Statistical Science

How Bayesian Analysis Cracked the Red-State, Blue-State Problem

Andrew Gelman

Full-text: Open access

Abstract

In the United States as in other countries, political and economic divisions cut along geographic and demographic lines. Richer people are more likely to vote for Republican candidates while poorer voters lean Democratic; this is consistent with the positions of the two parties on economic issues. At the same time, richer states on the coasts are bastions of the Democrats, while most of the generally lower-income areas in the middle of the country strongly support Republicans. During a research project lasting several years, we reconciled these patterns by fitting a series of multilevel models to perform inference on geographic and demographic subsets of the population. We were using national survey data with relatively small samples in some states, ethnic groups and income categories; this motivated the use of Bayesian inference to partially pool between fitted models and local data. Previous, non-Bayesian analyses of income and voting had failed to connect individual and state-level patterns. Now that our analysis has been done, we believe it could be replicated using non-Bayesian methods, but Bayesian inference helped us crack the problem by directly handling the uncertainty that is inherent in working with sparse data.

Article information

Source
Statist. Sci. Volume 29, Number 1 (2014), 26-35.

Dates
First available in Project Euclid: 9 May 2014

Permanent link to this document
https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.ss/1399645725

Digital Object Identifier
doi:10.1214/13-STS458

Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)
MR3201843

Zentralblatt MATH identifier
1332.62426

Keywords
Multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP) political science sample surveys sparse data voting

Citation

Gelman, Andrew. How Bayesian Analysis Cracked the Red-State, Blue-State Problem. Statist. Sci. 29 (2014), no. 1, 26--35. doi:10.1214/13-STS458. https://projecteuclid.org/euclid.ss/1399645725


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