Friday, July 18, 2008

Does Voting Republican Make You Fat?

Or does being fat make you vote Republican?

I love maps. They catch my eye. The other day, I was passing through some site or another (I forget), and I saw a map of the most obese U.S. states. When I saw it, I thought it looked a lot like the results of the 2004 presidential election.

Then today, I saw a story about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releasing new statistics on the most obese states.

So I wondered whether the states whose electoral votes went to George W. Bush were actually fatter than those who voted for John Kerry. Being a research type, I crunched the numbers.

Indeed, those residents of states whose electoral votes went to Bush are indeed more obsese (26.53%) than those states whose electoral votes went to Kerry (24.11%), t(49) = 3.22,
p = .002.

This is especially telling given that the Bush states contain the skinniest state, Colorado (18.7% obese).

Although the slightly more than 2% point difference may seem modest to you, the statistics suggest that there is less than one quarter of a percent chance of observing a difference this big (or bigger) given that there is no real difference between the states. And it suggests a difference of almost 10% between the states (i.e., 2% is about 10% of 20%).

Obviously my headline is misleading, as there is most likely no direct causal link between the two variables. However, the connection is an interesting one and likely points to a third variable that causes both obesity and Republican voting. The new story suggested that rural populations are likely to be more obese, and most Bush states are predominantly rural.

Glean what you wish from the data. I found them to be interesting.

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