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  • Industry Leanings In Things Political

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on March 23rd, 2010 (All posts by )

    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 Left

    Industries Aligned with the Right

    Industries Aligned with the Right

    Ideologically Divided Industries

    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…

    Ideological Ranking of Industries


    8 Responses to “Industry Leanings In Things Political”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      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…

      Also, some industries use politicians for leverage to prey parasitically on other industries. For example, trial lawyers vs. small-aircraft manufacturers or vs. tobacco companies. In the latter case the money was so good that the politicians cut themselves directly into the deal.

    2. david foster Says:

      Very interesting data. Some of the occupation definitions are a little strange: why “accountants,” I wonder, rather than the broader category “financial professionals?” Or why “on-line computer services” but not “software product developers?”

    3. Tatyana Says:

      ..or “professors”?

    4. tyouth Says:

      This post might help explain why it is that some of the most heated political debates occur around Thanksgiving tables and other clan meetings. During the usual work day (and for that matter, the usual play day) most of us won’t be forced into close conversational contact with those people that may be politically opposed to us.

    5. tyouth Says:

      If we had to work with our relatives nothing would ever get done.

    6. david foster Says:

      I think political opinion is at least as much related to *job type* as it is to *industry*. HR people are likely to be further to the left than engineers and manufacturing people, for example, whatever industry they are working in.

    7. John Burgess Says:

      I suspect, though cannot prove, that some of the weird categorization comes from how the primary data is collected. That is, Bonica is using data as he finds it, not necessarily doing his own aggregations.

      One sector I’d like to see is ‘government employees’, both at state and federal levels. By department or agency would be the most interesting. Of course, those agencies are not going to be making political donations (‘at least in cash’, says my cynical self), but individual donations might be capturable.

    8. Bill Waddell Says:

      Some of the alignment is apt to be situational, rather than long term. While the academics and lawyers have long been left-leaning, some of the ‘divided’ in the 2008 data – real estate and health care – may well be industries under pressure who thought Obama’s promises of government money pouring into their industry would be beneficial. They may not have been divided in 2004 and they may not be divided in 2012 – depends on the circumstances and who is promising their industry the most. But the professors will be left leaning in 2012, 2016, 2020, … no matter what the facts and reality are.