US Voting Demographic Model

The Economist has a fascinating demographic model on US voters here:

There are no details on how robust the model is but they claim to have built it up from a large number of surveys of sufficient detail to compare the relative chance of a given person voting Republican or Democrat within a sub-group and controlling for the other sub-groups that person would be in.

It is an interesting perspective on political groupings. It’s not causal exactly but could help disentangle what relates to what in other groups.

For example, imagine you had a group of people who weren’t ostensibly related by politics. It could be a profession or members of a hobby related club. Now imagine that the members of the club were 70%/30% atheists v Christian and 60%/40% Democrat v Republican. Does the club lean Democrat because it has so many atheists in it or does it lean atheist because it has so many Democrats in it? The Economist’s model helps answer that question. Most Democrats aren’t atheists (mainly because few Americans are atheists) but atheism strongly implies a person will vote Democrat. Based on those numbers it looks more like the Democrat leanings are more due to the large number of atheists than vice versa.

You can plug in your own demographic details to see how close you fit. You can also plug in counterfactuals about yourself. I’m not American so I can’t factually describe what part of the US I live in but in a parallel universe in which I did but was otherwise much the same I’d have at least an 80% chance of voting Democratic REGARDLESS of where I was from in the US.

18 thoughts on “US Voting Demographic Model

    1. Just ran the numbers for Louis Farrakhan and he has a 94% chance of voting Democratic. Oops! So much for the model (or rather, perhaps, for me!)

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  1. It’s stereotypical. Lifelong Democrat here who lives in the rural West with a Masters degree, Catholic not attending church, etc. Pegs me at 50% Republican and um, well…nope, nope, nope, haven’t voted Republican for years. Refinements would include–degree subject (i.e. liberal arts and/or teaching vs business degree) and a bit more refinement on residency–rural West definitely skews things. But the rural West stereotypes do not always match the reality. I am in a community that leans heavily to the arts with a strong tradition of solid secondary education and has transitioned from heavily resource extractive (logging) to mild/moderate (not so much logging, more grazing and farming–primarily wheat, hay, and other grains). The more resource-extractive industries such as logging and mining (including oil/gas) will skew more heavily Republican–and that’s not considered.

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    1. Yes, any of the combos that come out 50/50 clearly have other factors that haven’t been captured. Which reminds of a post I’ve been meaning to write about a subtle point.


    2. Same with me, Joyce. Says I’m 51% likely to vote Republican, at which I guffaw heartily. I’m a registered Democrat because there’s no party further left that stands a chance of winning.
      I think they’re conflating the rural West with all of the West, or the West with the West Coast?

      I put in the husband’s stats and he’s listed as 62% Republican, which is ridiculous since his family’s been actively Democratic since they got off the boat from Ireland, and they’re even rural.

      Greg’s also right about the black people living mostly in cities thing — there really are practically no black people living in rural areas outside of the deep South.

      Also, what are their definitions of city vs. suburb? I live in what everyone considers a suburb, yet it’s solidly Democratic. I mean, even most of the cops are Democrats.

      Plus Protestant in the US covers a much wider range of political/social opinions than in other countries, even beyond the born-again or not option.

      They’ve over-weighted the atheist thing to a ridiculous degree, which has thrown the whole thing all cattywumpus.


      1. I think, regarding religion, they fundamentally (har) don’t understand the US versions.

        For instance, the extremely mainstream Episcopal denomination (of which some ridiculous number of Presidents have been members, particularly in the first 100 years) has had a gay and married presiding bishop (head honcho). He spoke at Obama’s first inauguration. Women, gays, lesbians, PoC everywhere as clergy. They tend to be upscale and white, and therefore R, but in an old-fashioned genteel way. The quintessential WASPs. They tend to be charitable outside giving to the church, and the old joke is that the only thing that will get you sent to Episcopalian hell is using the wrong fork at a formal dinner party. Also called “Whiskeypalians”, and let me warn you: if you get invited to one of their cocktail parties, fortify your liver and listen for stock market tips.*

        I bring this up b/c the current head honcho is the delightful black bishop who spoke at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding. All the Brits were reacting as though his sermon was the most fire and brimstone, Black Baptist/Pentacostal, tent revival thing they’d ever seen. Shock horror. But…

        Episcopalians are what Church of England is called in the US!

        It’s the most mainstream, and many would say boring, denominations ever. Sure, he’s an engaging speaker, but he wasn’t preaching hellfire and damnation, just standard observations about the happiness of young love and a bit of Jesus. He can’t be too radical to have reached the highest level of the most mainstream American church ever.

        It’s a broad church, and there aren’t many doctrinal wranglings; that’s declasse. If it was good enough for Tom Jefferson, it’s good enough for them. The Washington DC National Cathedral (which even heathens remember from a great “West Wing” episode, the one Darth Vader gargoyle, and the bit of moon rock in one of the stained glass windows, presented by Neil, Buzz, and Mike) is Episcopalian.

        So if they can be so completely, incredibly wrong on that, I think they’re way off.

        Not to mention all the Libertarian atheists, who despite what they claim, vote Republican. The Randites who cheat on their taxes and don’t believe in safety nets or furriners.

        * Hoo, I miss the Christmas parties Mom’s church pals threw!


  2. This sort of thing is interesting, but it fails to show cross-correlations. For example, the odds of living in a city and the odds of being black are not independent at all because few black people live outside the cities. A Bayesian-Network Analysis probably wouldn’t have been as much fun to read.

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  3. I put Trump in.
    86% Democratic.

    FAIL, Economist. Sad!

    Hillary? Only 61% Democratic.
    Bernie? 63% D.
    Joe Biden? 71% Republican (wtf?! Amtrak-riding VP Uncle Joe?)
    Nixon? Only 66% R
    Stephen Colbert? 68% Republican???
    My BFF, who’s worked at local D HQ? Only 60% Dem.
    Her husband, ditto? 61% Republican, from ancestral Irish Dem stock, I don’t think so.

    This model is bad and it should feel bad.


    1. JFK, RFK, Teddy K: 68% Repub. WTFF? WTAF?!

      Nancy Pelosi: 52% Democratic at best. Ha!
      Chuck Schumer: 74% Democratic.
      Harry Reid: 75% Republican, har.
      George Clooney: 71% Republican (!!)
      Martin Sheen: 74% Republican (!!!)

      Cam, at best, you’d be 52% Republican or 56% Democratic depending on whether the meat puppet has produced younger puppets or not, respectively, which I don’t know.


  4. I couldn’t fill that form in for my spouse, because it doesn’t have a space for “no religion” other than explicitly atheist, which he isn’t, and it seems equally odd to try to stretch “Protestant” to cover “his mother was a lapsed Unitarian.”.

    (It would also be nice if they said something like “goes to religious services regularly” rather than “church,” because no, my girlfriend doesn’t go to church regularly, it’s a synagogue, If you think that’s “the same thing,” try asking your Christian friends how often they go to shul, or to their local mosque. (Other people have pointed out the carelessness, at best, of treating (among others) Quakers, Episcopalians, Southern Baptists, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church as one thing.)

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    1. Yes, “lapsed whatever” or “agnostic” really should have been in there. It would have helped with your spouse’s, and indeed most of the people I know. And I noticed the “church” thing when I was running numbers for various Jewish people. Oops.

      My gosh, there’s a huge political variation just between the various sorts of Lutherans!

      It’s so simplified that us nobodies here in a random blog have managed to find things that break it terribly! You’d think they could have picked the same examples I did. Tagging the Kennedys as 68% Repub??

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Apparently the pseudo-USian version of myself is only 92% likely to be a democrat. It’s a bit weird that religion is basically the biggest signifier of how you vote in the US.

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