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. Kaila says:

    I really have to say, you guys are great. Your personal input on the statistics is intelligent and hilarious. My favorite combination πŸ˜‰ My favprite would have to be the self confidence graph.

    Here is my absurd and stereotypical theory: Self confidence most likely is judged by comparison to others, and usually physically rather than mentally, so the south, being racist on both sides of the color spectrum would be feeling much better about themselves than the north, not to mention whenever they feel down, they shoot themselves up with deep fried food,(hence “comfort food”) where as the north eats it for breakfast lunch and dinner, therefor it has no effect on there mood in low times. As for the southwest, well, we are just awesome in general, no need for low self confidence here. Too many weirdos and serial killers born out of California and Arizona to compare ourselves against πŸ˜‰ Anyway, enough rambling, thank you for the statistics!

  2. Xtine says:

    Love this break-down by state! Yep, we Minnesotans are pretty nIce – but our self-confidence sucks.

  3. Saint Gasoline says:

    I interpreted the first question, “Are some human lives more valuable than others?” in a completely different way. I’m not sure if this would apply to others, but perhaps this explains some of the inconsistencies between that question and the murder question. This is because I think some human lives are indeed more valuable than others. If a human being is born without a brain, for instance, it is acceptable to end the life of that human, because it isn’t merely being biologically human that makes it immoral to kill someone—it is the fact that human beings can feel pain, fear the future, and have some sense of self-preservation and self-awareness. In that sense, anyone who is pro-choice would naturally see some human lives as more valuable than others. One could also think, for instance, that the life of a great, good person (think Gandhi) is more valuable than the life of a despicable madman (think Osama Bin Laden). As such, I don’t think that question necessarily reflects an attitude that denies the “brotherhood of man” or a cavalier, trail-blazing spirit.

  4. Sarah E says:

    “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.”

    Being from Maine, I have to say that we would never move to New York! Maybe Massachusetts, but never into the inferno that is New York. In addition, the snowmobiling part is possible. Very, very possible. We’ll see how I fare after this upcoming winter.

  5. Anthony says:

    Actually, there is a *big* surprise on the “Is homosexuality a sin” map: Utah. It’s yellow. I’d have expected it to be bright green.

  6. Enno says:

    While I’d love to see some Australian stats, they would be very misleading if presented this way. Unlike most places the population of Oz is mostly a thin rind round the eastern and southern edges of the continent. Thats where the big cities are and like most places the values of our city and country populations tend to be a little polarized (try plotting out your gun control thing by how big a city the answer came from and you’d likely see some of it over there too) and the views of the city dwellers often overwhelm those of the countyr folk by sheer numbers. So while you could show stats by state here (we have 6 plus two ‘territories’) you’d do better showing things by size of population centre and location. Even just breaking the dozen or so largest would likely already show the effect.

  7. Ert says:

    Fascinating stuff!

    (1) 8% of guys are red-green colour blind. Could you choose a different color axis than G-Y-R?

    (2) Have you compared your results on specific questions to national polls to see how you’re deviating?

  8. Mike says:

    God, I love OKTrends.

  9. Annie says:

    I’m a little confused: you chose a map that includes Alaska and Hawaii, but don’t report results from the non-contiguous kids?

  10. Gina says:

    Hahaha. I love that another Minnesotan replied to the “self-confidence”. Could it be linked to humbleness? Like, “Minnesota Nice”, unassuming, give-others-the-right=of-way, kind of attitude that prompts people to reply that they’re not that confident?

  11. Christian says:

    It would be really nice to have a percentage numbers too.
    Without knowing the difference between the highest and lowest state it’s impossible to put the maps into proper perspective.

  12. Lee says:

    The problem with passing gun control measures is that the electorate that still want those particular firearms would just kill you.

  13. Jorie says:

    I am not going to read through 112 comments to see if someone else has said this but for the “If you knew for sure you would not get caught,
    would you commit murder for any reason?”… “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.”

    that’s not north dakota… that’s montana. I’m not doubting they’re strange people, but they’re not killers.

    I’m sorry for your misunderstanding of U.S. geography, but north dakota is next to minnesota. montana is next to north dakota, and idaho. somehow you realized this in a later graph… but not the murder one.

  14. christian says:

    The sentence is correct: I’m comparing North Dakota’s contrasting colors on the two maps.

  15. max says:

    I would be interested to see these kinds of stats on a country-to-country comparison map as well. Really interesting stuff that you’ve posted so far, thanks.

  16. Alex says:

    Red-blue would better. I have no idea which states to avoid! I’ll play it safe and assume they’re all evil.

  17. adam says:

    The cold state having a direct connection to low self esteem is pretty funny as a wisconsinite

  18. Alex says:

    “If the people who most love guns were offered this choice, the rest of us could pass real gun control. Voila.” That had me laughing, but I so wish it were true.

  19. James says:

    would love to see the results of that abortion/death penalty with the opposite skew and compare it to the above result.

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

  20. Jaclyn says:

    It never occurred to me what a statistical goldmine this site is! these are fantastic!
    Have you thought about the influence of religion on the self-confidence map?
    Catholicism might have something to do with why people from MA have low self-confidence :)
    Similarly, It makes sense that that the bible belt would have higher self confidence since their version of christianity tells that god loves them

  21. Tatterdemalian says:

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

    And then you’d find out, in the worst possible way, that no amount of paper, either ballots or laws, can stop a hail of hot lead.

    The main reason America has never degenerated into the banana republic military dictatorship that most other democracies have, is the Second Amendment. It’s not a good idea to give soldiers unlimited power just because your neighbor’s guns are scary.

  22. Steve says:

    Very interesting indeed, but your conclusions simply reflect your bias. Which sometimes I agree with and sometimes not at all.

    For starters, I’m Swiss, not American, but I know the US very well, having traveled, lived and worked there for extended periods and in many states.

    For starters, the gun issue:

    Yes, I’d rather give up the essentially meaningless “right to vote” if by “vote”, you mean “leadership selection”. I’m not interested in who holds power, I’m interested in making sure that NO ONE holds power over me!

    Hence the far more important right is the absolute right to SELF DEFENSE and ARMED RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY, a concept Americans should be familiar with.

    Swiss people enjoy infinitely more freedom, individual rights and prosperity than almost any other country in the world and most of us own guns, starting with assault rifles that are handed out to every able-bodied man who does his military service. Like most, I kept mine after my military service was over.

    Now about the “value” of human beings: someone already pointed it out, the answer is trivial. Einstein, Jefferson or Newton were infinitely more worthy individuals than any random scumbag who murders, deals drugs, let alone the mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or any of their supporters who made their mass murdering possible.

    I’d shoot any of the latter if given the opportunity and I’d have given my own life to save any of the former.

    None the less, I consider that the most important rule for society is that everyone is equal BEFORE THE LAW, i.e. even being a genius like Polanski does NOT imply a licence to drug and rape 13 year old girls, to refer to recent news. Power, fame, money or a sad childhood should never put someone above the law. The punishment should always be based exclusively on the crime, never on the criminal. NB: Killing in self-defense is not a crime, i.e. the nature of the crime has to be determined by a court, not the nature of the criminal.

    Other than that, I don’t believe in any form of “equality” any more than I believe in ghosts or angels. Empirical study reveals that they’re all pure myths. Anyone who wants to help the poor should do so through charity, not through egalitarian politics that just f*** up society – anyone doubting the result should visit the ex-USSR, which I did frequently.

  23. whorestar says:

    pro-gun activism isn’t an excuse to play executioner.

  24. thatzguy says:

    Now if you take away the right to vote of gun owners could you really vote away all of their rights to bear arms…they are the ones with guns after all πŸ˜›

  25. Philip says:

    the arms/vote thing is a much abused false dichotomy.
    the whole reason the constitution has a right to bear arms, is so that the people will never have their liberties taken away forcibly by the government. which directly infers that the founders believed gun rights as important so as to ensure the people’s right to vote !

    it’s a strange irony that “liberals” who usually champion the rights of the individual over government, are then in support of giving the government more control over the people.

  26. Maia says:

    I have a theory for the redness of Vermont and Massachusetts: I am assuming your population is online daters, perhaps the people who date online in those states are principally those who already have a decreased level of self esteem. Just a thought.
    Though it doesn’t explain why the other people in sunshiney states have better self-esteem.

  27. slick8087 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”

    Um… it goes like this. Soap box, Ballot Box, Ammo Box. As a last resort you vote with bullets. If you lose the right to own guns you’ve already lost the right to vote.

  28. tencardspread says:

    1. Swiss-Steve, LOVE LOVE LOVE your reply.

    2. Chris from Maine? Duh-everyone leaves Maine at one point or another-but not for NY! Unless they are going into acting. You should start mapping the state by age-you will see there are hardly ever any Twentysomethings-compared to birth stats-those are the ones who left-then all these 30 and 40s show up who are going home to raise their families.

  29. Kiki says:

    Massachusetts is rich? The last I checked, out taxes were thought the roof, and we could own a small town out west for what we pay for our mortgages. Cigarettes are over $7 a box, and if you don’t have health insurance, say good-bye to your state tax return.

  30. Fletcher says:

    I would love to see the “self-confidence” map plotted against a map of average temperature/average sunshine days/alcohol sales/homicides, etc.

  31. Nea says:

    It would be much more interesting if you would make a similar analysis of the European countries.

  32. David says:

    I do some geographical analysis by state, and DC is an aberration in many cases because it’s the only “state” that is entirely a city. When DC is an outlier like it is in the “value of human lives” question, that means that the questions usually breaks down by urban/rural… so state-by state results will usually follow the curve of their urban/rural makeup… you have to adjust for the urban/rural factor if you truly want to see regional trends.

  33. mike says:

    The self-confidence map is not surprising at all. Blacks and Hispanics consistently report high self-confidence despite lower income, higher incarceration rates, etc…

    It’s a personality trait that is genetically and culturally determined. Non-Asian minorities have all kinds of support groups to boost their self-esteem, while whites are browbeaten by the media and educational system to feel shame and guilt. Unsurprising then, that states with a lot of Non-Asian minorities would score higher on average self-confidence than states that are more homogeneously white.

    And, as another commenter noted, the “Minnesota nice” ideal of humility is a socially beneficial Anglo-Christian-Western value. It is the difference between an egalitarian culture and a culture that is focused on who has the nicest “rims”. To criticize these northern states, which have much lower rates of dysfunction than their more “diverse” peers, for their lack of “self-confidence” is a complete inversion of the extremely successful Anglo-Christian-Western value system.

  34. Desirsar says:

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so this may have been pointed out before…

    Everyone who votes to make gun control no longer has the right to weapons – dare I ask how you intend to enforce them on those people who now have all the guns?

  35. Diarmaid says:

    I love these geographical breakdowns! Thanks guys.

    Can we please see some for Europe? Either the countries within Europe, or Europe vs the USA.

    Americans love to think they’re better than everyone, and Europeans love to think they’re better than Americans, so I’d definitely get a kick out of seeing some questions broken out on those lines. :-)


  36. Lilanii says:

    A practical solution for your desire to color code other countries such as Canada: Even if this cannot be achieved through a standard mapping API, it could be done by using Adobe Illustrator. This program provides custom points for color input which, depending on the accuracy and placement of the color points, would provide an interesting, useful (and possibly even attractive) gradient fade between colors, using yellow as the standard, green as positive and red as negative.

  37. NoName says:

    Would it be possible for you guys to do similar statistical analysis on other countries?I’m pretty interested in similar statistics in my country, South Africa.

  38. mediageek says:

    As someone who values all of his civil liberties, the “which would you rather lose, the right to vote or the right to bear arms?” question is patently inane.

    As such, I skipped it completely.

    Frankly, I think the question reveals more about the mindset of the person who wrote it than anything else.

  39. lastadventurer says:

    The reason northern states are less confident than southern states is due to regional proximity. Showing classic US introversion your map ignores what is outside your borders. To the north is magnificent Canada showing a shining example of national healthcare, good manners, and polite rivalry. To the south you have an economically demolished Mexico (congrats on pulling that off staters!) in which the worst off of that nation consistently have to cross the border in order to “succeed.”

    This also roughly correlates to the “Are Some Lives Worth More” graph. The north-south division is significantly less pronounced, but can explain deviations in self-confidence. Northern states that reject equal-rights-to-live are less likely to be impacted by the amazing Canadians. This is less noticeable in the south where results are more consistent.

    In conclusion: Proximity to Canadians creates devastating ennui in our American counterparts, while proximity to Mexicans produces an opposite reaction. Canadian foreign policy should move towards promoting an ‘American Convection Current’ in which we rotate the most self-confident southerners to the north, while sending the worst off northerners south in order to recuperate their sense of self-worth. Failing to do so could result in a mass migration of desperate Americans that could only be forestalled by an over-confident southern military intervention which would result in a devastating and needless war. Failing this, an alternative remedy maybe to build a wall and militarise the border in order to ensure that the economic damage we inflict on the American north is ameliorated, hopefully preventing aggressive southern countermeasures.

    (by the way, that was [mostly] tongue-in-cheek)

  40. Konrad says:

    Could you be a bit less condescending to those of who don’t share your political views?

    Also, see what David said about DC.

  41. amarrsbar says:

    A friend just directed me to the site blog yesterday. THANK YOU for making sitting at home on the couch sick worthwhile. This one, particularly, had me laughing. You guys are hysterical. :)

  42. Chris says:

    I don’t think the self-confidence question is a good one, because I consider it to be situational. I know for most people, this is perhaps not the case but there’s at least a significant portion of the population (1-3%) who, like me, would fall under “INTJ” if rated on a Myers-Briggs type indicator.

    If you were to read a description of an “INTJ” (google it), you’d find we are probably the most self-confident of all personality types. There is, however, one enormous exception: romantic relationships. Because of this, people I tend to meet at work look at me and think “My God, do you inject yourself with liquid confidence every morning?” while those I meet in some of my social interactions might think quite the opposite.

    When I read this question, I don’t know how to honestly answer it. It’s about personality in general (I think), but it’s in the context of a relationship-related site. If I respond with “Very Low” (I’m answering honestly, for the romantic scenario), then I’m probably disqualified on the flow-charts of many potential matches if they’ve ranked this as one of their “mandatory” questions. If I respond with “Very High” (again answering honestly, but for the general-case scenario), then I might not get excluded by various selection flow-charts as much, but it doesn’t accurately represent how I’m likely to be judged on a first-date scenario, which is perhaps what the potential matches are trying to screen for when they rank this response as “mandatory”. If I average the result and answer somewhere in the middle, I just feel like I’m lying. There’s pretty much no situation where I feel “kind of confident.”

    I guess my point is this: the algorithms that make individual “good questions” climb to the top, can be critically flawed for a subset of personality types. I don’t worry about it much because I assume at worst it’ll bring up my “Enemy %” rating slightly, but the compatibility percentage over the course of hundreds of questions will tend to wash out the results of this one question. However, in the case of a flowchart situation, one bad response could mean instant disqualification. (refer to the “Flowchart to my heart” blog post).

    Please don’t think this means I wouldn’t like to make my own flowchart, or see the flowcharts of potential matches, because I’m dying to see the most important questions represented this way. I just think it’s important NOT to implement an automated algorithm that matches using the flowchart logic.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Hi there.

    Like the rest of your blogs, very fascinating data. Just one thing I had to point out:

    You need to change “Chris and I confused” to “Chris and me confused”
    Grammatical rule. Were you to get rid of the “Chris and I” portion, your sentence would be: “This had I confused.”

    A very common grammatical mistake.

  44. Cliff says:

    Regarding Self-Confidence and its relation to temperature, I moved from Colorado to Oregon about 4 years ago and haven’t had a tan since. In fact, i’m pretty pale and unattractive now. When you live in a warm place where there is sunlight, not only do you NOT get rickets, but you take your shirt off and get tanned. Tanned bodies look better. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible to be too tanned. There’s a line somewhere between Tan, and Leather that we have to be sure not to cross. But there’s something about a little sunbrowning that lends a healthy radiance to how you look and appear to others.

  45. Chris says:

    You could pass real gun control, but you would have given up your right to bare arms in the process. So you’d have a law on the books prohibiting guns, with no way to enforce it.

  46. Laura says:

    I would hypothesize that the reason northern states have lower self confidence is due to a lack of sunlight and specifically Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency, which is rampant across areas with long dark winters, causes depression which would go hand in hand with feelings of low self worth. I’d be really interested in seeing a map comparing self confidence between the U.S. and South America or anywhere else closer to the equator.

  47. G-Man says:

    Well… way I see it, you can take the right to vote away from me if you leave me the guns. Makes perfect logical sense you see… I mean if I am not allowed to vote clearly I fall outside the citizenry and thus your silly laws do not apply to me, which then gives me the ability to shoot people who piss me off and get away with it, which goes to your earlier question. Cool redneck logic huh? :)
    Nice blog…I could probably spend days crunching numbers with you guys. Looks like fun. I also left OKcupid as I really have all the sex I can possibly want in my nymphomaniac, slightly bisexual girlfriend, but reading these stats makes me want to go back on just to get some flowcharts done :)
    And it’s driving me crazy not being able to see the full chart of that mad girl that runs to 10 feet…seriously…you guys could hurt people suffering from OCD!

  48. Eternal_Return says:

    Christian said, “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.” Some of us think that if the people were disarmed, their right to vote would continue merely at the whim of whoever remained armed. We also think that one reason the right to vote remains somewhat secure in the United States is that the men who might otherwise deprive the populace of the right to vote remain fearful on account of their vulnerability to an armed populace that would very likely come calling to get their rights back.

  49. Amirhosein says:

    WOW, very interesting data

  50. Mississippianw says:

    I am the opposite of my state in practically every respect.