Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Elite Republicans And Democrats Want To Be Different From You And Me

Jonathan Sides points out Republicans and Democrats make dramatically different choices about common activities.
Republicans and Democrats don’t seem to agree on very much these days. They’re divided on the kinds of television shows they watch, cars they drive and beers they drink. And now new research by political scientists at the University of Chicago adds one more thing to that list: baby names.
If the surveys are to be believed,  Republicans tend to watch golf or Survivor, drive a pickup, and drink Coors Light. Democrats lean towards watching NBA basketball or Family Guy, driving a hybrid, and drinking Heineken.

When it comes to names, Republicans tend to pick pick popular or traditional names to "signal economic capital" whereas Democrats tend to pick names that "signal cultural tastes and erudition."

Republicans and Democrats also pick names that sound different. Sides reports,
Oliver and colleagues found that, for both boy and girl babies, “softer” sounds were more prominent among educated whites living in more Democratic or liberal neighborhoods. That is, a boy’s name like “Julian” or “Liam” or a girl’s name like “Malia” would be more common in Democratic neighborhoods. A boy’s name like “Trig” or a girl’s name like “Bristol” would be more common in Republican neighborhoods.
In other words, Liam will likely be behind the well of the hybrid, and Trig will likely be behind the wheel of the 4x4.

The most provocative conclusion about baby names seems to apply to beer and vehicles as well. It's all about elites preening and so the rest of us notice the choices being made. Sides notes,
Oliver and colleagues also emphasize that these partisan or ideological differences were largely confined to better-educated whites. As other political science research shows, partisanship and ideology often operate most strongly within this group. Thus, it is a mistake simply to divide America into red and blue. This leads to the paper’s provocative conclusion:
As we see in patterns of baby names, liberal elites use esoteric cultural references to demonstrate their elevated social position just as conservatives invoke traditional signals of wealth and affluence. Instead of divides between “Red and Blue states,” it is more accurate to say that America is divided not just by “Red and Blue elites,” but also in the ways these elites seek to differentiate themselves from the largely “purple” masses.
After reading these article I expect someone  to re-write Romeo and Juliet as a story about a Democrat Julian who falls in love with a Republican Bristol. The two commit suicide by drowning in a vat of Dos Equis because they can't agree which vehicle to drive to the wedding of their non-partisan friend Joshua.

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