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Frank and Bartels are talking past each other, or perhaps Bartels doesn’t get it [“What’s Really the Matter With Kansas,” February 10]. Frank is trying to make sense of the red state phenomenon, the fact that rural states once radical have turned conservative. Bartels is using a nationwide poll to analyze the voting behavior of a nationwide class of people. The problem with using a nationwide poll is that we vote for president and for senators by state, not by citizen, a fact well exploited by the Republicans. The other problem of the approach is that it neglects the influence of the local culture–people’s political opinions are influenced by those around them. One may disagree with Frank’s explanations, but the situation he describes is real. One can look at the map of red and blue states. There are some predictors–the average income of a state is correlated with its blueness. Another interesting correlation is with the Milken Institute Science and Technology Index, which measures the technical and entrepreneurial climate of the states. It is also a good predictor of the red/blue divide.
Professor of law
John Marshall Law School
Harold Henderson replies:
Frank’s subtitle is How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. He makes a national claim, one that Bartels checked appropriately, by consulting professionally gathered national polling data going back 50 years. State-by-state voting does make a difference in the outcome of particular elections, but it has no bearing on questions of popular sentiment. Working-class conservatism exists and Frank depicts it vividly. But so far it’s a small change at the margins and in the south. At the national level, no matter how it’s defined, the working class is no more conservative now than it ever has been.