Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seaching for correlation in all the wrong places: African-Americans and post-graduate students.

I try not to turn this into a politics blog, because my main point is to look at PRETTY PICTURES. But nothing occurs in a vacuum, and politics actually makes some pretty pictures.

One of the obvious bases of support in Obama's victory was African-Americans, who tended to back Obama by very large margins. So, following this, it might be assumed that states with large percentage of black voters would be strong Obama states.And here we find a graph that doesn't even pretend that there is such a thing as correlation. There are four quarters we could turn this graph into, and each one of the quarters would be filled. Wyoming, Vermont, Maryland, and Mississippi: four states with different outcomes and different demographics. The strongest McCain states were also the most African American. And Vermont, with no appreciable black voters, was a very strong state for Obama. Hawaii is an outlier for two reasons: it is Obama's home state, and it has a high number of people who aren't classified as either "white" or "black".
(I could make another graph looking at "white" people, and see if the added Hispanic and Asian population in a few states makes this graph make much more sense...but I don't think it would. Also, there is that tricky bit where "white" and "Hispanic" can be overlapping".)

So, one stereotype was shot down, at least on the statistical level. So how about another stereotype, that Obama is supported by the Latte-sipping, Prius-driving overeducated coastal types?
And after delivering that last shock to people's sensibilities, I have safely established the strength of stereotypes. The connection between Obama's margin and people with advanced degrees is the strongest correlation I have found for the election so far. It has a characteristic three-quarters approach: there are many Obama states that have low numbers of graduate students, but there are no McCain states that have a large number.

One thing about both of these charts it that neither African-Americans nor people with advanced degrees make up a very large part of the electorate. However, as with many things in statistics, I consider them to be a way to "operationalize" underlying social trends.

But more on that...later. After all this serious writing, maybe my next post will be about POMELOS.

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