The Distriubtion of Tea

(or Drawing the Line)

October 8, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

In 1760, the Mason-Dixon line divided North from South. Since then, the line between Northernness and Southernness has shifted. In 1860, Maryland remained in the Union, and West Virginia seceded from Virginia to do likewise, curving the North-South dividing line and moving it lower.

Today, the line can be drawn in sweet tea. That’s heavily sugared iced tea, a Southern concoction going back to the 19th century. The people (person?) at Eight Over Five, a graphic design studio, mapped McDonald’s outlets in Virginia according to whether they served sweet tea. The map looks like this (gold dots serve sweet tea, black dots don’t):

Here’s another map showing the shift in the Democratic vote in 2006 compared with 2004. The redder the county, the more it shifted Republican, the bluer the county, the greater the shift towards the Democrats.

It’s not a perfect match, but it’s not bad. The closest resemblance I could find was the 2006 Democratic Senatorial primary race between Harris Miller (dark to light green in the map below) and Jim Webb (purple to pink). Webb, the sweet tea candidate, won and went on to win the general election that November.
As Brillat-Savarin almost said, “Tell me what you drink, and I will tell you how you vote.”

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