Inverse correlation between norms and behaviour?
We know, of course, that people don't strictly abide by the norms they publicly express: the flesh is weak, and so on, but, from an anthropological point of view, it would be surprising to see a complete disconnect between norms and behaviour. Even more surprising would be to see a reverse correlation, that is to have people who insist, "don't do A!" (for instance, don't commit adultery) do A more often than other people who have no strong objection to A. This, however, is exactly what is happening with American conservatives, according to Charles M. Blow (a New York Times's columnist with a blog about all things statistical and their visual expressions) who published on June 27 an op-ed with a fascinating chart (reproduced below) to prove it.
Blow has reliable sources: "According to the Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract, states that went Republican in November accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest divorce rates in 2006…. According to 2006 data from the Guttmacher Institute, those red states accounted for eight of the 10 states with the highest teenage birthrates. And, a study titled "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?" published earlier this year in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that subscriptions to online pornography sites were "more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality" and in states where "more people agree that ‘I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage.' ""
This is not the place to gloat about or on the contrary deplore the political implications of these findings. As I said, I find them anthropologically puzzling. What is the causal link here between norms and behavior? Do norms favour violation-of-norms behaviour? If so, is it directly by some kind of contrarian attitude to norms, or to certain kind of norms, or is it that the norms-abiding behaviour of the majority elicits private or public rebellion in a strong minority? Does, with causality going in the reverse direction, a greater incidence – with its own etiology – of socially problematic behaviour (supposing it makes sense to describe it so) cause a majority people to express norms against such behavior? The answer is likely to be more complicated and interesting than any of these simple suggestions. A good puzzle for cultural epidemiology.