Thursday, October 29, 2009

Neat Graph

Longer post:

The chart below gives a nice summary of state attitudes on gay rights issues, based on estimates from national polls. It’s from a new paper, by Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips, both of Columbia University, that was recently published in the American Political Science Review. (Methodology for the survey estimates is on page 32 here.)

Bubbles are placed to represent public opinion on a gay rights issue, with bubbles farther to the right indicating greater public support. For example, the red bubble on the line for California shows that slightly less than half of Californians say same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

Filled-in bubbles signify that the policy has been adopted in that state (either by legislative or judicial action). The red bubble for California, for example, is not filled in, indicating that gays in the state are not currently allowed to marry.

DESCRIPTIONJeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips Opinion is estimated using data from 1994-2008, weighted toward the most recent levels of support. Policy is as of June 2009.

So who is more liberal on gay issues: the public or the public servants who write and interpret law?

Let’s take a look at the graphic above, keeping an eye on the dashed vertical line in the middle that designates 50 percent support for any given policy. Bubbles to the right of that line have support from the majority of a state’s population; bubbles to the left of the line have support from less than half the state’s population.

Notice that there are many more unfilled bubbles on the right side of the line (representing policies that the majority of people support but that have not been put into effect) than there are filled bubbles on the left side of the line (representing policies that the majority of people do not support, but that have been implemented anyway).

Looking at the graph, it is interesting to see how many unfilled bubbles there are on the right side of the 50% line. It is also interesting that at the top of the graph, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and so on, more of the circles on the right side are filled in than at the bottom of the graph around Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and so on. Does this indicate that policy makers in say Massachusetts are more in tune with the state population's stance on different policies than policy makers in say Alabama? In the states towards the bottom of the graph, very few, if any, circles to the right of the 50% line are filled in, but at the same time, very few or no circles to the left of the line are filled in. Policy makers are not implementing policies that the majority of the state population does not supports, but they are not implementing policies that the majority does support either.
I'm curious about how those states where a majority of the population supports a certain policy can encourage their policy makers to become more in tune with the population's beliefs.
It seem like there is some sort of barrier between states that have policy and those that don't. States with policy tend to have most if not all of the bubbles filled in, meaning they have extensive policy on the issues, in contrast to those with just opinions that have very little to no policy. I wonder if it is an all or nothing situation where state avoid taking a stance on a single issue unless they are ready to tackle the issues as a whole.
I think it is clearly evident that, at least for the states recorded near the top of the graph, that the public servants are in accordance with the majority opinion with regards to gay issues, more so than states recorded near the bottom of the graph. Also interesting is the possibility that states that are more progressive in passing legislation pertaining to gay rights are clustered geographically, that is, states located in the northeast, an indication that perhaps states with less wealth and with a large population that considers gay issues to be less pressing than, say poverty or drug addiction, have more on their plate than these northeast states.
I am a little skeptical of the accuracy, on the longer post it states opinions are a weighted estimate of the last 14 years.
It blows my mind that people can be care so much about the harmless actions of other people, so much so that they won't let them do something based on their personal beliefs. Maybe it is time for the people to enforce rational thoughts and policy on those nutcases. Even better force some irrational thoughts and policies on those nutcases. No hillbilly weddings. No hillbilly procreation.
There must be an explanation for the lack of a strong correlation between the implementation of policies concerning civil rights and the percent of population who would support such a policy. I know speaking for my state, that more representatives come from conservative counties even though a large percentage of people reside within liberal (more liberal) cities. I believe that population density within the state could help explain which states are more likely to support such policies. That may not explain a strong correlation in the adoption of policies (which surely depend on other factors), but may be a more indirect effect. For example, higher density states lead to more liberal representatives who may have a higher probability of adopting a policy.
Interesting that the graph groups southern states at the bottom of the axis, making it easy to see when these states align on a particular issue and whether or not a policy has been adopted. It is obvious that this region does not support civil unions or gay marriage and that this public opinion has prevented policy action from being taken.
Seems to be representative of the death of the democratic process. How can we have 80-90% of people in support of various issues relating to gays and lesbians and yet,those policies are not enacted? Perhaps surveys like these are good for showing support, however it would be interesting to see how many of those people are actively trying to get policies passed in their states. My intuition tells me that even in states where there is a broad consensus of support for these policies, no one has enough initiative to go out and vote. Time will tell I guess, but this graph speaks to a more general problem with our system, a lack of activism and an acceptance of the status quo
People disagree with gay or lesbian ideals to his their owwn. But I don't think many people agree that hate crime is alright. The graph shows that the people of every state would agree that hate crime protaction is a must but yet there are 19 states that aren't inforcing it...19! That is wrong.
It is shocking to see that there are states out there that have not taken any sort of measures to protect gay communitites in their legal jurisdiction. Moreover, it is also interesting to see that some states in a "half-way" transition to giving equal rights to gay couples. This graph allos us to see each provision as an step forward.
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