December 30, 2011

Are Republicans or Democrats fatter?

I got to wondering about this crucial question while sipping on an eggnog and reading an L.A. Times article about the most and least obese communities in Los Angeles County. The skinniest is Manhattan Beach, south of LAX at only 4% obese. It's popular with NHL players and others who like to run on the beach between zipping to the airport. Manhattan Beach went for Obama in 2008, but until then it had been a rare reliable Republican outpost on the West Side. 

The fattest town in L.A. County is Bell Gardens, a 96% Latino inland city, at 36% obese. Bell Gardens consistently votes Democratic.

In general, people in L.A. are not terribly fat by modern American standards. At 6-4 and 200 pounds (which sounds pretty good, because you are used to reading height-weight combinations for broad-shouldered, low-body fat athletes, not for narrow-shouldered pundits), I feel like Gozer the Gozerian reincarnated as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man when I waddle down Ventura Blvd. 

Much of Democrats' feelings of superiority are tied into the observation that Red States are generally fatter than Blue States. But, that's a lot like the popular Red State - Blue State IQ hoax that went around after the 2004 election: Blacks and Latinos simply aren't considered in the average white Democrat's mental picture of why Democrats are better. Moreover, among whites in Red States, Republicans tend to be better educated and, likely, skinnier.

On the other hand, Republicans are more likely to be married. As comedian Emo noted back in the 1980s: "My sister and her husband just found out they haven't been legally married for the last ten years because the minister who married them was a fraud. It's really sad. Now, she'll have to lose all that weight."

So, it's hard to say for sure. There's probably something in the GSS about this. Joseph Fried's book on Republicans and Democrats says that the weight of evidence suggests that Democrats are a little fatter, but it's probably a pretty close run thing.


Anonymous said...

I remember The Atlantic posting a map showing higher-obesity areas in deeper shades of red (I think it was red). It took a commenter to point out how well that map corresponded to a map showing black population density.

I bet an IQ map would show the same thing.

But, of course, Occam's Butterknife...

Anonymous said...

Among the affluent, liberals are slimmer than conservatives. For one thing, more liberals are into trendy fashions, which means narcissism, and narcissistic people try to look good. More conservative women become mothers, and after having kids, lots of women fatten up. And since they have a man and don't socialize at clubs and parties as much, they care less about their looks.
Also, there are more libs who are vegans and macrobiotic seaweed eaters.

Among blacks and white trash, they is all fat.

Neil Templeton said...

Other than to observe that the radical left cohort appears to exhibit "tail area" levels of ectomorphic traits compared to the general population, I have little to contribute.

jody said...

about 90% of africans who do vote in the US, vote democrat. and africans are the heaviest group. mexicans next. probabaly 65% of them vote democrat, and they're second heaviest. the fattest guy in america was this guy until recently:

and the fattest man in the world was this guy until recently:

so, bam. 1 2 punch for the haughty democrats.

i agree with steve that when it comes time for liberals to pat themselves on the back, they almost always exclude any group from any consideration except conservative europeans. you can see this when they attack conservatives for being religious. it's totally incongruous, as two of the most reliable democrat voters are seriously religious. africans tend to be honest to goodness hallelujah christian nutcases, and mexicans are strongly catholic.

liberals even employ specific language to describe their targets. "the religious right" and "conservative christians". it's code for euro americans. all other groups are free to be as religiously preposterous and outspoken as they want, without drawing any ire from the liberals.

very few africans or mexicans are liberals. they vote democrat. there is a big difference. but if the question is phrased "republicans or democrats", then the answer is, democrats are fatter.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Like the 2nd commenter, I suspect that you'd have to control for variables like family size. Adults with children have less time to spend at the gym than singletons, and conservative whites are more likely to be parents.

Extreme obesity is another matter. I'd wager that among whites, Republicans are more likely to be extremely obese than Democrats, but overall Democrats are worse.

Consider that blacks are 13% of the voting population and Demcratic-voting Hispanics about 5-6%, meaning that 19%/50%, or 38%, of the Democratic Party is NAM. There may be a lot of white trash Republicans, but they ain't 38% of the GOP. Not all white trash are Republicans.

jody said...

this question isn't much different than the militant gay guy on the other thread who tried to claim that most of the likely HIV patients in the US were upper class sophisticated gay men who were 35% tax bracket earners by day and casual sexers by night. they were clearly the superior group, as dumb homophobe rednecks barely made enough money to even enter a tax bracket.

note who the gay guy attacked: low income euro americans. probably under the assumption that all poor whites are conservative voters. even that's a shaky assumption, as plenty of low earning blue collar euro americans continue to vote democrat. despite all evidence that the democrat party has not represented the interests of "the little guy" for about 30 years and in fact not only direct attacks this group of blue collar voters, because they're euro americans, but has now declared to have openly moved past these voters. but that's another topic.

he was so focused on attacking who he sees as "the enemy", that he skips reality. in reality far more HIV cases are bi or gay africans who have no money. they contribute almost nothing to the tax base, while drawing large sums out in social services. germane to the topic, for STD treatment, including HIV treatment.

when it's time for an election, liberals LOVE african voters. that reliable 90% is nice, nice, nice. don't really even have to campaign for that. but when it's time for "who's better?", then liberals can't kick out the africans fast enough. "Give us your votes then disappear. You don't even exist."

agnostic said...

GSS says no difference. The question INTRWGHT is the interviewer's subjective appraisal of the respondent's weight.

Restricting it to whites, and even whites who graduated high school, there's no visible difference among liberals, moderates, and conservatives (POLVIEWS).

Not even a difference in variance, like maybe liberals are more likely in the fat and skinny parts of the distribution. The three political groups show up at similar rates in the below avg, avg, somewhat above avg, and considerably above avg weight classes.

Anonymous said...

If we're talking about the neck, its definitively the Democrats.

agnostic said...

Looking at whites with 2+ kids gives a pattern, though.

Rates are similar across political groups for being "considerably" above avg weight. Moderates may be a little under-represented at below avg weight.

But liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to be in the avg class, and less likely to be in the above avg class.

So the stereotype of slimmer liberals shows up -- but only when you look at whites with 2+ kids.

If conservatives were more likely to be married and raising kids, and if doing that made you fatter, then conservatives should look fatter when you *ignore* number of kids. Yet it doesn't.

Who knows what it is, but something about raising 2+ kids makes liberals slimmer than conservatives in the same family situation.

Maybe conservatives are more likely to ease parental stress by indulging in fattening vices like pizza, chips, beer, soda, and sweets, while liberals take up coffee, cigarettes, wine (much lower in carbs), and other things that are closer to what we call drugs.

But again, you got me.

Anonymous said...

There are 22000 freshman at Harvard College. Not a single one is fat. They vote maybe 90% for Obama.

Jason Malloy said...

The variables in the GSS are PARTYID, where respondents rate themselves on an eight point scale from Strong Democrat to Strong Republican, and INTRWGHT, where the interviewer rates the weight of the respondent on a four point scale from 'below average' to 'considerably above average'. The sample is restricted to whites.

The average rating is 2.22 with a SD of .62. There is not much difference between the parties; few people were rated "considerably above average", but it described 7.3% of Strong Democrats and 3.7% of Strong Republicans. However I also looked at the variable POLVIEWS where respondents rate themselves from very conservative to very liberal, and there is no "fat tail" (as it were) for strong liberals.

Steiner said...

"...I feel like Gozer the Gozerian..." LOL

I am Vinz Clortho...are you the Gatekeeper?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

I sorted the CDC data in an Excel table by the first column ("Neither overweight nor obese" - a bmi of < 25.0).

9 of the bottom 10 states, which had ideal weight rates from 29.7-33.2%, voted for McCain in 2008. Significantly, there didn't seem to be dramatic increases in the population in the ideal weight range as the NAM shares of these states' populations fell off. 8 of the 10 states with the highest share in the ideal range (all but Utah and Idaho) voted for Obama.

D.C. had the highest share in the ideal weight range, at 48.2%.

By quintile:
States 1-10: 8 voted for Obama
States 11-20: 8 for Obama
States 21-30: 6 for Obama
States 31-40: 5 for Obama
States 41-50: 1 for Obama

Of the 20 states with the lowest share in the ideal range, 14 voted for McCain. Higher numbers of NAMs may explain some of the difference, but certainly not all.

If it's any consolation, the difference between the 11th fittest state (California, 38.7%) and the 41st (Texas, 33.2%) is only 5.5%.

ziel said...

Looks like the GSS only asked about weight in 2004 - the interviewer was asked to give an assessment from 1 to 4 of the respondent's weight (Below Average, Average, Somewhat Above Average, Considerably Above Average).

Looking at the averages for whites that year by party affiliation we get (higher number means fatter respondent):

Democrat: 2.25
Independent: 2.18
Republican: 2.23

Doesn't seem to be much significant difference.

ziel said...

For the GSS Weight value, almost 70% of respondents were rated "average", so it's probably not finely grained enough to have shown any significant differences by party.

However the difference by race was substantial, with whites scored at 2.22 and blacks at 2.36. The s.d. for whites was .62 and for blacks .682.

ziel said...

Looks like the GSS only asked about weight in 2004 - the interviewer was asked to give an assessment from 1 to 4 of the respondent's weight (Below Average, Average, Somewhat Above Average, Considerably Above Average).

Looking at the averages for whites that year by party affiliation we get (higher number means fatter respondent):

Democrat: 2.25
Independent: 2.18
Republican: 2.23

Doesn't seem to be much significant difference.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ jody "he was so focused on attacking who he sees as "the enemy", that he skips reality."


In general, they see themselves as rulers. The blacks and the Mexicans - they think - have accepted that and don't trouble them. They can let them be as fat and religious as they like, because they are now under control. (They aren't, of course, but they are under control in Washington, which is what white liberals think counts for everything. The rest of the world is just a video game.) The 16% of Americans that are True Liberals, according to Pew, are suspicious and competitive with all others for cultural hegemony and worry that they far outnumber them in aggregate. You can observe visible sighs of relief when they realise the guy with the truck and the guns is a union man.

They are paranoid. They see themselves as surrounded by ignorant white people who are competitors.

Dahinda said...

"Blacks and Latinos simply aren't considered in the average white Democrat's mental picture of why Democrats are better."
They are not considered too often in race discussions either. Most discourse on race in this country is just a bunch of white people discussing and arguing the subject.

ben tillman said...

Among the affluent, liberals are slimmer than conservatives.

No, among the affluent people WHOM YOU KNOW the liberals are slimmer than the conservatives.

Jeff W. said...

Fried's book has all sorts of comparative data about Republicans and Democrats, but leaves out the key difference, which is cultural. The different cultures are shown on this map.

American Culture Zones

The light yellow and green on this map are the Democrats, purple and dark yellow are Republicans.

Kevin Phillips, when he wrote "The Emerging Republican Majority" in 1969, showed a clear understanding of this. Phillips had a background in practical politics which Fried seems to lack.

Maya said...

Well to do, educated, trendy people with varied hobbies tend to be slimmer. Lower income folk with simpler interests and fewer demands on life tend to be chunkier. Higher class women tend to breast feed more often than the working class moms which helps a lot with losing the baby weight. Of course, gym memberships, running races for various charities and interests in skiing, snowboarding, hiking, tennis and golf help a lot. I've known people of different political leanings, and of various classes, and I believe that the predictor is class, not politics.

Yeah, and NAAFA is an alternative civil rights organization that sees itself as hip, pro self-esteem, anti-patriarchy type of an organization... I don't know where I'm going with this, just saying...

Ed said...

You pretty much figured this out in another post. Working class, or lower income, white people now vote overwhelmingly Republican. Non-white lower income people vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

And lower income people are now more prone to obesity. So in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, where the lower income areas are non-white, obesity and Democratic voting will correlate. That doesn't work as well for state by state comparisons across the nation, because of a number of poor rural largely white states.

CJ said...

"I remember The Atlantic posting a map showing higher-obesity areas..."

It's not the Atlantic, but there is an excellent page of obesity and diabetes maps here:

Obesity in America - Maps

Matt said...

Republicans and Conservatives are not quite the same thing.

I'd expect Conservatives to be thinner if conscientiousness is important in staying thin. Relative to self described Liberals, self described Conservatives report greater conscientiousness (along with lower interest in novelty and a focus more on considerate, socially appropriate and moral behaviour relative to compassionate feelings).

On the other hand, if the probably more plausible (and frankly more medically respectable) hypothesis is true, that any impact by personality variables is more than outweighed by the fact that obesity is primarily a metabolic disorder caused by consuming nutritionally damaging foods due to poverty and underwritten by random genetic differences in metabolism (whether we agree its "bad fats" or "bad carbs"), then Conservatives could end up fatter.

SFG said...

"So the stereotype of slimmer liberals shows up -- but only when you look at whites with 2+ kids."

Cross-correlate with location? I suspect you're running into regional differences here.

Anonymous said...

Democrats are fatter in the wallet. Most SWPL, most Jews, and most upper wasps are Democrats.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Whites with 2+ children.

If we are talking about 2-parent families, with the children over 8 years old, I don't think there's enough of a pool of Democrats to get a good measurement. Nationally perhaps.

Think about it. How many do you know?

Bostonian said...

"Churchgoers have higher tendency to be overweight, study reveals" (Google to find article).

I don't know if this tendency, combined with the positive correlation of church attendance with voting Republican, outweighs higher obesity in blacks and Hispanics.

alonzo portfolio said...

I caddy at the San Francisco Golf Club, where the richest of the semi-idle rich play. These people, many the great-grandsons of 19th-century industrial figures, are SLIM SLIM SLIM. Also generally quite tall. I understand, though, that they're not numerous enough to affect these stats. Going to Stanford seems to be taken for granted.

Sam said...

Weight is an SWPL status marker , so Democrats are probably thinner.

Otherwise, weight would not be used as a status marker.

Lawyer Zhivago said...

"Churchgoers have higher tendency to be overweight, study reveals"

How about a workout church? Aerobics for Jesus.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen: white liberals are probably overall a bit thinner than white conservatives, but not by some staggering margin. It also differs a bit by gender. Conservative men are more likely to be fat than conservative women, and liberal women are a bit chunkier than their male counterparts.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"Democrats are fatter in the wallet. Most SWPL, most Jews, and most upper wasps are Democrats."

Funny - when Republicans were richer, having the rich in their party proved that Republicans were greedy. Now that the rich have shifted towards the Dems, its proof that Democrats are more enlightened.

Anonymous said...

Another point would be to compare Conservatives and Liberals to people of the same age.

Conservatives are somewhat older as a group than Liberals, so to some extent it's like comparing, say, physical fitness between the groups.

If you didn't take this into account you might see that Conservatives were less physically fit than Liberals when that might not be true matched for age.

Anonymous said...

"Roll into the kitchen Diabeto"

Spread Eagle said...

I don't know about the fat thing, but one thing I noticed long ago is that white heterosexual males who self-identify as liberals or progressive almost always have some serious "mommy" issues going on. As Rush Limbaugh once noted, real men don't vote for liberals.

Anonymous said...

This is true but alas I'm not a big defender of the south. There are plenty of states that Republicans do better on the stats than south. In fact, some states like Utah, Wyomng, and even Montana have less female headed households than Texas and so forth. In fact, New Mexico has slightly less of a percent of female headed households than Texas. New Mexico black population is lucky to make 2 percent but its hispanic population is higher as a percent of the population. So, Texas is in some ways the worst of both worlds. It still has enough of a black population with lots of hispanics while California's black population has dropped. In fact, being fat among whites in California varries little .White women in the Bay Area live the same years as White Women in Orange County around

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Another question is to what extent conservatives and liberals diverge in their relative muscle mass, perhaps due to exercise regimens. BMI, the most common measure of obesity (and the one used in the CDC table linked above), does not consider relative amounts of muscle mass vs. body fat. It's variable inputs are only height and weight (BMI=height/weight^2). I do a fair amount of weightlifting, but my BMI categorizes me as (just barely) overweight. In general, however, BMI actually underpredicts obesity when compared to body fat measurements. One study found over twice as many men were obese as predicted by BMI.

The conservative/liberal dichotomy reveals itself in a lot of surprising ways, differences in approaches to exercise possibly among them. To me the average shopper in Whole Foods looks dangerously skinny.

Mercy Vetsel said...

"So the stereotype of slimmer liberals shows up -- but only when you look at whites with 2+ kids."

Actually, this is where it gets really interesting.

Looking at whites with two kids, LIBERALS are thinner than CONSERVATIVES BUT...

by the same degree REPUBLICANS are thinner than DEMOCRATS (R=-0.06)

Of course when you look at people with one child, liberals are MUCH fatter (R=-0.20), so limiting to a specific number of children probably just makes the sample size too small.


R = fat & conservative/Republican

Filters: partyid(0-6), year(2000-2010), race(1), childs(2)

corvinus said...

There seems to be a stereotype that women who have kids are fatter than those who don't. Actually, I'd say that if anything, the reverse is true. Every woman I've met who has had a large family doesn't seem to be all that large in weight. In fact, a few I know are quite slim -- and they're in their 50s right now with the grandkids rolling in. OTOH, I know several overweight to obese liberal women who are childless.

Anonymous said...

Democrats should be fatter.

Natural athletes are fatter than the rest of the population and natural athletes flock to the democratic party.

Kristoff said...

Maybe fat people become conservative in the same way that the fox claimed that the higher grapes were sour. They get upset about sex on TV and in music because it reminds them of all of the sex with beautiful young people that they no longer have access to.

People tend to get uglier as they get older. In industrial nations, they get fatter as they age, too. Their bodies start to atrophy and they get the feeling that civilisation is atrophying as well. Selective memory gives them the notion that things were better years ago.