Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Republican States: Smoking and Obesity

I mentioned on Monday the connection between vices and the Republican Party. This association is not news — for many years, the Republican Party was virtually owned by the tobacco industry. Tobacco may have fallen on hard times, but the Republican Party is still the party of tobacco. I verified this today by comparing adult smoking rates (from Good Magazine) to the state-by-state election results (tentative results from today’s map at

The graph below ranks states by smoking rates, increasing from left to right. States at the left have the lowest adult smoking rates; those at the right have the highest adult smoking rates. The color of each bar shows the presidential election result. The blue bars represent the Democratic states, where Obama polled better than McCain and won the state. The red bars represent the Republican states, where McCain polled better. The darker colors represent stronger leaning toward one candidate or the other. The preponderance of blue bars in the left half of the graph indicate that Obama drew overwhelming support from states that have fewer smokers than average. Similarly, the red bars at the right end of the chart show that McCain drew most of his support from the states that have the most smokers.

2008 election results and smoking rates by state

Back in July, I wrote about the strong association between Republican voting and obesity, again looking at it state by state. This association becomes even stronger when graphed with the actual election results. The left half of the graph below is mostly dark blue, indicating that most of the states with below average adult obesity rates voted for Obama over McCain by at least a 10 percent margin. The cluster of red states at the right end of the graph indicates that McCain was the overwhelming choice in states with especially high obesity rates. McCain carried the states with the 10 highest obesity rates, along with only 11 other states. (As before, obesity rates are from from the 2007 survey conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

2008 election results and obesity rates by state

The conclusion to draw from this is that the cultural differences between Democratic and Republican voters are real. Smoking and obesity are perhaps the two lifestyle issues with the most compelling effects on the quality of life. They show striking differences between Republican and Democratic states, and similar differences can be found in dozens of other areas. It’s not something made up by the media or by political strategists. At the very least, different lifestyles and attitudes are prevalent in different places, and there is a connection between these cultural factors and the way people vote.