One question I've gotten from a lot of reporters I've talked to during the past month is "which states is Pennsylvania most similar to?" The idea, of course, is to get a sense of which candidate will win Pennsylvania by looking at how other states like Pennsylvania voted. The problem is that nobody can really figure out what state Pennsylvania is comparable to. After all, as anyone who has ever driven from Ohio to New York can tell you, Pennsylvania is a very long state. As a result, the eastern part of the state is in the Mid-Atlantic while the western part of the state is in the Midwest; I've lived in both the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, and they are worlds apart in many ways.
So, I've decided to do a little empirical work on figuring out which states Pennsylvania is most comparable to. But I'm not looking at the same old boring party identification or presidential vote measures. Instead, I'll look at Wal-Mart shoppers and Pickup truck ownership in this post. That's right, I'm looking at some seemingly non-political measures...maybe something getting more at the state's culture.
Using the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (conducted in 2006) I've plotted the percentage of respondents in each state who shop at Wal-Mart regularly along with the percentage who own a pickup truck.
As you can see from the figure, the percentage of Wal-Mart shoppers in a state is related to the percentage of pickup truck owners. Pennsylvania is about average when it comes to Wal-Mart shoppers, and the state ranks below most states in pickup truck ownership. On these measures, Pennsylvania is most like Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, Delaware, Ohio and Illinois. And, of course, Obama won four of those states (WI, VA, DE, and IL) while Clinton won two (FL and OH).
In part 2 (now posted here), I'll look at the percentage of a state that watches PBS and the percentage that owns stocks. Stay tuned...