Correlation Between Exposure to Different Cultures and Political Views?

Politics are a funny thing.  I am certainly not an expert and don’t claim to be fully informed on all issues, especially those involving economics.  My strongest views are based mainly in social issues, which stem from my involvement in the disability community.  It is a subculture in our society which receives popular exposure for things like the “Erasing the “R” Word” campaign and in recent years, Autism.  While these are both very important issues, they are merely the tip of the iceberg.  What most people don’t know, is that just like many impoverished countries around the world, the people of the disability community are struggling to survive.  They are struggling to find sanitary living conditions, they are struggling to pay for treatment or medical services, they are often struggling just to have enough money to put food on the table.  Unfortunately, the displacement of people with disabilities is not our only dirty little secret.  Let’s not forget about the elderly, minorities, and people living in poverty.

How do I know this and why do I care?  Exposure.  I have been exposed to one of the many ugly underbellies of our culture… the dismissal of our most vulnerable citizens.  When you have the experience of seeing human life struggle to survive, being virtually forgotten by their fellow man…  it strikes a cord.

Let’s take a quick visit over to the world or politics.  When you consider the “base” of our political parties, they are pretty clearly defined by the media as either “socialists” (those concerned more about social issues than things like economics – also known as Democrats… liberals… bleeding hearts), and “conservatives” (whether fiscal or moral, their “base” finds roots in the Christian religion, a.k.a Republicans).  Yes, these are broad and stereotypical points of discussion… but lets all be honest.  They are stereotypes for a reason.  Of course there are variations on both (fiscally conservative liberals, etc.), and some that even combine features of both (the Libertarian party).  But for all intents and purposes, currently we are a two-party system when it comes to elections and for the sake of this argument.

Given these stereotypes, it has to make you wonder how the Christian crowd doesn’t fall into the “socialist” category.  After all, wasn’t Jesus Christ the ultimate socialist?   I mean he DIED to make sure people were taken care of for eternity, right?  So how did “socialism” become a dirty word, and more importantly, how did the Christian-based Republican party become anti-social issues?

Enter the maps of the number of US Passports issued and the election results map from 2008 (above).  Interesting… there seems to be a direct correlation between the number of passports issued and the voting patterns of each state.  I may be totally off base here, but let’s go back to that whole “exposure” concept I mentioned earlier.  Is it possible that when US Citizens are traveling and experiencing other parts of the world, the appreciation for people of differing cultures increases?  Does this tolerance translate to the varying subcultures of American society?

Even more interestingly, you can look at the national maps of education, obesity, religion, poverty (and almost any other topic) and find similar patterns.  

What does this tell us?  Can we reasonably deduct that the conservative voters have less wealth, are less educated, less traveled, less concerned with health issues, and more religious while the more liberal voters are typically better educated, more health conscious, less religious, and well-traveled?

Yes, these are extremely broad assumptions based on a few maps, but is it really that far off?  Does the fact that conservative voters are less educated and exposed to fewer cultures mean they are less likely to have the ability to critically think about the basic philosophies of the conservative party – and more likely to believe notions such as “cutting education funding will help us lead the world in education”?   Does the fact that conservative voters are more likely to struggle financially mean they are more likely to believe (or want to believe) promises of jobs and growth?  Or that perhaps they don’t have access to resources like the internet to verify the information they see and hear in the media?  Will strong religious views cause conservative voters to be more distracted by religion-based issues such as abortion while their elected officials send pink slips to entire districts of teachers?

It seems many of these questions are currently playing out in the media as we speak.  Only time will tell if the conservative voters will continue on the journey of philosophical awakening as demonstrated this past week in the great state of Wisconsin.   Fingers crossed.