Hold onto your milkshakes, folks. Reddit user davedawg2000 constructed a scatter plot on Thursday illustrating a positive correlation between states in which a majority of districts voted for President Donald Trump, and the likelihood that each of those states’ constituents have high BMIs. Of course, anyone who took basic statistics in high school understands that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but the data is pretty interesting to look at.
Davedawg2000’s data comes from the Trust for America’s Health, which found in September 2016 that Americans living in Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alabama have the highest BMIs. People in Colorado, Washington D.C., and Hawaii are the least likely to have high BMIs, by the way. It’s also worth mentioning that politics aren’t likely the cause of obesity — however, obesity is often linked to poverty, which is a problem more typical in red states than blue.
Davedawg2000 also used election results data from Wikipedia, and plotted votes on his scatter plot’s y-axis, as compared to body weight on the x-axis. Check out his full scatter plot below.
In the discussion that followed Davedawg’s post on r/dataisbeautiful, other statistics nerds brought up the negative correlation between a state’s number of Trump voters and higher education attainment. That means states with more Trump voters tend to send fewer constituents to college, and many have a hard time getting their people through high school. Of course, like the body weight data, the numbers on “education attainment” come with more than a handful of extenuating circumstances, the first of which is that a college degree doesn’t guarantee the bearer’s intelligence.
Often, a college degree doesn’t mean much other than the graduate having access to scholarships and educational programs which aren’t prevalent in the deep south. Not to mention, the most popular professional fields in the south don’t require degrees. If you’re a kid in Mobile, Alabama whose parents don’t have the income to support you going to college, and you’re planning on a career in machinery or truck driving, a college degree isn’t really a logical goal.
So, while it’s not really accurate (and definitely mean-spirited) to conclude that states which voted primarily for Trump are full of stupid people, the data available does back up the argument that 2016’s red states house a lot more people with high BMIs, and a lot fewer college graduates, than blue states. The numbers alone aren’t vicious, but the social connotations attached to both the state of being overweight, or not having gone to college, muddy the conversation.
What the Reddit discussion doesn’t bring up is the subsection of liberal Americans who have mobilized against body shaming, and those who consider high body weight part of identity politics. As odd as it seems, given the data above, many liberal Americans are actually fighting for the rights of fat Trump voters to live without prejudice. Animator Stacy Bias’s recent Flying While Fat film speaks to the experience of overweight Americans who occupy spaces designed for thin people.
Then again, despite Trump voters being more likely than non-Trump supporters to be fat, conservative blog Breitbart wrote excitedly in 2016 about a study linking higher body weight to lower IQ. In his blog post titled “Fat People More Likely to be Stupid”, Ben Ker gleefully used a photo of a Lena Dunham to illustrate his point, writing, “the findings will undoubtedly enrage weight loss and fat acceptance campaigners, who have long argued that being overweight is merely a lifestyle choice that should not be stigmatised (sic) as unhealthy.”
All of this is ultimately just anecdotal evidence that red states, though their constituents tend to weight more and tend to exit formal education after high school, paradoxically tend to demonstrate the least amount of empathy toward people whose BMIs are higher. Why, one might ask, is obesity far more prevalent in red states, though body positivity is evidently far more popular among liberal Americans? Who knows.