The Dallas Morning News goes infrared and ultraviolet

There is a quite bizarre little feature in today’s edition of the celebrated Dallas Morning News religion section. It’s an almost random set of statistics about life in the whole red-blue age, with an emphasis on what the News calls the infrared and ultraviolet states — the really extreme examples of the two extremes.

Infrared America includes, in alphabetical order: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Ultraviolet America is California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

It’s kind of fun, but I still have no idea what the point of the exercise is.

First of all, the non-Borg (I assume, even with its new Reformed component) here at GetReligion never really thought much of the red state-blue state thing, since that really tells us more about the electoral college than it does about the American people. I do, however, think the key is the difference between red zip codes and blue zip codes. That’s where you can find the really interesting differences in beliefs and lifestyles, even in locations as stereotyped as, well, Dallas. There are blue zip codes almost everywhere and, right in New York City, there are some red zones. But I digress.

I also thought it was strange that the News didn’t really get into the “pew gap” issue in American political life, since that is the issue that turned up the flame under the red-blue pot in the first place. I would have, as always, appreciated some breakouts about people in Dallas and Texas, since that is where, I assume, most News readers live and worship.

But we do find out that ultraviolets have more education than the infrared and we learn, no surprise:

More “I do’s” among the red than the blue

Marriage is far more prevalent in infrared states. Nineteen of the 23 have a higher percentage of married adult residents than the U.S. average (Led by Idaho and Utah, at 62 percent each). Eight of the states with the lowest percentages are ultraviolet. (The lowest, by far, is the District of Columbia, at 36 percent.)

It’s a strange little feature. Are we supposed to chuckle or merely shake our heads in wonder?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Clay Anderson

    “But we do find out that ultraviolents…”

    A little Freudian slip, perhaps? ;-)

  • tmatt


    You betcha. Thanks for the heads up. You know, the fingers just plug on in their old familiar patterns…..

  • ceejayoz

    I’d be curious to know what the accompanying divorce rates are like alongside the marriage rates.

  • tmatt


    Great question. One of many that made we wonder what was the goal of the story. If it was merely entertainment, then I would have wanted MORE strange stats. If it was religious/news insight, then we needed more serious questions — especially LOCAL.

  • Jeremy Lott

    The piece of mine that Mattingly linked approaches the red-blue thing from an odd angle. Here’s a more direct statement:

  • dw

    I’d be curious to know what the accompanying divorce rates are like alongside the marriage rates.

    Red States have a higher rate of divorce than Blue States, but Blue States have more “shacking up,” and these unmarried couples suppress both the marriage and divorce rates of those Blue States. I’ll have to dig out numbers and see, though.

    I do recall that the divorce rate has fallen considerably in the last 20 years, and the reason for that fall is the growing acceptance of “shacking up” within secular culture.

    Give me a day or two, I’ll see if I can find some current marriage-divorce rates.

  • C. Wingate

    Well, someone has mapped divorced adults, and comparison with red/blue/purple maps from Robert Vanderbei shows one strong correlation. There’s a belt of red running north/south in the middle of the country which is also associated with high rates of religious adherence and low divorce rates. (And the there’s Utah, but…) But there’s a second belt of low divorce (not as intense) which runs up the eastern seaboard, starting in SC and ending abruptly asw the NY/VT state line. State laws would apparently have something to do with this since the state boundaries stand out quite clearly.

    A very enlightening set of red/blue maps can be found here, especially cartograms scaled by population density. Particularly evident is that the ultrared/superreligious band in the prairies has very little population.

  • ceemac

    I don’t know it it came across online but in the print version it was accompaied by splashy graphics. The whole front page of the section.

    Other sections of the DMN have increasingly done this sort of “USA Todaying.”

  • Gunser

    I can’t get enough of that Jesusland graphic.

  • C. Wingate

    The thing is that the graphic is wildly, um, not even inaccurate, but just wrong. I mean, Las Vegas in Jesusland? Give me a break! Looking at more detailed statistics shows that “Jesusland” consists of a very narrow, very lightly populated strip– well, and the “Latter-Day Jesusland” of Utah.

    And Maryland? Ultraviolet?? Maybe in presidential and senatorial elections, where two counties and Baltimore City simply outvote the rest of the state. On a more local level, the red and blue are much more evenly matched.

  • ceemac

    The map graphic with tmatts post was not the graphic the DMN used in the print version. Don’t have it in front of me for all the details but it was 2 buckets of paint (red and blue) being poured out.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    “Are we supposed to chuckle or merely shake our heads in wonder?”
    Either one is fine by me. Not every faith/values story, even in the DMN, needs to offer Eternal Truths, y’know. We do enough long stuff (see my own Harry Potter theology story from the week before) that a charticle every so often is hardly being lost to USAToday-land.
    My idea was pretty simple; See if we could find state-by-state stats that showed differences in behavior that might link up to differences in values. Turns out that good state-by-state stats are harder to find than you might think. But we came up with enough that were interesting, we thought. What do they mean? We report, you decide.

    Jeffrey Weiss

  • RManning

    What I tried to figure out; Why was this on the Religion Page? It should have been in the national section.