Do Republicans Cheat More?

Yet another rehash of the factoid that “states that went Republican in November accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest divorce rates in 2006” causes John Sides to commit social science.

Welcome to another episode of “The Ecological Fallacy”! Once again: you cannot infer the behavior of individuals — Democrats and Republicans — from data at an aggregate level, such as states.

What happens when we look at individual-level data? Blow’s story falls apart.

See the post for a discussion of methodology and coding.  Here’s what the results look like graphically:

About 29% of Democrats, 30% of independents, and 26% of Republicans are or have been divorced or separated.

About 19% of Democrats, 19% of independents, and 15% of Republicans admit to having an extramarital affair.

If anything, Republicans are slightly less likely than both Democrats and independents to get divorced or mess around. This is the opposite of what Blow suggests — which, yet again, reveals the problems of using aggregate data to make individual-level inferences.

Adding some additional controls for “age, sex, race, educational attainment, and year of survey” he finds “Republicans are 2 percentage points less likely to be or have been divorced. They are 4 points less likely to admit to an extramarital affair.”  He admits that there may be factors that he’s not considering that would make the differences even smaller.  The bottom line, though, is right:

But I think the basic finding is likely robust: partisanship has a very weak relationship with either divorce or infidelity, and the relationships that do exist suggest that Republicans are less, not more, likely to get divorced or be unfaithful. Those, like Blow, who want to decry Republican “hypocrisy” on issues of family and sexuality may want to focus their ire on Sanford, Ensign, et al., and not on Republicans in the mass public.

I would have frankly guessed this result even without doing the statistical analysis, just given the unlikelihood that choice of catch-all party would have much to do with something so unrelated.  When one considers that, at the aggregate level, Alabama Democrats are much more like Alabama Republicans than they are to California or Massachussets Democrats, the realization that party preference has little predictive value at the individual level should be obvious.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I think the more interesting question would be whether political office holders, regardless of party, are more likely to be divorced or to have an extramarital affair.




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  2. Matthew Stinson says:

    Definitely a question to look at, Dave!

    Sadly, James, these survey results will be repeated by certain smug quarters who don’t understand statistics enough to see how weak Blow’s argument was.




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  3. steve says:

    Correct James. The better question, IMHO, is it the policies, taxes, governmental, private institutions in red states that lead to higher levels of divorce. Individuals may, as individuals behave in certain behaviors while enacting policies that undercut their beliefs.

    I find Massachusetts interesting in these studies. They have the lowest divorce rate in the country and in the recent NAEP studies, it was the only state that measured out at a top tier world level in math scores. Would be good to figure out what they are doing and see if it can be implemented elsewhere.

    Steve




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  4. just me says:

    I think the more interesting question would be whether political office holders, regardless of party, are more likely to be divorced or to have an extramarital affair.

    I kind of like this question. I sometimes think the wealthier and more powerful a person becomes the more they feel free to compromise morals on other areas. Don’t know that it would necessarily play out if studied, but it is an interesting question.

    I also tend to think, when it comes to divorce and divorce rates that there are things like poverty/money stress that probably play as much if not a bigger role in divorce rates than unfaithfulness.




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  5. DL says:

    Which party was it during the Clinton candidacy that insisted: Character doesn’t matter?




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  6. PD Shaw says:

    The survey appears to “count” people who have never married. People who have always been single will never get divorced, right?

    My thesis would be that Republicans are more optimistic about marriage and therefore marry at higher rates, often earlier in life. Thus, they are at higher risk to divorce or separate. A similar point was made in this month’s Atlantic Monthly about international comparisons:

    If America is a “divorce culture,” it may be partly because we are a “marriage culture,” since we both divorce and marry (a projected 90 percent of us) at some of the highest rates anywhere on the globe.

    AtlanticMonthly

    Similarly, if Republicans marry at higher rates, I would expect them to divorce at higher rates, all other things being equal. Think of it as the Community Reinvestment Act theory of marital stability.




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  7. Tlaloc says:

    About 19% of Democrats, 19% of independents, and 15% of Republicans admit to having an extramarital affair.

    If the word “Admit” doesn;t leap out at you here then you haven’t spent nearly enough time understanding sociological data (or polling methodology). All this proves is that Republicans are less likely to self report affairs, not that they are less likely to have them. Given the additional stigma for socon republicans it makes sense that they are probably willing to admit to existing affairs at a lower rate than either dems or independents.




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  8. just me says:

    So Tlaloc do you have some study to back up your claim that repbulicans would “admit” at a different rate the democrats? My gut tells me both groups are likely to lie at pretty much an equal rate on this question.

    Also, outside of self reported data you can’t really collect accurate data on cheating, because a lot of people cheat and don’t ever get caught.




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  9. Does any of this depend on what the definition of “is” is?




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  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    Does any of this depend on what the definition of “is” is?

    Only if you are liberal in you use of a dictionary,law book,science book, U.S. Constitution, Bible,army field manual,U.N.resolution, tax form,ect.ect.ect…….




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  11. Al Bullock says:

    How many caught Kathleen Kennedy Townsend opinion piece on A15 of Sundays Post? She radiates disgust with Ensign and Sanford and while I agree extramarital affairs are a no-no let us not let the pot call the kettle opaque.

    It amazes me a Kennedy would open a mouth to criticize anyone for with the male linage it is inherited Kennedy trait consisting of grandfather, father and uncles. Kathleen may not consider it a fault but rather Noblesse Oblige, Obama would call it “spreading the wealth around’!




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  12. An Interested Party says:

    This game of trying to pin adultery on one political party or the other is just silly…of course people of both political persuasions are guilty of it…I think the reason why it might cut against Republicans more is that they are the party constantly preaching about family values and are perceived (at least the socially conservative wing) as the party that wants to snoop around in people’s bedrooms…by the way, can not KKT rail against adultery because some of the men in her family have been guilty of it? Talk about the sins of the father…




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  13. Tlaloc says:

    So Tlaloc do you have some study to back up your claim that repbulicans would “admit” at a different rate the democrats?

    Nope, and I may be wring that republicans would self report at a lower rate, but until and unless someone establishes that question one way or the other this study of extremely limited use.

    There’s every reason to think that conservatives would fail to report affairs with more frequency than those who regard such things as, you know, a personal failing rather than an offense against the lord almighty.

    Also, outside of self reported data you can’t really collect accurate data on cheating, because a lot of people cheat and don’t ever get caught.

    You can of course look at the break down of those who do get caught, in which case the question is “are dems just better at hiding it?”




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  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    as the party that wants to snoop around in people’s bedrooms

    Come on……




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