Friday, September 30, 2005

Stong communities are blue communities

Ever since I started to read Bowling Alone I've had this impression that stong community ties, strong civic values, are elements of progressive and Democratic communities. Specifically the level of trust people have with each other, I've been thinking, is a direct line to their trust of local institutions such as government.

Since Democrats tend to like government more that Republicans... well, you get the point.

Eric over at the Cascadia Scorecard
points to a study by Ichiro Kawachi, a Harvard man, that shows that states with stong civic connections also vote Dem.

While studying the connections between social capital and health I stumbled across something rather odd. States with high social capital--strong connections between people and their communities--tend to vote democratic.

Harvard researcher, Ichiro Kawachi, one of the leading lights on social capital and health, has performed several studies that make state-by-state comparisons; and he's shown that, on average, states with higher social capital also have better health outcomes. But as I was peering over some of his charts I couldn't help but notice that states with higher social capital also tended to be "blue" states--they voted for John Kerry in the last presidential election.

Unfortunately, Kawachi reports the results for only 36 states (the others did not have sufficient data to support his study) so my little "finding" here refers only to those states, though they do include all the big ones. That's just one of the limitations, but I still think it's interesting that 6 of the 10 states with the highest social capital voted for Kerry in the 2004 elections. Meanwhile, 8 of the 10 states with the lowest social capital voted for George Bush in '04.

...While Kawachi never mentions the voting comparison, in a separate study he offers a plausible explanation in the context of health outcomes. He suggests that high social capital leads to more civic engagement and, in turn, to more investment of resources, money, and concern into the community at large. For Kawachi, that investment is a partial explanation for better health outcomes--places with high social capital care more about the welfare of others.

Democrats should talk about this in a serious way, and more than just in "Its takes a village" sort of way. Just because large government social programs have mostly failed doesn't mean that the moral obligations to our communities and neighbors aren't still there. It is still our responsibility to be good neighbors.

Should I care if people from exurbs vote for my guy?
It's community, stupid
I couldn't agree more, build communities
The future of parties

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