How Waffle House explains American politics, in 1 map

Confession: I love the food at Waffle House. (Hashbrown preference: Smothered, Covered and Chunked.)

So when I came across this U.S. map that detailed the number of Waffle House locations by state -- as best as we can tell it originated at DeadSpin -- I was more than a little interested. And, because I spend my days (and nights) thinking about politics, I immediately began looking up the presidential performance numbers in states with Waffle Houses versus those without them.


Image courtesy of city-data.com

Here's what I found.

Mitt Romney won 16 of the 25 states that have at least one Waffle House. In those 16 -- call them Waffle House America -- he averaged almost 58 percent of the vote, roughly 11 points higher than he won nationwide. Of the nine Waffle House America states that President Obama carried, he won six -- Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Mexico -- with 53 percent of the vote or less. (In Maryland, Illinois and Delaware, Obama won with 62 percent, 59 percent and 58 percent, respectively.) Of those six Obama, states, five went for George W. Bush in 2004.  Take all 25 states in which there is at least one Waffle House and Romney averaged 53 percent of the vote, a six-point improvement of his showing nationwide.

Compare the 25 states in the Waffle States America to the 25 states not in it. Of those 25 non Waffle House states , Romney won just eight in 2012: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.  He took an average of 47 percent of the vote in those 25 states.  Take out Utah -- where Romney took 73 percent -- and he averaged 46 percent. Take out Utah and Wyoming -- where Romney won 69 percent -- and his average drops to 45 percent.

The split is clear. If you have a Waffle House in your state, you are more likely to support a Republican for president.  If you don't, you won't.  The harder question to answer is whether that fact is terribly meaningful. The Waffle House franchise began in Georgia (hence it has the most restaurants of any state) and, not surprisingly, grew most aggressively in the nearest geographic/regional areas of the South and Southwest.  (The franchise was founded in 1955.) The south has been solidly Republican territory since -- at least -- the 1994 midterms (and arguably considerably earlier) so it's possible that the map simply shows a coincidence rather than any conclusion.

But, at the least, the remarkable overlay between Waffle House America and the Romney States of America speaks to the remarkably divided state of the country. The self-sorting/silo-ing of America extends beyond what we read, watch and listen to -- it extends all the way to what we eat.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza · February 20