Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Reading pundits scratching their heads about Maine voters makes me want to tear my hair out (a little bit). I don't want to sound like a person who's complaining about the intellectual elite 'cause I actually like the idea of an intellectual elite. But, they've got to have better analytic skills than the average person, right?
One blogging head said he was still puzzling over how such a secular state as Maine is could have voted against marriage equality. This idea that Maine is a secular state comes from a recent poll (those darn polls again!) showing that Maine has a lower than average amount of church goers. C'mon folks, don't you think it could be possible that there isn't an exact correlation between church attendance and religiosity?
Most of my neighbors are not affiliated with any church. However, many of my neighbors are also fundamentalist Christians. One woman I know doesn't go to church but she sends her kids to Bible Camp. When I lived in another town, I knew of many people whose kids went to a fundamentalist Christian after school program. It was free. That group was loosely affiliated with Focus on the Family, and they indoctrinated the kids with all sorts of messages that they'd bring home to their parents. A free program for poor kids? Smart move. They're "doing good" for the community - might as well take their advice when voting. They handed out dummy ballots showing people exactly how to vote. One of the general stores had tall stacks of these ballots right next to the cash register.
I played a little game an hour ago. I looked at the list of towns in my county and guessed as to how they voted. Squeaker, or significant win for either yes or no - I got every town right on the money. Maybe I should become a pundit.
But really, how did I do so well? I didn't rely on any polling data. Here's the somewhat sad criteria I used:
1. Poverty - Poverty, in my opinion, is the biggest predictor of conservative voting amongst white people.
2. Education - I will reference study data (without the numbers). The more education one has, the more likely one is to be liberal.
3. Isolation - People in rural areas are less exposed to diversity and are more likely to be afraid of it.
4. Lastly, and unique to Maine, whether people were born here or not is a big predictor of voting. Folks who were not born here are called "from away". They bring the values of where they're from with them. Many "folks from away" came here during the back to the land movement and settled in some very rural areas. Towns with fewer folks from away vote more conservatively.
Now, given all this, I wouldn't have predicted that voting for expanding the use of medical marijuana and opening dispensaries would pass so easily. Then again, folks up here do generally think "live and let live" and there's also an awful lot of people who smoke weed here in Maine. It's odd how live and let live doesn't fully extend to gay people. Honestly, I think it does (for the most part) but people aren't quite ready to legislate it. Remember - the initiative won by a slim margin.
I think of this couple I once met - a lesbian couple, one black and one white, and one of whom was planning on having sexual reassignment surgery (and was quite open about it). They lived in a tiny town downeast (the northern coast of Maine). I heard many a person from that town make jokes about gays and black people. But this couple was accepted fully. Why? They were good neighbors and, as one person put it (of the larger of the two woman), "She handles her chainsaw well." Having a well-stacked supply of wood goes a long way up here in Maine.