Sunday, November 28, 2004

Red state voters, blue state lifestyle -- blue state voters, red state moralism?

An interesting article by Andrew Sullivan in the London Times points out that the divorce rate in America is higher in states that voted for Bush, and lower in states that voted for Kerry. Same for teenage births. Similarly, marriage itself is more popular in Massachusetts than in Texas; and America has three times as many abortions (per capita) than the ultra-liberal Dutch.
Says Sullivan:
"The complicated truth is that America is a divided and conflicted country. But it is a grotesque exaggeration to say that the split is geographical or correlated with Democrat and Republican states. Many of America’s biggest “sinners” are those most intent on upholding virtue. It may be partly because they know sin close up that they want to prevent its occurrence among others....
Within many a red state voter there is a blue state lifestyle. And within many a blue state liberal there is a surprisingly resilient streak of moralism."
It seems to me that rather than people who 'know sin close up' wanting to prevent it in others, they probably need to proclaim those higher standards loud and clear in an effort to restrain their own urges. Those that 'trust themselves' to intuitively behave more virtuously, on the other hand, may feel more confident about relaxing public standards. (It is also possible that Sullivan has it the wrong way round: rather than 'sin' leading to conservatism, for example, it may be the strict public standards which cause more people to rebel and stray, and vice versa.)
In any case, this debate throws interesting light on the Jewish community, which has a relatively conservative lifestyle with divorce rates and abortion rates which are supposed to be lower than in the general population -- yet which is predominantly liberal. Perhaps not such a paradox, or an exception, after all?

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