You can do a good job of predicting how a state will vote in national elections by looking at its population's average age at first marriage and childbirth.
Via Warren Kinsella's blog I came across a piece in the National Journal which fairly demolishes the "family values" soapbox the U.S. religious (or politically conveniently moral) right stands on. Please consider Do 'Family Values' Weaken Families?:
Can it be? One of the oddest paradoxes of modern cultural politics may at last be resolved.
The paradox is this: Cultural conservatives revel in condemning the loose moral values and louche lifestyles of "San Francisco liberals." But if you want to find two-parent families with stable marriages and coddled kids, your best bet is to bypass Sarah Palin country and go to Nancy Pelosi territory: the liberal, bicoastal, predominantly Democratic places that cultural conservatives love to hate.
The country's lowest divorce rate belongs to none other than Massachusetts, the original home of same-sex marriage. Palinites might wish that Massachusetts's enviable marital stability were an anomaly, but it is not. The pattern is robust. States that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in both 2004 and 2008 boast lower average rates of divorce and teenage childbirth than do states that voted for the Republican in both elections. (That is using family data for 2006 and 2007, the latest available.)
Six of the seven states with the lowest divorce rates in 2007, and all seven with the lowest teen birthrates in 2006, voted blue in both elections. Six of the seven states with the highest divorce rates in 2007, and five of the seven with the highest teen birthrates, voted red. It's as if family strictures undermine family structures.
The article goes on to highlight a number of findings presented in a new book, Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, authored by family law professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. Their conclusion? The growing cultural, and political, divide in the United States has a lot to do with sex: specifically teen and early adult pregnancy leading to family formation before their time.
When news that Sarah Palin's teenaged daughter was pregnant surfaced during the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign my initial reaction was that the "red" states, the Republican base, would abandon her as an example of a poor moral example. In fact the response from the faithful was quite the opposite, particularly after it was announced that the teen-aged parents to be would marry. In the end, after the 2008 campaign was but a memory, the engagement was broken.
The divide revolves around economic opportunity in the end. Blue states put a premium on adaptability and education and quality of family life and thus tend to be more open to any approach - including prevention - that avoids teen or young adult child rearing for the woefully unschooled, unskilled and unprepared. Red states, trapped in their own moral handcuffs preach but do not practice abstinence and fight tooth and nail against preventative measures like sex ed, condoms and other forms of birth control, and won't support abortion and in many cases frown upon adoption too.
To define the divide in a sentence: In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families.
Maybe they should wrap sex education with economic awareness and drive the point home to teens that being pregnant and married young is a good way to limit ones own and family potential.
Political strategists take note:
When you understand all of that, you also understand why you can do a good job of predicting how a state will vote in national elections by looking at its population's average age at first marriage and childbirth. In 2007, for example, the states with the lowest median age at marriage in 2007 were all red (Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah). The states with the highest first-marriage age were all blue (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island). The same pattern holds for age at first childbirth. Massachusetts is highest (about 28 years old), Mississippi lowest (about 23 years old).
Does Canada reflect this? I believe we do have our own (colours inverted appropriately) blue Conservative (U.S. red Republicans) and red Liberal, Bloc, N.D.P, (U.S. blue Democrats) ridings. There is also a substantial urban vs. rural divide in our politics. Following in the footsteps of the so-called moral majority movement in the United States elements of the religious (or conveniently and politically aimed moral) right have long been fighting hard to gain traction in Canada. In Stephen Harper they found not exactly a friend but a politically convenient and willing ally.
We should all be asking if we are willing to accept the same cultural and economic divisions the U.S. experience has turned out.
The result of this red quandary, Cahn and Carbone argue, is a self-defeating backlash. Moral traditionalism fails to prevent premarital sex and early childbirth. Births precipitate more early marriages and unwed parenthood. That, in turn, increases family breakdown while reducing education and earnings.
"The consequential sense of failure increases the demands to constrain the popular culture -- and blue family practices such as contraception and abortion -- that undermines parental efforts to instill the right moral values in children," Cahn and Carbone say. "More sex prompts more sermons and more emphasis on abstinence." The cycle repeats. Culturally, economically, and politically, blue and red families drift further apart as their fortunes diverge.
Canada and Armageddon
Looking at growing influence of the religious far-right on Canadian politics, The Armageddon Factor, a new book by Canadian author Marci McDonald explores what she has termed Christian Nationalism and the ties between the religious right-wing and the Harper government. This is a much deeper subject than sexual and other morality issues in that a segment of the religious right wants to frame many policies, and alter Canadian politics, to fit their biblical views about the end-times of the world as we know it.
Listen to Ms. McDonald discuss her book in part 2 of the May 11, 2010 episode of CBC's The Current.
I've always held that the rise of evangelical fundamentalism, a subject I have some insight into from my own past, is a not insignificant political block working against a number of policy areas ranging from today's topic of youth pregnancy all the way to global climate change.
Put in a simplistic way, if the faith you carry, or use as a convenient political weapon, teaches you the planet is going to end as we know it, and that your God has given mankind permission to exploit the earth at will, then you can get away with pretty much anything that wasn't written up in the ten commandments.
Thou shalt not spoil the earth and its atmosphere was not one of the commandments. Drill baby drill.