Chris Mooney has posted an interesting take on that "personality map" that everyone's been talking about.
After administering a battery of personality tests to more than a million and a half Americans across the country, the study divides us up into three psychological regions: The "friendly and conventional" South and Great Plains; the "relaxed and creative" mountain states and West Coast; and the "temperamental and uninhibited" East Coast and New England states.
He puts the results into a political framework:
Granted, not every state with a "friendly and conventional" personality voted Republican in the last election, and there are some oddballs and outliers in other regions, too. But the overall trend is clear. The residents of more liberal and more conservative states differ in personality: In how open their residents are to new experiences, and in how much they prize order and stability in their lives.[...]
In other words, there's a huge ideological sort going on, probably much of it driven by Open people leaving to be closer to other Open people—so they can all hang out at coffeehouses and complain about the Tea Party—and more traditional people staying behind where they prize family and community. And this, in turn, likely explains a substantial part of the US's growing political polarization. Or as the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt just put it on our newly launched Inquiring Minds podcast, "For the first time in our history, the parties are not agglomerations of financial or material interest groups, they're agglomerations of personality styles and lifestyles. And this is really dangerous....If it's now that 'You people on the other side, you're really different from me, you live in a different way, you pray in a different way, you eat different foods than I do,' it's much easier to hate those people. And that's where we are."
I'll buy that except for Jonathan Haidt's incorrect analysis there at the end. This is anything but new.
Here's the map with the different personality types:
Here are some other maps:
|Slave states - Free states|
|Union vs Confederacy|
|2008 electoral map|
|2008 electoral map by population|
The country has been divided roughly along these lines for a very long time and when you compare that map of the civil war era with the new "personality" map I think you can safely conclude that this is not the first time those divisions have been pretty personal and pretty nasty. The idea that we've just now become polarized along lines that are "not agglomerations of financial or material interest groups" but are now about "agglomerations of personality styles and lifestyles" is nuts. It's always been aboutculture. This is America.