, but the O’Reilly factor is above average.  O’Reilly Factor looks like a haven for intelligent people on Fox News and is at the same level as NPR.

What interests me most is that this justifies a recent comment I made.  I was explaining my criticisms of Glenn Beck’s criticisms about the mainstream media he is a part of.  I said that Comedy Central represents me more than all of the tv news combined.  As I’m a proponent of being well informed, I would seem to be correct in my faith in Colbert and Stewart.

One criticism of this poll is that it seems to be testing people on factoids rather than on comprehension and insight. Being informed about factoids doesn’t mean someone is able to think critically about the issues and come to an objective conclusion.  For example, NPR has a format where they spend lengthy periods of time doing in-depth interviews about specific issues.  Also, NPR spends a lot of time on human interest stories which does inform the listener about other perspectives which I think is important, but this kind of knowledge wasn’t in the poll.  Plus, NPR is more including a mix with entertainment and fiction author interviews.  That isn’t exactly comparable to the O’Reilly factor.

Also, I want to know where the viewers were informed.  For example, viewers of The Daily Show are highly informed and they get a fair amount of info from the show, but I imagine they tend to be a demographic that seeks many other sources of news.  There is a difference between a viewer who actively seeks out knowledge to inform themselves and the viewer who more passively absorbs all of their info from a more limited number of sources.  The ability to spit back factoids does not intelligence make.

I want to know how the different viewers interpret the data.  A viewer may be well-informed, but either repeats the interpretation of the news reporter/commenter or else has a highly biased understanding.  Which set of viewers had the widest understanding by considering multiple perspectives?  Which set of viewers was best at manipulating the data to rationalize their preconceived beliefs?



Pew News Survey

Trust in news media has reached a new low, with record numbers of Americans saying reporting is inaccurate, biased and shaped by special interests, according to a survey set to be released Monday.

The survey of 1,506 people interviewed in July by the Pew Research Center showed that self-described Republicans continued to take the dimmest view of news organizations, but discontent among Democrats was catching up.

On crucial measures of credibility, faith in news media eroded from the 1980s to the ’90s, then held fairly steady for several years, according to Pew surveys that have asked some of the same questions for more than two decades. But in the two years since the last survey, those views became markedly more negative.

I’m not sure if I’m surprised by this shift in public attitude.  I’ve never trusted the media, and it feels odd that the public has caught up with my cynicism.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but it’s nice to see that this criticism of media is bipartisan.  At least, I should give credit to The New York Times for reporting that most people don’t trust their reporting.  I will say that I trust this particular instance of reporting because I’m a fan of Pew polls.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller

Gerald Herbert, AP
News organizations still go to great lengths to be accurate, according to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller. But budget cuts mean “facts don’t get checked as carefully as they should,” he admitted.

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

That hits the nail on the head.  The news probably was always untrustworthy, but the public was naively ignorant in the past.

When I was younger, I was indifferent to news.  I noticed the news, but I wasn’t a news junky.  I’m Gen X and I’ve never had any loyalty to newspapers even before I discovered the internet.

The funny thing is that I read newspaper articles more now on the internet than I ever did in the past.  I prefer the freedom of choice that internet offers over a physical newspaper.  Also, I never trust a single source and I always check out different views in the blogosphere.

To me, a professional news reporter is not necessarily any more trustworthy than an intelligent blogger.  I don’t judge people solely or even primarily based on their credentials.  I look for intelligence and insight where ever I find it.

I’m a cynical person in general and that informs my mistrust of all media, but this attitude doesn’t seem unusual for other GenXers.  I don’t even trust my local newspaper any more than I trust the major news media.  Journalists are just people with the same biases as everyone else.  Considering mainstream media, I have doubts that most journalists even try to get past their biases.  I don’t think most people intentionally lie, but few people are very self-aware.

What I’d like to see more of is investigative journalism.  Most journalism is just opinions and analysis, but I can get that from blogs.  What I can’t get from blogs is the type of journalism where someone spends immense amount of time, energy and money researching a subect and personally interveiwing various people.

Sadly, the news media seems to mostly to ignore this kind of journalism.  Most journalism seems just to be recycled news from other sources and it’s rare to see new facts and original insight.