Ed Glaeser and Bryce Ward’s new paper Myths and Realities of American Political Geography (highly recommended), contains this startling sentence: "In the 1987-2003 PEW Values surveys, 56 percent of Mississippi residents think that AIDS is Godâ€™s punishment for immoral sexual behavior. Only 16 percent of Rhode Island residents share that view."
Glaeser and Ward then go on to show that beliefs about AIDS are a surprisingly good predictor of the Democratic voteshare in 2004. More critically, they conclude that income is becoming less important to voting patterns, and religion more important (see graphs). This seems to differ from recent findings by Larry Bartels, discussed by Henry at Crooked Timber recently, but I haven’t yet figured out where the two papers’ methodologies diverge.