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If reading habits determine the U.S. election

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Do Americans vote by the book?

Do Americans vote by the book? A lot more red, according to Amazon's Election Heat Map 2012.

Analyzing customer data, Amazon recently put together a smart map that predicts the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Unlike many of the election predictions that exist, aggregating customer preferences for books they've classified as "Blue" or "Red." The purchase of The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz is a vote for a democrat, while Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Freedman is a vote for a republican. The top sellers, by category, are:

Top Selling Blue Books:

  1. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  2. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West
  3. The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald (Kindle Edition)
  4. The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald
  5. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Top Selling Red Books:

  1. The Amateur by Edward Klein (Kindle Edition)
  2. Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream by Dinesh D'Souza
  3. The Amateur by Edward Klein
  4. Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Martin Dugard and Bill O'Reilly (Kindle Edition)
  5. Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind by Mallory Factor and Elizabeth Factor

While a thought-provoking set of data, Amazon's Election Heat Map is far from the definitive predictor of the November election. At best, it could be a representative sample. Amazon, as Business Insider pointed out in 2010, doesn't have a monopoly on the book market yet. Amazon may dominate 90 percent of the eBook market, but it sells just 19 percent of U.S. print copies.

Even if the Election Heat Map were a representative sample of book buyers across America, book buyers themselves are far from a representative cross-section of the American public. Book buyers are disproportionately female and middle-aged, according to a 2009 study by Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate. Women, said the study, purchase 64 percent of books. Moreover, the average age of a book buyer is 42, slightly higher than the median age -- 37.2 years -- of the average American.

So while it might be clever to think there was a correlation between book preferences and politics, the fiber that connects the two is tenuous at best. After all, the most popular books in America are a far cry from the political arena. Romance novels by E.L. James, author of 50 Shades of Grey, have topped the New York Times' fiction bestseller list for 25 weeks running.

[The Guardian]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure