The Cultural Divide Quiz

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The notion that America is becoming increasingly divided between a liberal-leaning, coastal- or urban-dwelling elite and more conservative folks living in “flyover country” has been around for some time. However, author Charles Murray put a bit of a new spin on it in his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.”

In conjunction with the release of his book in 2012, Murray composed a 25-question quiz designed to determine whether the quiz-taker is in touch with mainstream American culture or lives in one of the elite “bubbles” described in the book. The quiz can be taken at this link.

Some of the more unusual questions in the quiz include:

— Have you ever bought a pickup truck?
— Have you gone fishing in the past 5 years?
— In the past month, have you voluntarily socialized with anyone who smokes?
— Have you ever had any close friends who were evangelical Christians?
— Have you ever participated in a parade not connected with environmentalism, gay rights, or an anti-war protest?
— Who is Jimmie Johnson?
— What does “Branson” mean to you?
— In the past year, have you stocked your fridge with domestic mass market beer (e.g., Pabst, Budweiser)?

Go here to take the rest of the quiz and read Murray’s explanations of each question. I found the exercise both amusing and fascinating, along with the comments made by some test takers, which are adroitly summed up thus:

The responses to this survey are hilarious!  They typically go something like this:

“How dare this survey make it sound like I’m an elitist!  I support the common people!  I hate corporate power!  I question the fools who run our government!

I don’t see why just because I don’t watch mindless TV shows and corporate blockbusters, and because I don’t drive a pickup truck like some stupid redneck, and I don’t eat at chain restaurants with a bunch of middle-aged fat people, and because I hate ignorant evangelicals and love scientists, and because I chose to live in a neighborhood with creative educated people and not a bunch of conformists with office jobs, and because I don’t sit on Greyhound buses with smelly trashy people, and because I think NASCAR and country music are for neanderthals – why should any of these things make me an elitist!

It’s like I said, I’m down with the people and I hate elitists!  All my college friends who majored in sociology with me at Berkeley feel the same way!  We hate elitists!  We are the 99%!  It’s those Wall Street guys who are elitists!  I’m burning over with populist fury and it’s too bad the vast majority of Americans are too stupid and fat and superstitious and brainwashed to agree with me.  I love people and favor the brotherhood of man, and that’s what separates me from all the fundamentalist conformist mouth-breathing meat puppets that make up the majority of this country!”

Or, as Peanuts’ Lucy Van Pelt once said, “I love mankind — it’s people I can’t stand!”

Cultural differences aside, perhaps the real issue isn’t beer, sports, political affiliation, education or white vs. blue collar work. The real issue is whether we look at people as individuals, unique persons made in the image of God, or see them only as faceless representatives of groups or ideas. The emotions we have toward generalized groups such as “liberals”, “the rich”, “the poor”, etc., probably matter less in terms of our eternal salvation, than how we behave toward particular people who belong to those groups. Learning how to respect people of a different culture than your own starts, in many cases, with personal contact — getting outside the “bubble”.

A person who professes to care about “the poor” but treats homeless or poor people with contempt when he or she actually meets them is not practicing charity. Likewise, someone who is a die-hard Republican but has friends who vote Democrat isn’t necessarily being a hypocrite. In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis’ title character describes a similar situation involving his nephew’s “patient,” an English citizen living through the World War II Blitz:

As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian, or anti-Christian, periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can, of course, be encouraged to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes. But it is usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary scapegoats. He has never met these people in real life-they are lay figures modelled on what he gets from newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred are often most disappointing, and of all humans the English are in this respect the most deplorable milksops. They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door.

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train.

Hopefully, we used the past 5 weeks of Lent to develop a “pernicious habit of charity” toward others, and step out of our “bubble” or comfort zone. If we haven’t, Holy Week is still a pretty good time to start!










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  1. My test results were 66:

    “42–100: A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits. Typical: 66. ”

    “The real issue is whether we look at people as individuals, unique persons made in the image of God, or see them only as faceless representatives of groups or ideas. The emotions we have toward generalized groups such as “liberals”, “the rich”, “the poor”, etc., probably matter less in terms of our eternal salvation, than how we behave toward particular people who belong to those groups.”


    “The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

    The Brothers Karamazov

  2. Any test has limits to its validity. In more than one of my answers I had to approximate because none of the options fit. It tells me my score of 25 indicates:

    11–80: A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. Typical: 33.

    0–43: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot. Typical: 9.

    Neither is true.

  3. 66 was my score as well.

    48–99: A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits. Typical: 77.

    42–100: A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits. Typical: 66.

    11–80: A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. Typical: 3

    I don’t really fit any of these well. Such it will be with any pigeonholing quiz, I suspect.

  4. I got a comfortable bubble living 31. I think I’m much more in touch than my neighbors here in suburban MD who probably have scores in the <20. I gained some points by the fact that I have family in MS and drive down there once a year. Lots of chain food eatin' along the way. Why don't fast food and Chipotle count as middle America? If that were true, I'd be full on blue collar. Also since almost everyone I know is a flaming liberal, I know many people who disagree with me politically. For most of these folks, I'm their token conservative friend.

  5. My score was 56.

    I find things like this amusing. It often seem slike the Liberals and Progressives and Academic elite are so quick to label and cartegorize. What ever happened to the celbration of diversity? Oh yeah, only if it’s the correct type of diversity.

  6. I think I scored low on the test (36) because I don’t do anything. I don’t march in gay parades or straight parades. I don’t drink blue-collar beer or white-collar wine. I guess it is a bubble, but not an ideological one.

    My bet is that a lot of the people on this site are conservatives who spend most of their time in or near a liberal bubble. Like the Zummos, I’m in Maryland, and it’s not easy to construct a conservative bubble around here.

  7. Yah this test is pathetically linear and simplistic. Too many variables go into something like this…simply getting a number and being grouped accordingly is silly.

    Though my score of “54” doesn’t fit in the pre-made category they have, it is appropriately”middle of the road.” I live in very rural MN, am involved in my community, love the outdoors, and have friends who drink and smoke, even if I don’t regularly indulge in those habits myself. However, I simultaneously despise American pop culture, watch nothing on TV but sports, rarely go to the movies, and refuse to listen to anything but MPR on the radio (although i listen to the public radio station out of Grand Rapids when I can get it). I actually enjoy and value many of the cultural practices that are haphazardly and incorrectly thought of as “liberal,” like community gardens, organic foods, local theater, and town centre revitalization.

    This test was simply built on a false spectrum, with gun-toting, beer guzzling NASCAR hillbillies on one pole, and appletini sipping, hipster pussy metrosexual elites on the other. People are more complicated than that.

  8. 56. There are a few blue collar things that i have not done or don’t do, such as drink typical American beer, or go fishing.

    Eat n Park is not on the list of chain restaurants. If it were, I think I would have scored 75.

    I checked yes on buying a pickup truck. I have not bought a pickup truck, but I drove the truck my dad bought for $600 when I was 16-19, and I drove an Explorer for 13 years.

    Maryland, or most of it, has become a bland place full of leftists and control freak politicians. I left there in 1993. I lived in Maryland because I refused to pay the personal property (car) tax assessed by Virginia counties. I would flee the country before living around DC ever again.

  9. I scored 59, but probably would have scored higher if 1) we had a TV (we gave up cable and broadcast TV a few years ago to save money and because everything we needed to know or see was available online) and 2) if either I or my husband cared about sports (we couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl, World Series, Daytona 500 or March Madness). Most of my working class street cred comes from growing up in a small town, living in an old farmhouse in a rural area for several years and owning a pickup truck that was on its last legs, holding part time jobs at Casey’s and Dollar General (which come with uniforms and lots of standing on your feet) and skating perilously close to the poverty line for a couple of years after losing a good job.

  10. My score was 57. By all rights, I should have had points for the pickup truck I would have bought save for our having six kids. The author may be an elitist himself if he assumes my attachment to fishing, hunting and shooting should predispose a liking for crappy TV shows. I don’t like watery beer. So what? He applies a stereotype. As they say, there’s no accounting for taste.

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