Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is This What’s the Matter with South Dakota?

Yes, I stole the idea for this post’s title from Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Frank contends that Kansas, a solid red state voting pattern is “self-defeating.”

Second, I want to add the caveat that Richard Florida does in his piece “The Conservative States of America”: “this analysis only points to associations between variables; [and does] not make any claims about causation. . . . Still, a number of intriguing findings cropped up.”

According to Professor Florida, South Dakota is among the most conservative states in the country. Over 45% of our residents consider themselves conservative. Mississippi is the most conservative state, and the only one to have over 50% of its residents self-identify as conservatives.

Florida’s research found the following correlations. His article contains statistics and graphs that support his conclusions
Not surprisingly, states with more conservatives are considerably more religious than liberal-leaning states.

Conservative states are also less well-educated than liberal ones.

States with more conservatives are less diverse.

Conservative states are more blue-collar.

States with more conservatives are considerably poorer than those with more liberals. . . . While rich voters trend Republican, Gelman and his colleagues found, rich states trend Democratic.

Conservatism, at least at the state level, appears to be growing stronger. Ironically, this trend is most pronounced in America's least well-off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states.

Liberalism, which is stronger in richer, better-educated, more-diverse, and, especially, more prosperous places, is shrinking across the board and has fallen behind conservatism even in its biggest strongholds.
Several obvious questions arise from Florida’s research.

First, why does the current "trend stand. . .  in sharp contrast to the Great Depression, when America embraced FDR and the New Deal”?

Second, are South Dakota’s residents poorer than the national average because they are conservative or are they conservative because they are poor?

Third, does Governor Duagaard’s and the Republican legislature’s assault on education funding really stem from budgetary concern or does it stem from an antipathy toward education?

Fourth, will states like South Dakota become more blue collar, less well- educated, and poorer?

Fifth, will social issues driven by religious zeal continue to dominate South Dakota's politics?

Finally, if the thesis of Florida’s most well-known work The Rise of the Creative Class is correct, creativity and diversity are inextricably linked. If that’s the case, does South Dakota have the diversity to develop the creativity to solve many of the problems confronting the state?

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