… when we look not at states but at counties in the United States, we see that counties that lean Republican across the country as a whole have more marriage, less nonmarital childbearing, and more family stability than counties that lean Democratic. In fact, an Institute for Family Studies report I authored found, “teens in red counties are more likely to be living with their biological parents, compared to children living in bluer counties.” So, even at the community level, the story about marriage and family instability looks a lot different depending on whether or not one is looking at state or county trends. At the county level, then, the argument that Red America is doing worse than Blue America isn’t true.
Finally, when we turn to the individual level, the conservatives-are-family-values-hypocrites thesis really falls apart. Republicans are more likely to be married, and happily married, than independents and Democrats, as Nicholas Wolfinger and I recently showed in a research brief for the Institute for Family Studies. They are also less likely to cheat on their spouses and less likely to be divorced, compared with independents and Democrats. So, Donald Trump is the exception, not the norm, for Republicans. …
What’s also fascinating about looking at the individual data is that it suggests that the relatively fragile state of families in the Republican South does not apply as much to individual Republicans in the South. Indeed, in both the North and the South, Republican parents are at least 9 percentage points more likely to be in their first marriage, compared with Democrats and independents. The figure also reveals how the ecological fallacy works: Just because the Republican South has more family fragility does not mean that Republican families are fragile. In fact, Republican parents in the South are more likely to be in their first marriage than Democratic and independent parents in the North.
In other words, even though Southerners in general are at greater risk of family instability than Northerners, Republicans in the South enjoy markedly higher levels of family instability than their fellow citizens—a family stability advantage that puts them above Democrats and independents in the North. Another way to put this: It’s blue and purple Americans in the South who are really pulling down family stability in the South, not red Americans.
Read the whole essay. It’s worth your time. And it’s a great reminder that some conservatives, many in fact, live out their values.