Data analysis guru and fellow Pythonista Drew Conway of Zero Intelligence Agents linked to Ideological Cartography, a blog whose author, Adam Bonica, posts interesting visualizations of political data. This post (Ideologically aligned and ideologically divided industries) had some interesting visualizations of the left-right ideological leanings of people in various industries as revealed by their campaign contributions (all data is from 2008):
Industries Aligned with the Left
Industries Aligned with the Right
Ideologically Divided Industries
Bonica makes this interesting argument:
The existence of ideologically aligned industries brings pause to the notion that money raised from individuals is somehow less corrupting or less influential than money raised from PACs. Insofar as candidates are able to identify those industries vital to their fundraising efforts, why would the incentives to support policy that favors growth in those industries be all that different because the money came from individuals rather than PACs?
Strangely enough, the comprehensive disclosure requirements for individual contributors may have had an effect opposite its intention. Rather than serving primarily to stymie backroom quid pro quid deals, it may have helped solved a coordination problem between legislators and aligned industries, by providing the means for those occupations to signal that enacting policy that favors their industry will fill their preferred party’s campaign coffers while only making a dent in the opposition’s coffers. This may seem less insidious than deals hashed out smoke-filled rooms, but as far as the public is concerned, the effects on policy probably are not all that different.
Ideologically aligned industries might also fan the flames of polarization by encouraging politicians to write-off entire industries as their de-facto opposition. This could manifest itself in mostly harmless ways…
Nevertheless, it could also rear its ugly head in policy disputes…
One question to ponder is whether ideologically aligned industries have contributed more to the pattern of polarization than ideologically divided industries. My initial thought on the matter is that ideologically aligned industries have help blaze a path for congressional polarization by supporting extreme candidates while other industries merely responded to the increasingly polarized candidate pool.
Bonica also posted a follow up post (Improved and Extended Industry/Occupation Plots):
I updated the industry and occupational rankings graph to include all repeat contributors in election cycles between 1990 and 2008. Anyone who has seen the previous figure will notice an overall shift the right for most industries and occupations. By including two-decades worth of election cycles, the estimates tend to smooth out the shift to the left caused by the unusually favorable climate for Democrats during the 2008 election. On the other hand, it tends to understate the extent to which certain industries have moved to the extremes in recent years…