Quantifying hate

As a gay man who has been "married" for 15 years and has a 3.5 year old daughter, I am livid about yesterday's vote in North Carolina to adopt a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Since this is a math blog, I'm not going to write anything else about my feelings. If you want to hear about my feelings, you can read this speech I delivered to the faculty at my institution yesterday, which was about happenings in Minnesota, not North Carolina, but is still relevant.

Instead of talking about my feelings here, I will present you with some quantitative food for thought.

There are 31 states that have enacted constitutional gay marriage bans of one sort or another. I've taken the data on that link and compiled it into a publicly accessible Google Doc so that you can mess around with the data if you wish.

I don't have it in me right now to do any fancy modeling (I am still too angry) but I did upload the data into Wolfram Alpha. I've blogged before about Alpha, which is a great tool. If you upgrade to a pro subscription (I am not a salesman... I do find the upgrade to be a little pricey) you can access even more convenient features, like uploading data sets and such. This is what I did with the marriage amendment data. I didn't even know what I wanted to do with the data, so I simply typed the name of my data set as the query, and Alpha decided on all kinds of analyses to spit back out at me. Here is some of it. I guess that if there is a pedagogical point here, it's that the way a quantitative modeler often gets started is just by plotting things.

Here's a geographic heat map where the shading corresponds to the fraction of votes supporting a discriminatory measure in a given state. The reason Nevada shows up as over 100% is that there were two votes in Nevada, one in 2000 and one in 2002 (each one receiving in the high 60%'s range). At any rate, I don't see too much structure in this map.

Here's a histogram of the years in which the discriminatory amendments passed.

You can see that 2004/05 were busy years. Here's what I think are the most interesting plots, namely a histogram of the discriminatory vote percentage and a distribution fit (which you can get a feel for via the quantile plot on the right). Alpha finds that the best fit distribution is uniform.

I am not yet sure what I want to do with any of this, but it at least lets me start trying (perhaps in vain) to make sense of the hate in this country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>