February 22, 2016

News for Cruz: Culture war doesn't play back East, even with evangelicals

One of the most refreshing outcomes of the South Carolina exit polls was that Trump won handily over Cruz with evangelicals, reversing his loss among that group to Cruz in Iowa (really the only group there that he didn't win with).

A hilariously poorly researched article at -- where else? -- National Review attributes Trump's success with Southern evangelicals to their lower rates of church attendance, while Cruz does better with the supposedly more frequent attenders in the Plains states.

One problem: the Bible Belt is in the Southeast, not the Plains. The blog poster (a Millennial) only alludes to "data compiled by the Association of Religious Data Archives" to support his claim that the Bible Belt is in the Plains, and that "When it comes to church participation, many parts of the South fare no better than liberal enclaves in in the Northeast".

Data from the General Social Survey show what everyone already knows, that the Southeast is the Bible Belt, and the Plains less so.* Even casual browsing of the Wikipedia entry on religion in America provides not only a map but also a table of values showing that the Southeast is indeed the Bible Belt, with the Plains states coming in a distinct second place. Here's the map of attendance:

Here is a map of "adherents," meaning those who are simply affiliated with a church, regardless of how frequently they attend services:

Now it is the Plains states that are in the lead -- but not for attendance. In the Religious Congregations & Membership Study, "adherents" include children, and fertility rates are higher in the Plains states, so it's possible that their higher level of "adherents" is simply due to larger family sizes there compared to the crowded Southeast.

The bogus narrative about Trump only winning among fair-weather evangelicals was meant by the lazy NR blog poster to suggest that Trump's religious supporters, like Trump himself, are weak Christians at best. They may identify with a church, but do not attend often.

No shock that NR is dead wrong yet again about Trump's supporters. You don't find more frequent church-attenders than in the Southeast. If anything, it's the evangelicals in the Plains who are more into Christianity theoretically than in the butts-in-pews manner -- part of the general airy-fairy mentality out west of the Mississippi River.

The thumping that Trump gave Cruz in a state seemingly tailored to his evangelical appeal reveals a divide within evangelicals that we see within the general population, religious or not. Folks back East are more pragmatic, emphasize common sense (along with religion, in the South), feel more secure in their environments, and generally have their social and emotional needs met. Southerners are famously cheerful.

This makes them less susceptible to the razzle-dazzle charms and incantations of a snake oil salesman from out West, where folks are more idealistic, prize the counter-intuitive over common sense, feel insecure in their environments, where they're prepping for the apocalypse, and are more loners and paranoids who are socially and emotionally starved (and not stereotyped as always full of good cheer). That group is ripe for being spellbound by a cult guru like Cruz.

For evangelicals back East, church life is part of overall social life. They don't try to make such a big show about it any more than they do about their family lives, however intensely they may be involved in both. Because they see their family and community lives enduring healthily into the future, they see their church life doing so as well. It's not very apocalyptic, where the ways of the world are on the verge of being turned upside-down.

Evangelicals out West, on the other hand, could not act more holier-than-thou, self-righteous, and vainglorious. It's not so much a part of their social lives (which are not as rich as they are in the Deep South), as it is part of their personal or household-level preparation for the apocalypse. The federal gubmint is out to get you, Satan or the Anti-Christ is out to get you, somebody or other is just around the corner, ready to unleash all Hell upon Earth. Time to prepare for basic survival and the final moral judgment, lest you perish in the imminent chaos.

This also relates to the difference between status contests based on career striving vs. lifestyle striving, where folks out West make a bigger contest out of their lifestyles, while those back East focus more on their careers. Going to church, and carrying out various other religious practices, falls under lifestyle. And just as athletic people in the Southeast don't preen about some overly complicated fitness routine, the evangelicals are less likely than they are out West to treat religion as a battleground for one-upping their rivals in the status contest.

Cruz and his cult are in for a rude awakening when they cross the Mississippi, if they think their apocalyptic freak-out happenings are going to play with the local audiences, just because the preacher has a slight drawl. Texas is not part of the South, any more than Minnesota is part of the Northeast. Southerners are too polite and hospitable to break the Texans' hearts directly, but they're not going to extend their sympathy when it comes to the voting booth, where they're sending the Cruz cult a loud and clear signal to don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha.

* The GSS uses Census regions, where "South Atlantic" includes Maryland down through Florida, so to estimate Georgia and South Carolina we simply bump the numbers up a bit since Maryland and Florida are less frequent attenders. And "East South Central" is Deep South already -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. The Plains states fall under West North Central and West South Central.


  1. Not to nitpick, but East Texas behind the "pine curtain" is part of the South, though once you get to Dallas and Houston you are in the epicenters of lifestyle striving

  2. The snake-oil salesmen, as you know, are almost entirely an East Coast phenomenon. Yankee psychosis.

    We don't want any more New Englanders and Northeasterners--but oddly, they keep coming here.

    Funny how that keeps working out.

  3. MN is part northern, part western. The Mississippi is a good divider.

    Saint Paul is a northern city. Feels like Cincinnati or Milwaukee. Minneapolis is western. Very Denver/Portland/Seattle like. The difference as you cross the river is palpable.

    Duluth and the range are pure rust belt. Southern and western rural MN are indistinguishable from Iowa ortheDakotas.

  4. Besides weirdo Mormons in Utah, all the states with the highest Church attendance are in the South. Gallup did a poll which showed the Top 10 are:

    1. Utah 51%
    2. Mississippi 47%
    3. Alabama 46%
    4. Louisiana 46%
    5. Arkansas 45%
    6. South Carolina 42%
    7. Tennesseee 42%
    8. Kentucky 41%
    9. North Carolina 40%
    10. Texas/Georgia/ 39%

    This survey shows that the religiosity of Texas shows it has a lot of Southern spirit, Dallas and also Albilene are sometimes called the Buckle of the Bible Belt. To add on to Marcus, Texas is at the border of the South and the Southwest, it's true. But it still just as Southern as Kentucky and Florida, and certainly more Southern than Maryland. 57% of 1,135 Southerners voted that Texas was part of the South, while Virginia only got about 50%. Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee praised Texas and Texans multiple times, and Texas was part of the CSA.

    Texas does have more of a libertarian streak than most Southeastern states. But it is also a lot less libertarian than all of the states West of it. It's in between the South and the Southwest, which is why there's some sort of event named something like that in Austin.

  5. "The snake-oil salesmen, as you know, are almost entirely an East Coast phenomenon."

    Out West. How else are you all popping so many pills, gulping down so many cleansing smoothies, locating your chakras, etc etc etc.? Not to mention all the cults that only flourish out West.

    "We don't want any more New Englanders and Northeasterners--but oddly, they keep coming here."

    And even more are leaving the West Coast than are coming in. Your only real population draw is from squat, dark, peasants of the Third World.

    The new place to be is the Mountain states, not the sinking West Coast.

    BTW, you said before that you've spent time in both regions -- are you a native West Coaster or Back Easter?

  6. "57% of 1,135 Southerners voted that Texas was part of the South"

    So it's the cultural version of a pity-fuck. Can you imagine going into a Deep Southern state, surrounded by Deep Southerners who look askance at your "Texas Tough" t-shirt, and then lecturing them about "Actually, I have a Gallup citation showing that 57% of you guys believe I'm a Southerner"?

    You'd never stop hearing their laughter.

    Why are Texans so insecure about not being Southerners? Just own the frontier identity, or don't own an identity at all.

    The NR moron did not mention Texas specifically -- he said the true Bible Belt was the Plains states rather than the Southeast. He's dead wrong. Texas is already at the bottom of that top 10, and the rest of the Plains are even farther down (Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, etc.).

  7. I wasn't talking about the NR guy. I'm not saying all of Texas is part of the South either, but that certainly the parts East of Dallas and arguably including Houston, Dallas, and Austin. If you want to say that Texas isn't part of the South anymore, ok, I guess you can argue that. But using that reasoning Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and arguably even Tennesee and North Carolina aren't part of the South either, despite historical ties. Do you know how many Yankees and people from all over have flooded into Virginia, not to mention North Carolina and Florida? That doesn't stop the far Northern part of Florida from being part of the South. My High School's mascot is still a Confederate soldier, but I guess you're going to argue that it's just role playing or whatever. If things continue like they're going it looks like even South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi will be forced to eliminate what little commemoration of their ancestors they have left.

  8. Look, if you agree that Texas was Southern at some point in it's past, but now isn't, that's good enough for me. One point though, in every accent map of the that is meticulously researched has the Eastern half of Texas as having a Southern accent.

  9. I don't agree that Texas was ever Southern.

  10. East Texas, which was the only populous part of the state for a long time, was/is definitely Southern. Texas voted overwhelmingly to secede, no surprise since its settlers were mostly from the South, with many slaveholders.

  11. The Tejanos and especially the pro-Union Germans set Texas apart from the rest of the South, but they were mostly in less-populated central Texas.

  12. Having Southern settlers does not make a place Southern, anymore than having Northern settlers makes it Northern. Out West, the settlers either came from the North or South, but that doesn't stop it from being distinctly "out West".

  13. Right, but east Texas was very "Southernized," and was viewed as integral to the South (plantation economy, etc.), whereas other parts of Texas had many FOB Europeans. As on this map, where the "American" or African-American regions end and German or w/e begins is traditionally the border between E Texas/the South and the West. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.jpg


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