Death, Freedom, and Cold Winters

July 13th, 2009 by Christian Rudder

First of all, thanks everybody for your comments and emails over the last couple weeks! Just to know that so many people have taken the time to read our writing and question our intelligence is an honor beyond measure.

Today, we’re going to revisit the mapping program from our first post two weeks ago and discuss some new questions we’ve plotted, starting with the below plots.

For anybody who didn’t see our previous map post, Rape-Fantasies and Hygiene By State, these show the responses of OkCupid users to selected user-submitted match questions. States answering “Yes” more often than the national average are greenish; states more often saying “No” are reddish. Yellow states are near the mean yes/no proportion.

Are some human lives worth more than others?

268,864 people have answered

This graph struck me right off because our map-making program is supposed to color the states from solid green to solid red, and there’s no true red on this map. This had Chris and I confused for a while until we realized: the true red is Washington D.C.; you can barely see the little dot there by Virginia. We’d forgotten that our Google Maps API plots D.C. as a separate data set. It’s the most ‘brotherhood of man’ place in America. Weird, huh?

I looked at this graph for a while and realized that the areas more likely to value some lives over others can be generally summarized as follows: it’s the Mountain and Pacific time zones plus the former Confederacy…

OkCupid Rules

Anyhow, let’s compare that first map with this guy:

If you knew for sure you would not get caught,
would you commit murder for any reason?

359,761 people have answered

Despite the fact that it’s located in Minnesota, Minnesota actually seems like a nice place to live. It’s the only state to come out much more humane than average on both charts. On the other hand, North Dakotans are strange: they’re apparently more for the equality of life, but also more for killing. These men are nihilists.

Overall, the Rocky Mountain states are the most into “getting away with murder.” This shouldn’t surprise us, given the results of map #1 and the heavy shit that went down in Cliffhanger:

OkCupid Rules

Now let’s look at a map with broad implications. It’s one of the highest-quality questions in OkCupid’s database, meaning that our users have determined that it’s very important to them in finding the right match:

Rate Your Self-Confidence

581,443 people have answered

Generally speaking, the colder it is, the more likely you are to hate yourself. It’s interesting that every U.S. President since Kennedy has come from a green-tinted state, except for Gerald Ford (Michigan), who was never actually elected anyhow. I’d love to hear any of your theories about this map.

Chris grew up in New England and points out plenty of Mainers are in fact self-confident. But most of them move to New York or die snowmobiling.

I feel like the redness of economically depressed states like Michigan and Pennsylvania is self-explanatory. But why the extreme redness of Vermont? And why is a rich and otherwise successful place like Massachusetts skewing red?

OkCupid Rules

The following was the single most asked-for map, and we’ll publish it, though there aren’t many surprises:

Is homosexuality a sin?

346,925 people have answered

A state’s skew on this question very closely reflects how it voted in the 2008 election. With the exception of Arizona for obvious reasons, the relatively “No” states voted for Obama and the “Yes” ones voted for McCain. The maps for the many abortion questions in our database look very similar to this one, so I won’t post those, but we thought the below question map was probing enough to publish. Again, we see North Dakota’s peculiar take on life and death:

Is it logically inconsistent to support the death penalty but oppose abortion?

115,459 people have answered

Finally, I’ll leave you guys with this map.

Which would you rather lose?

283,859 people have answered

I put this up because the question was interesting and also implies a paradox. If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.

As always, Chris and I are interested in your comments and ideas for other maps and comparisons. We’d like to do the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc., but Google’s chart API doesn’t map regions inside those countries. The whole country would be one color. If anyone can point us to a good solution, please comment below.

167 Responses to “Death, Freedom, and Cold Winters”

  1. T says:

    I’d be fascinated by question 45532, i.e., “Your partner seems to be developing a pattern of verbal abuse toward you. You have already called them on it, but the problem continues to worsen. Which would be closest to your reaction?”

  2. Quivirian says:

    Nice concept, but: Red/green colorblindness is, I believe, the most common variety. Certainly it’s the one that causes me the most trouble, particularly with regard to computer graphics. Could you possibly try something else? Please?

  3. Greg says:

    I don’t buy your interpretation of DC as the most brotherhood of man place, but then, most of the troublemakers there would probably be plotted on their home states. Seriously though, If DC gets to be the outlier, then you should plot every major urban area as its own region.

    Also, I think you ought to have learned something from your first post when your assumption that southerners don’t bathe as much as northerners proved wrong, that you should be less quick to assume you understand the culture and customs of a place based on your local prejudices.

    I live in Texas, which I am surprised to see placing consistently middle of the road on most of the questions you post. But then, it has 3 major urban areas, and habitats that range from sunny beaches to steamy marshes to arid planes to forested hills, includes 3 major urban areas and large populations of every major ethnic group. It is a diverse place. An America in itself.

    I find one of the most consistently interesting places in your maps to be Nevada. It continues to show up as extreme and to stand out from its neighbors.

    I suppose that you are going to have to factor in age soon as a way of making the maps more meaningful. I would expect that your users tend to be younger in most places, internet usage, computer familiarity and an openness to finding dates online all seem more likely to go with youth in my opinion, though I’m 32, so that’s relative. If I’m right, states with a larger population of 18-35 year olds might tend to be better represented in your data. Perhaps if you graphed user age by state you would also see something interesting. I would expect colder states, and states with lower population density to have more older users. I would expect college towns to have more younger users. Answers by younger users indicate the current and future culture of a locality, answers by older users indicate the previous and passing culture of a locality.

  4. Psychopompous says:

    This really is very fascinating stuff… And as great as the breakdown by state is, I would prefer to see more of these broken down my lattitude and logitude as you did with “Should burning your nation’s flag be illegal?” two blogs ago.

    In fact, breaking down by map coordinates might be a workable approach to mapping other countries (like Australia).

    I did want to comment that some of these questions can lead to misleading conclusions if you make assumptions about why people answer them a particular way. When looking at any statistical data, it’s always important to understand the context. The best example here is “Are some human lives worth more than others?”, where there are a lot of different reasons for someone to answer yes.

    Obviously a racist is going to answer “Yes” to this question. That’s fairly obvious, but if you assume that only racists will answer “Yes” to this question, then you run into trouble…

    Personally, I believe that a person’s merit lies in their character and skills. Not everyone is equal, but petty and nasty people are inherently of less value than tolerant and friendly people.

    I know of many people who are financially well-off and look down on the poor. Usually this is related to the reason I expressed above, viewing poor people as lazy and selfish based on fallacious reasoning. More traditionally, the nobility of feudal states in Europe looked down on the poor because they believed that god had made them superior to those people.

    I could go on, but I hope you get the point… You’re on to something with the “Frontiersman mentality”, that your work – how much you contribute to the community (or how well you can survive on your own) determines your worth. It has nothing to do with race or class. It’s not discriminatory, but pragmatic.

  5. nbot says:

    I think the gun control/voting thing says a lot about people. If you were to lose one of these rights, you would presumably be able to use the other right to get the first one back. For example a person losing the right to vote is probably assuming that she will be able to use guns to get that right back. The person more willing to lose his right to bear arms would be able to get that right back without threats or violence – simply by voting for a representative who also supports this cause.

    Anyway, some graphs i’d like to see are:

    is a girl who’s slept w/ 100 guys a bad person? vs is a guy who’s slept with 100 girls a bad person?

    do you have a problem with racist jokes?

    do you think women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved?

    Which describes you better? weird/normal

    what’s more important? world/country

  6. kb says:

    maybe the gun lovers figure if they have the guns, the gun haters can’t do anything to them. frontier spirit and confederacy…..

  7. YSK says:

    I am red-green color blind too and I can’t make sense of these maps either. Please use other colors.

  8. John Thacker says:

    “This map is also surprising because a lot of the places you think would be red, aren’t. The Northeast isn’t much more into equality than the national average, and many of what we think of as liberal states are actually green. I thought about this a bit and realized that the areas more likely to value some lives over others”

    You should also realize that for some people (such as in SC), “valuing some lives over others” is going to be perceived as an abortion issue.

  9. blah says:

    “If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.”

    And then they’d shoot you.

  10. BarrySanders20 says:

    You asked “Is it logically inconsistent to support the death penalty but oppose abortion?”

    I would love to see and compare the results of the opposite question: “Is it logically inconsistent to support abortion but oppose the death penalty?

    Then we can see if people are consistent or inconsistent, depending on which issue they support. Perhaps only those who oppose both, like me, will answer consistently (and the consistent answer, of course, is “no.”)

  11. vimspot says:

    these charts are awesome. I’d love to see major cities isolated from their state, I think you’d see some fascinating differentiation between Austin/Houston/Dallas and even New York City and the rest of New York. It would also be fun to see what cultural differences there are between LA and San Fran, as I would guess there to be.

  12. Max M says:

    That last question about losing the right to vote : I wonder if the you guys mean that I would “personally” get to choose for myself as an individual, or whether I’d be choosing for the population as a whole. In other words, do I give up my personal right to vote or use guns – or am I choosing one or the other option for everyone? This is critical because the personal choice is dead obvious (your personal “right to vote” is nearly worthless in a country with so many voters) while the system-wide choice is much less clear.

  13. Jim says:

    “I put this up because the question was interesting and also implies a paradox. If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.”

    Funny thing is as long as the people have guns they won’t lose the right to vote. Give up your Second Amendment and sooner or later someone will take away the rest of them.

  14. JOe says:

    D.C. as the most ‘brotherhood of man’ place? Be serious, D.C. is simply where people are most willing to lie to say the politically correct thing – that is what representative democracy is all about after all.

    And your comment on the Right to Bear Arms versus a Right to Vote as a paradox? Only if you don’t believe in rights. A majority of voters can not legitimately interfere in any actual rights, so your statement that voters could pass gun control would only be true in a totalitarian society that does not respect rights. The whole idea of rights vis-à-vis government is that they represent a sphere wherein the government cannot legitimately interfere – regardless of what a majority wants the government to do.

  15. Kat says:

    The “Which would you rather lose, the right to vote or the right to bear arms” question is not well constructed. Either one could be used to secure the other. If, as you say, those with the right to vote could vote in “real” gun control (is that gun control that actually keeps guns out of the hands of criminals, but in the hands of law-abiding citizens like us skinny women who can’t fight off a rapist bare-handed?), those same people could also vote to secure the right to bear arms. Likewise, those with the right to bear arms could stage a revolution, thus securing their right to vote.

    The original intent of the question’s author may have been to assume that one could not be used to secure the other, that it would be an artificial either-or. If you think that’s the case, maybe the question should be re-worded.

  16. Tom says:

    I’d much rather lose my right to vote than to bear arms.

    This way, once the government becomes a monarchy, we can all use our weapons that we saved from confiscation and dismantling to overthrow the new government.

  17. Tomás says:

    I really enjoy your stat plots, but think your interpretation of the right to firearms vs. right to vote is beyond the parameter of the question. An earlier poster compared it to “would rather lose your right to vote and then right to firearms or just your right to firearms”, and I think that hits it pretty succinctly. Sorry to dissect an off-hand remark so much, I really appreciate your insight, but just thought your own politics showed too much there. 😉

    On a similar note, would it be possible to change to add an option to the gay marriage/homosexuality and abortion questions? Myself, and many others, are *personally* socially conservative, but find moral policing by govt. reprehensible.

    I like the by county idea someone else mentioned, but I’m thinking it might be too much for you guys? It would be really cool though. Especially if you have an option where you can view the nation by county, or just by state and view counties just by each state, so you can see the aggregate, but also switch back to normal view to not make the map look so “busy” with all those county lines.

  18. Clint says:

    Well, you could try to map the EU as one country (In most ways it’s more the the USA than most Europeans think anyway)

  19. Seb Renauld says:

    For the data mapping for the UK, use the first two letters of the postcode to aggregate. This will give you data by postal counties, usually equivalent to communes (for example, BSxx xyy where x are numerical, y are alpha, would be the area of Bristol).
    From there, I think you’ll need to display the data differently (and do a bit of JS work yourself instead of using a ready-made google control). The best way to go around would be to map 1 1AA of each district with a coloured marker, and shade the district area (using a polygon). That’s how I’d do it at first, at least.

  20. El Keter says:

    Massachusetts is neither rich nor successful. Joblessness is rampant. The economy is in the toilet. Much of the state lives below the poverty line. It’s full of post-industrial towns and cities where drug use is rampant. And the state treats its poor, disenfranchised, minorities and immigrants pretty shittily. A prime example of what I’m talking about is our health care system. People across the state are too poor to afford health insurance, so what does the state do? They pass a law requiring everybody to have health insurance. No, they don’t pass a law that GIVES everybody health insurance. They pass a law that REQUIRES the very people who can’t afford health coverage to BUY IT or pay a fine to the state! If you lived in a state that treated you like that you’d have a low opinion of yourself too! I won’t even get into the tax burden placed on normal citizens who have to go without services because the state spent billions on the big dig. Nor will I mention the recently passed sales tax hikes specifically targeting basic necessities, food, and small luxuries like alcohol. Oh wait…I just did, because they’re all reasons for residents of Massachusetts to hate themselves. The only good thing we have going here is Gay marriage, and even that just gets us singled out for special hatred by conservatives from across the country. It’s pretty tough being from Massachusetts.

  21. simple_seeker says:

    This could readily be achieved utilizing SharpMap and ASP.NET webservices. Just store all your country\state outlines in a geodatabase like postgres or mysql or just as shapefiles. Then write a simple renderer which would produce a choropleth map based upon joins to your attribute tables. Sharpmap produces images which you could even just store to display on the website, and runs in mono with some adjustments since I believe your organization primarily uses Linux?

  22. Bosco Bozo says:

    Another on color blindness. They suggest viewing graphics in grayscale to ensure that the color blind can distinguish them.

  23. Mark says:

    Vermonters have low self confidence because it is very economically depressed here and even organic farming doesn’t pay very well.

  24. Mark says:

    Have you been to western Massachusetts recently, Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee are very dangerous cities with no job prospects. Another gift from selling out our manufacturing base in the 60’s.

  25. demented_pants says:

    It’s interesting that every U.S. President since Kennedy has come from a green-tinted state, except for Gerald Ford (Michigan), who was never actually elected anyhow. I’d love to hear any of your theories about this map.

    Are you grouping Obama with Illinois or Hawaii? Because I notice that Hawaii isn’t green.

  26. Pingback: Cool graphs of geographic variation in attitudes, based on non-random samples but still interesting | DodaPedia

  27. OnlySlightlySnarky says:

    Regarding this question: Is it logically inconsistent to support the death penalty but oppose abortion?

    Being from the area, I was a little surprised to see that Kansas and Colorado were so green. I think we have to consider the possibility that folks around here don’t really understand the phrase “logically inconsistent”. It’s more likely that the only parts of the question that actually registered were “support the death penalty” and “oppose abortion”, upon the reading of which they stopped thinking and reflexively clicked “yes”.

    Either that, or those folks don’t need OKC to help them get dates. 😉

  28. Bigmaple says:

    Interesting that Vermont with the least strict gun laws is also more willing to give those guns up to vote. Oddly, we have relatively little gun violence given the high per capita of gun ownership.

  29. jon says:

    the death penalty is _always_ administered by the state; other similar behavior is labelled “murder.” and abortion does not meet this criteria, whether or not you’d call it murder. so it cannot be logically inconsistent: you only need oppose the state in all its forms to admit that both abortion and other similar endeavours in the lethal use of force are consistent, morally and philosophically.

    second: you do not understand the nature of “the right to bear arms,” nor voting. voting is an act of force; it has the same essential nature as its more overt relatives, armed revolution included. it does not matter what laws you write — armed and free americans will still “vote.”

    it just won’t be so easy to clean up afterwards anymore.

  30. Tony says:

    I agree that the gun control question is very poorly thought out. Needs to be re-worded to create two mutually exclusive answers. Voting can secure guns, guns can secure voting. And the reverse is true. I don’t remember how I answered, but I remember thinking the question was very ignorant.

  31. NerdySouth says:

    I take offense to the insinuation that the “Is one human life worth more than another” results in former Confederate states are based on racism. Why does the west coast get a pass with “remnants of the frontier spirit” but it is implied that folks around here are still dreaming of segregation? I can say with certainty that people in the south value their independence at least as much as those in your frontier spirit western states.

    I think if you were to ask *which* human lives are worth more than others you’d get a much clearer picture. Having spent most of my life in the south, and the rest of it in the west, I’d expect the most common answers from both regions to be “mine” and “those of my family.” Race doesn’t come into the picture until after that, and this becomes especially evident when your family is not all of the same race.

  32. John says:

    The self-confidence chart is pretty easy to explain, no? Looks to me like there’s a pretty strong correlation between your opinion of yourself and your geographic likelihood of keeping up a suntan for the better part of the year.

  33. iduru says:

    sadly all of this makes me realy ashamed of where I live (Florida) and realy want to go back to where I grew up (Minnesota)…but thanks can’t wait until we get access to this and the “flowchart of love”!!

  34. Phoenix says:

    Wow, =MOST= colorblind-hostile graphs I have seen in my life. Just… wow.

  35. Phoenix says:

    For those who may be red-green color blind like me, here is the page with blue and green swapped:
    (yes, jpg, what can you do? At least you can read the graphs now)

    Why the entire page instead of just the maps? I’m CRAZY lazy.

  36. Shawn says:

    I don’t have anything to add to the discussion, but goddam are these fascinating.

  37. Court says:

    I’d love to see one of the many marijuana legality related questions graphed. Though I imagine it would be very similar to the homosexuality sin map.

  38. Bryan Quigley says:

    Google Maps.. c’mon..
    I’m not entirely sure but give this a try.

    Give a try to some OpenGEO technologies,
    The power behind OpenStreetMap

    Take a look at (for examples):

    At the very least they should allow greater customizability. Hope this helps. To Great Maps!

  39. JK Matthews says:

    So, when do we get to use our answer data to search for the state/city that most agrees with us? I’d love to be able to pick my new home based upon largest number of high-compatability mates/friends/enemies!

  40. Feargus says:

    “I put this up because the question was interesting and also implies a paradox. If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.”

    Your paradox relies on violating the presupposition. Unless you intend to only pass gun control legislation on those who chose to keep their voting rights over their gun rights.

    Besides, your vote doesn’t mean a damn thing if you can’t make those in power acknowledge it (see: Iran).

  41. Pingback: Concerning the Value of Human Life « Cartastrophe

  42. Morten says:

    To whomever made these maps. Here’s a really interesting discussion on the above maps and how misleading they can be:

  43. WhizzMan says:

    The self confidence has nothing to do with the temperature, but with the amount of sunlight year-round. It’s a well known fact that countries closer to the poles have higher depression and suicide rates. Most interesting is that even the most northern states already show a significant difference. Imagine what Europe’s figures are, I’d love to see those compared with this.

  44. WhitneyR says:

    I’d be careful trying to generalize from state-by-state differences among OKCupid users to state-by-state differences among the general population.

    OKCupid users in one state might occupy a really different niche relative to the rest of their state than OKCupid users in another state. Maybe in one state, OKCupid users are pretty representative of 20-45 year olds in their state, while in another state OKCupid users might skew older and more male than their state-mates (e.g., middle-age married guys looking to cheat on their spouses). In yet another state, OKCupid users could be mostly 20somethings looking to make platonic friends or do casual dating.

    I know that I heard about OKCupid in the last month from two female friends of mine who are both single 20/30-somethings with PhDs in social science in coastal cities. I think the social network elements are strong in shaping the demographics of the OKCupid clientele, and I could see these varying a lot by geography. I’d love to see you do a state-by-state (or metro-area specific) description of the demographics of OKCupid users relative to the general populations of their states (or metro-areas).

  45. trnslationlost says:

    “Despite the fact that it’s located in Minnesota, Minnesota actually seems like a nice place to live. It’s the only state to come out much more humane than average on both charts.”

    Ha ha! I’ve had New Yorkers and Danes visit here and be very pleasantly surprised. I also have travelled to their cities and many others. Everytime I’m flying back I think, “That was great, but it still made me even more proud of Minneapolis.” We’re the “last cool city”, as my friends and I say.

  46. Kralizec says:

    It may already have been said, but the OKCupid members who say they would choose to lose the right to vote rather than lose the right to keep and bear arms probably have this in mind: If they have guns, together they can recover the right to vote, but if they have the vote but are without guns, they can’t even keep the right to vote.

    As for the relation between latitude and confidence, I think one should look into vitamin D deficiency in the northerly latitudes. OKCupid keeps a timestamp for the occasion on which a question was last answered, so you could study the seasonal variation in confidence. I think you’ll see confidence swing from high to low, and back, with a twelve-month period, with peak confidence in June and July and minimal confidence in December and January.

  47. laralyn says:

    huh that’s fascinating. You could do this kind of thing not just for questions, but the user stats like drinking, smoking, liking cats/dogs, star sign, etc.

    I think you should do the whole EU rather than focusing on the UK alone- more of your European users would enjoy that! Plus EU countries are sorta like US states anyway.

  48. azureai says:

    You guys need to post more! =D

  49. eric nelson says:

    I’ve thought it would be interesting to see how the frequency of people thinking they have particular medical conditions plots against the proximity to major colleges. I’m going to go way out on a limb and hypothesize that college-towns are going to have higher perception of diseases favoring “alternative” treatments. I’m betting that the frequency of representations of “lactose intolerance” and “allergy to wheat gluten” are way higher than their global likelihood and focused in college towns. Seems like every third hippie I meet in Seattle has some comical claim of this kind.

  50. CraigWA says:

    UK and Australian mapping data.

    You seem to have locations and distances between those locations for all of the places in the UK based on name. The UK Gazeteer sells a reasonably priced data set of all of the UK place names and which part of the UK they fall into by county. The also have a map you might be able to, errr, ummm, trace, no that’s no good either, ahhh, make a reasonable impression of to use as a source map.

    Australia has a pretty simple set of borders so you could map people based on bounding boxes except for Queensland which has a corner missing and the NSW and VIC border which is a bit squigly because it follows a river. Not a lot of people (percentage wise anyway) live in that area so a straight line that passes through the middle of Albury and Wodonga is probably good enough for your purposes.

    I suspect public domain maps of both are available and you’d be able to get some kind of public domain library which can flood fill an image for you.