Can America’s Reading Matter Tell Us Who’ll Win the Election?

If Amazon.com’s red-blue heatmap reflects American political reality, President Barack Obama’s odds of re-election are so hopeless, he might as well have spent all three debates curled into a fetal position.

From hour to hour, the heatmap tracks how many books designated as blue/liberal (Cornel West’s “The New Jim Crow,” Joseph Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality”) and red/conservative (Glenn Beck’s “Cowards,” Ann Coulter’s “Mugged”) are selling across the country via Amazon and Kindle. Since it launched in August, Amazon’s map has been awash in ruby red, with conservative books outselling liberal tomes by landslide margins across America. Only three states— New York, Massachusetts and Vermont—have stubbornly remained blue.

The red shifts occasionally. On October 17, the day after the second presidential debate, Washington and Oregon changed to beige— from mostly conservative books sold, to a 50-50 split between conservative and liberal. Yesterday, after the third debate, they were back to pink, a 47 percent to 53 percent split, with red winning.

Here’s the mystery: While conservative book sales are way ahead of liberal ones’, Barack Obama’s autobiography “Audacity of Hope” is outselling Mitt Romney’s “No Apology” by 61 percent to 39 percent. And another mystery: the poll-based nonpartisan electoral maps that most national news organizations have on their websites don’t reflect the Amazon state of pre-election America. None of these maps is as blood red as Amazon’s.

Nate Silver may be America’s most famous and eerily accurate election forecaster. His map shows a crimson tide rolling across the South and up the Midwest and then colliding with a blue western border. The northeastern states are a semicircle of blue.

Why are Americans gobbling up so many more conservative than liberal books through Amazon and Kindle even though the two groups read about an equal number of books each year? Some pop-culture critics wonder if liberals get most of their books from on- and offline independent bookshops rather than from Amazon. And HBO talk show host and comedian Bill Maher theorizes that most of Glenn Beck’s books were bought as gag gifts.

Click here to see the most up-to-date map.

What’s your theory? Join the discussion in the comments box below.

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