Patterns in politics, liberal, conservative, statist & libertarian

Reading around the web I stumbled upon National Journal‘s ubiquitous ratings of how liberal or conservative various politicians are in the domains of social, economic and foreign policy. Using the 2008 data for the House of Representatives, here are the correlations:

Social Liberal & Economic Liberal = 0.78
Social Liberal & Foreign Liberal = 0.70
Economic Liberal & Foreign Liberal = 0.66

The correlations are rather good, but not perfect. For example, assuming a linear model only 60% of the variation in economic liberalism can be predicted by social liberalism (just square the correlations). Some of this is surely the coarseness of measures Natural Journal is using; but I’m not an idealist in any case about politics insofar as there is a most liberal liberal and most conservative conservative archetype. These ideologies are embedded in the real world.

But I was curious about the residuals, that is, deviation from the trends (which are substantial). Specifically, there are the orthogonal tendencies of libertarianism and statism, which though secondary to the standard Left-Right dynamic, do exist.

I will focus on social & economic liberalism in this analysis and discard foreign policy because I don’t want to deal with other combinations right now. Additionally I am not focusing conservatism simply because it looks like it’s just the perfect inverse, so all you need to do is “change the signs.” No need to repeat. First, a scatterplot of Democrats and Republicans, colored blue and red as usual, in 2008.


I’m sure you’ve seen this diagonal hourglass before. Here is the same with a loess regression fitted to the distribution:



Some of you probably want to know who these points on the dot are. Click the image to the left. What I’m really curious about are the deviations from that line of best fit. The line itself is a standard Left-Right axis which traces the composite social & economic liberal values. But, as you can see, there are many people well above and below where “they should be.” Those above the arc exhibit more statist tendencies insofar as they are more economically liberal than their social views would predict. These would be conservative Republicans who are against free trade, or perhaps Republicans in industrial regions who vote more pro-labor than one would expect. They can also be Democrats who are socially somewhat more conservative due to the downscale demographics of their district. Below the arc are those who are more socially liberal than their economic views would predict. For Democrats these might be “New Democrat” types from professional & entrepreneur loaded districts, as well as Republicans from more libertarian leaning districts.

As it happens it isn’t difficult to extract out the residual values, the deviations, from the trend. In other words, who is the most statist and libertarian. I used a cutoff of 15 units above and below the arc.  Negative values indicate libertarianism, positive values statism.

Representative State District.Number Party Deviation
Paul, Ron Texas 14 R -33.35
Scalise, Steve La. 1 R -28.4
Gonzalez, Charles Texas 20 D -24.12
Hinojosa, Ruben Texas 15 D -22.44
Dreier, David Calif. 26 R -20.92
Brady, Kevin Texas 8 R -20.4
Braley, Bruce Iowa 1 D -20.12
Loebsack, Dave Iowa 2 D -20.12
Nunes, Devin Calif. 21 R -19.65
Jefferson, William La. 2 D -19.12
Berry, Marion Ark. 1 D -18.64
Boyd, Allen Fla. 2 D -18.64
Boyda, Nancy Kan. 2 D -18.64
Ross, Mike Ark. 4 D -18.64
DeGette, Diana Colo. 1 D -18.12
Tauscher, Ellen Calif. 10 D -17.17
Cantor, Eric Va. 7 R -16.8
Cole, Tom Okla. 4 R -16.3
Larsen, Rick Wash. 2 D -16.12
Conaway, Mike Texas 11 R -15.26
McCarthy, Kevin Calif. 22 R -15.22
Bilbray, Brian Calif. 50 R 15.74
Shea-Porter, Carol N.H. 1 D 15.88
Whitfield, Ed Ky. 1 R 15.93
Inglis, Bob S.C. 4 R 16
Hunter, Duncan Calif. 52 R 17.27
Jones, Walter N.C. 3 R 17.93
Turner, Mike Ohio 3 R 17.93
Goode, Virgil Va. 5 R 18
Capuano, Michael Mass. 8 D 18.27
Gordon, Bart Tenn. 6 D 18.53
Rogers, Mike Ala. 3 R 18.93
Rogers, Mike Mich. 8 R 18.93
McCotter, Thaddeus Mich. 11 R 19.4
Forbes, Randy Va. 4 R 20.27
Souder, Mark Ind. 3 R 21
Ackerman, Gary N.Y. 5 D 21.23
Engel, Eliot N.Y. 17 D 21.23
Costello, Jerry Ill. 12 D 21.88
Hayes, Robin N.C. 8 R 21.93
Hinchey, Maurice N.Y. 22 D 29.88
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5 Responses to Patterns in politics, liberal, conservative, statist & libertarian

  1. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Patterns in politics, liberal, conservative, statist & libertarian

  2. Anthony says:

    Interesting that the “moderates” really are moderates, not strong libertarians or statists.

  3. John says:

    Wow. The thing that strikes me about this data is how empty the upper left and lower right quadrants are. Granted, a lot of this is from party and constituent pressure, but I still find it impressive. The foreign policy correlations are almost as strong. (I’m not surprised by the somewhat weaker economic conservative/foreign policy conservative correlation. One of the main things that turned me off to the Libertarian party was what I consider to be naive isolationism.)

    The moral to the story seems to be the fusionism really is the way to go. The GOP candidate for 2012 really should be a conservative on all three axes.

  4. Anthony says:

    Does the GSS or any other large poll have sufficient data to do this for the population at large?

  5. David Hume says:

    Does the GSS or any other large poll have sufficient data to do this for the population at large?

    i think so. but you need to define the questions that would determine that.

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