"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Mapping the culture wars

The canvassed Idaho vote is now available, and for offices for legislative and up, and statewide ballot issues, county and precinct level vote information is now available at the secretary of state’s web site in downloadable Excel spreadsheets. (As per usual, they’ve done a fine job getting that information out there, well ahead of many of their counterparts.)

Lots of fun things are possible with this data, of course. We got right work on one: Charting the outlines of the culture wars in Idaho.

The simplest way to do that this election is with House Joint Resolution 2, the constitutional amendment banning formal domestic relationships other than man-woman marriage. This surely drew the culture war line in Idaho as clearly as anything this election, and it may be one of the components in the Republicans’ sweep of the Gem State in the teeth of a Democratic wave. Statewide, the measure passed with 63.3% – a landslide.

But it did not pass equally everywhere.

votes on marriage amendment
Vote on HJR2: counties voting 80% or more in blue; less than 60% in green

Most simply, the overwhelming vote in favor came in eastern Idaho, in the counties with the highest percentage of Mormon votes: in order, Madison (89.1%), then Franklin (85.2%), Bear Lake (84%), Oneida, Jefferson, Cassia, Fremont, Bingham. Only when we get to Owyhee (73.7%) do we see another dynamic entering in.

The lowest favorable vote – in fact, the only county where it lost – was (that’s right, you can guess it) Blaine County, home of Sun Valley and Ketchum and Hailey. Second-place Latah, come of the University of Idaho, would also be no surprise (though it passed in the county overall). Next lowest, though, was Ada, which certainly has its conservative precincts, and then two rural counties, Valley and Teton. Every other county passed HJR2 by 60% or more.

The precinct breakdown gives us a more precise look. (We’ve posted a precinct breakdown.)

Of the 100 precincts least supportive of HJR2, all but a dozen are in either Ada, Blaine or Latah counties. The most critical of all were in Boise’s North End, closely followed by central Ketchum and central Moscow.

But note also a few other bits and pieces. The precinct least supportive of the amendment outside those three counties was in – surprise! – Custer County. Historically, the remote town of Stanley has been fairly conservative in its voting patterns, but possibly because of growth and changes in population, and maybe also influence from the Sun Valley area, that is clearly changing: only 30.5% of Stanley voters favored the amendment. Along similar lines, note the central Sandpoint precinct at 36.9% and, maybe most telling, McCall at 41.6%.

As the population, economy and social structure of some of even outlying areas of Idaho change, so too the voting patterns.

But you need the precincts to nail this. Consider this: Four precincts voted 100% in favor of the amendment. One of them was in Blaine County 9the farthest, as you might imagine, from Sun Valley-Ketchum).

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