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Where is Barack Obama Running Hottest? Sales Statistics for Barack Obama 2008 Bumper Stickers, Buttons

Since Barack Obama’s electrifying speech gave a jolt to the otherwise moribund Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004, we’ve been selling Barack Obama for President bumper stickers, pinback buttons, refrigerator magnets and sweat-free t-shirts at a pretty good clip, but this week sales of Obama 2008 items have just exploded on the basis of news that the Senator from Illinois is actively considering a run for the presidency.

Because Irregular Times and its affiliated websites are in the top-ranked google position for a range of phrases having to do with Barack Obama in 2008, because we sell these pro-Obama items, and because we keep track of the states from which Obama orders are coming in, we’re in a good position to describe the nature of the Obamamania sweeping the country. Where is Barack Obama’s candidacy running hot? Where is the idea of Obama as president running cold? Let’s take a peek at the data.

Barack Obama 2008 button shirt magnet and bumper sticker sales state by state, October 2006

The above map shows the simple percentage distribution of all Obama 2008 sales we’ve made since October 18, when the buzz behind a possible presidential run by Obama really began to build. The literal interpretation of the map is pretty straightforward — Idaho is colored black because no Obama sales to anyone in the state have been made between October 18th and today, Wisconsin is colored dark blue because only 0.19% of all Obama sales have been to someone living in Wisconsin, and California is red hot because 15.3% of all Obama sales have been to someone living in California. However, we should be only moderately surprised that 15.3% of all Obama sales have been to someone living in California, since according to the latest available Census statistics 12.2% of all Americans are living in California.

The question of whether a state is running particularly “hot” or “cold” for a Barack Obama presidential bid in 2008 is the question about whether sales of Obama 2008 gear are disproportionately large or small — that is, whether the share of Obama sales to a state is larger than the share of American people living in that state. The most intuitive way to measure this is to create a ratio in which the numerator is the % of all Obama gear sold that went to a particular state, and the denominator is the % of all people living in the United States who live in that same particular state. A map showing the values of this ratio for all fifty states can be found below:

Representation of Barack Obama for President 2008 shirts, buttons, magnets and bumper stickers state by state for October 2006

The key threshold for this ratio is the value 1. If the share of Obama 2008 gear sold to residents of a state is the same as the state’s share of the U.S. population, then because the values of the numerator and denominator are equal the resulting value of the ratio will equal 1. Tennessee comes pretty close to a ratio value of 1, because 2.26% of our sales went to Tennessee residents and Tennessee contains 2.01% of all U.S. residents (the resulting ratio value was 1.13, as you can check for yourself). If the value of the ratio is less than 1, that’s because the share of all pro-Obama stickers, shirts and so on that were sold to a state is smaller than the state’s share of U.S. population. Texas, for instance, contains 7.71% of all U.S. residents but accounts for only 3.02% of our recent Obama 2008 sales. The value of our ratio for Texas, 0.391, can be interpreted as meaning that our sales of pro-Obama stuff to Texas was only 39.1% of what you’d expect if you thought Texans would support Barack Obama as much as residents of other states do. When the value of the ratio rises above 1, that means that the state accounted for the sale of more Obama gear than you’d expect by chance alone. Colorado, for instance, contains just 1.57% of the U.S. population, but 3.21% of all Obama gear ordered since October 18 is destined for the state of Colorado. The value of our ratio for Colorado, 2.04, can be interpreted to mean than our sales of Obama 2008 gear to Colorado is about twice as strong as you’d expect by chance along. Support for the Obama ticket seems to be running hot in Colorado, lukewarm in Tennessee, and cold in Texas.

Overall, the map is color-coded, so that black indicates no sales (the ultimate chill), blue and purple indicate cool sales, and pink and red indicate hot sales. I’d like to hear what you see, but here’s my take: support for a presidential run by Barack Obama is lowest in the Deep South and the Northern Mountain states — the two regions of the country where the Klan and Aryan Nation brands of anti-Black racism are their strongest. As a Black man, Barack Obama could hardly expect to win these states if he unveiled his halo, declared himself the Second Coming of Jesus, and distributed hundred-dollar bills to every man, woman and child.

Elsewhere, I don’t see much of a pattern, which should actually be reassuring to the staff of a Barack Obama campaign. If Barack Obama were an unappealing candidate beyond reliable liberals, we’d see Obama’s strength limited to the Northeast, the Pacific coast, and the Great Lakes states But Obama is relatively hot in the upper South, is relatively cool in some of the Great Lakes states, and does well in some of the Northern Plains states, indicating that the Senator has a broad geographic appeal that could serve him well in a variety of states. This is what a candidate needs for a successful presidential run.

All these issues are different from the issue of whether Barack Obama would make a good president — and that latter question is super-important. But it’s also important to consider whether Barack Obama can actually win the presidency. The results shown in today’s maps should give those already sympathetic to Barack Obama some cause for cheer.

4 comments to Where is Barack Obama Running Hottest? Sales Statistics for Barack Obama 2008 Bumper Stickers, Buttons

  • Vynce

    once again, as i often do, i appreciate your graphs and wish i could try different slices of data

    could we get, say

    ( state’s % of total obama sales during hype ) / ( state’s % of irregular sales [during hype]) (where square brackets indicate optional) ?

    i just kinda wonder if we might find that, for instance, kentuckians just buy an assload of bumper stickers, or pople from maine generally don’t buy from IrrTimes, but love them Baracks.

  • Jim

    Thanks, Vynce.

    I’d be happy to do this, although it would take a few hours of time to tally up, so before I do I want to make sure what this would actually tell us.

    Do you really want to know whether Obama sales deviate from the pattern of regular bumper sticker sales? What would you conclude if the Obama %ages were higher or lower than the overall %ages? If they were generally similar to one another?

  • Vynce

    sure I want to know — i want to know everything. Not being a professional statistician, however, i can faithfully assure you that, just like all statistics, it would not be likely to tell us anything for certain, but provide only more fertile ground for speculation.

    I can tell you what I’d really like to know, which neither you nor I have any real way to measure, and which this shouldn’t be construed to tell us, but may nicely hint at — whether particular candidates (such as Barack or, in agreement with other notions expressed on this blg, Russ) are actually hot in various regions, or whther these maps you’re showing are just indications of a more vague and general desire for change.

    well, no. what i’d *really* like to know is whether Barack might get elected, and whether he might do a good job. and whether russ might get elected, and whether he’d do a good job. and whether jon stewart and stephen colbert are at all interested, or fit to serve, or even meet the legal qualifications. because really, i’d like to know everything, especially the useful stuff that’s impossible to know, rather than useless statistics that might be comforting. but comforting statistics are also interesting, so, yeah, i’d like to see that map.

    it occurs to me, though, that barack% / non-barack% might be less affected by hype noise. or maybe more. hard to say.

  • Interesting – I’ve been seeing a lot of gear from OR, CO, and IL. A little from CA but not as much as you. But I don’t think i’ve been selling like you!

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