The Split Personality of America

April 29, 2013

Some Americans think of their country as “the home of the brave” but on closer inspection that is only half true. And to be more precise, it’s the western half. Look at this map of Neuroticism based on data compiled by psychologist Peter Rentfrow,

personality map neuroticism
Neuroticism by state. The darker, the more neurotic.

Unlike the maps of the other Big Five personality factors, this one shows a very distinct pattern. It splits the nation into two halves – a fearful East and a bold West. The border seems to go along the Mississippi river. The 20 states scoring highest on Neuroticism are all bordering to the river or east of it. Of the 20 states that score the lowest on this trait, 16 are in the western region – including all of the bottom 10. Why Mississippi? I think we can find a clue if we look at an older map,

United_States_1789-08-1790

This is what America looked like in 1790. As you can see the western border of America went along the river that today appears to separate Americans scoring high or low on Neuroticism. But why should this be? Most likely because up until around 1800 almost all immigrants came, at least partly, to avoid religious persecution.

This is what I referred to in my previous post, the review of Susan Cain’s book on introverts, as an explanation for how the early America had a Culture of Character, although I guessed that the early settlers would be introverts rather than neurotics. These traits are of course similar and Cain admits that her view on Introversion incorporates what others view as Neuroticism.

At any rate, the second wave of immigrants were not so much fleeing Europe to avoid persecution. The were lured by the land- and goldrushes and other hopes of fortune and glory. They were the frontiersmen and women who ventured out in the hostile and uncivilized terrorities of what is sometimes called the Wild West. They were, in other words, not high on Neuroticism. Most likely, this latter wave of immigrants were also Sensation Seekers although this trait or anything similar to it is not covered by the Big Five model that Rentfrow uses.

While lot’s of people have moved around within America since the early days, the pattern shown in the first map does suggest that these two breeds of Americans – stick people and carrot people – still exist today and that they to a large extent live where their ancestors first settled. This serves as an interesting example of how it can be that one people differs from another and how even within a nation you can find a cultural and behavioral variety that has a genetic basis.

In the future we will probably see even more patterns like this one emerging as more or less intentional communities arise when people to a larger extent can choose their own environments. And who knows, as people become more aware of the genetic basis of their newfound tribes, this trend may even split our species. Let’s call the first bunch to branch off Homo Mississippiens.

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The Conservative Face of the Changing Demographics in America

February 7, 2013
How will future Democratic politicians cater to this growing demographic?

How will future Democratic politicians cater to this growing demographic?

When Obama was re-elected a lot of people commented on the fact that this was due to the changing demographics of the US. Conservatives did so in a bitter and resentful way, like Bill O’Reilly who said that “white establishment is no the minority” and that those supporting Obama do so to get hand outs. On the liberal side comments were more derogatory, like Bill Maher’s, “White people vote for white people like it’s going out of style /…/ And like most things white people do, it’s going out of style.”

Clearly, the Democratic party looks poised to rule for a long period of time, given that the Hispanic part of the population is just going to increase in the future. But should liberals be all that happy about this? Hispanics may vote for the Dems, but they are much more socially conservative than the White Democratic voters.  And this could mean troubles ahead for social liberals.

While the leftist think tank Think Progress justify their headline, “The Emerging Pro-choice Majority” with a single exit poll, the larger and nonpartisan sources tell a different story. According to Gallup the trend is clear: back in 1995 those who identified as pro-choice were 56 percent while the pro-lifers were a mere 33 percent. In 2012 the tables had turned with pro-lifers at 50 percent and pro-choice at 41 percent. Under this period Hispanics increased from 10 to 17 percent of the population. Another survey from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that Hispanics are distinctly more against abortion than the rest of the population with 79 percent viewing it as morally wrong. The same number for all Americans, according to Gallup is 51 percent.

No doubt this isn’t the only issue on which the predominantly Catholic Hispanics are more conservative than the average White liberal. And yet the political leftists are enthused by the changing demographics, mocking backward-minded White conservatives for their fear of change. I wonder how long they can stay in that bubble before reality kicks in. Because politicians will inevitably start fighting over the Hispanic vote and find that a socially conservative agenda will serve them well in that regard. When Democratic candidates openly begin to declare themselves pro-life, White liberals may succumb to the well-known White resentment and ask for their country back. But then it will be too late.


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