Wall Street Money Can Predict How Democrats Vote. Here’s How

Follow the money in the latest budget vote which rolled back regulations on banks and divided House Democrats

A week after the gargantuan spending deal squeezed through Congress, many Democrats are still smarting over a provision in the bill that rolls back regulation on how banks can take risks with taxpayer money.

While the financial sector’s boon was too big a pill for many on the left to swallow, 57 Democrats in the House ultimately voted for the legislation, pushing the bill over the goal line. (The final vote for the bill, which picked up the nickname “Cromnibus” along the way, was 219-206).

As the Washington Post noticed last week, those 57 Democrats received considerably more money in campaign donations from the financial sector than their colleagues who voted against the bill. While this may not be terribly surprising, it is an usually clear example of the correlation between money and votes. (As always, the causation–whether the money directly influenced a lawmaker’s vote–does not come along for the ride in this analysis.)

To put a finer point on it, TIME collected data from the Center for Responsive Politics on how much money financial companies gave to each House Democrat in the past two years. When you line up the members in the order of how much they got and how they voted, the pattern is pretty clear. (A handful of newer members are missing due to incomplete data.)

The controversial provision was originally a standalone bill, parts of which was reportedly drafted by Citibank lobbyists. That bill passed the House in 2013 with the support of 70 Democrats but never became law. The divide in the party among those who receive significant contributions from the financial sector was even more apparent then.

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate companies gave a total of $304 Million to members of congress in the last election cycle, more than any other industry identified by the Centre for Responsive Politics. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Boehner (R-OH) are top recipients from this industry each receiving over $3 Million. The same companies also gave Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the congressman who introduced the controversial amendment into the spending bill, $206,700 in the same cycle. These figures don’t include the money that groups like Citibank spent on lobbying efforts.

Members of Congress make voting decisions based on an extraordinary number of considerations, and any given representative can argue quite persuasively that he or she is not motivated by the wants and desires of major donors. When you zoom out, however, you see a correlation between donations and voting behavior that is very unlikely to be a random occurrence, regardless of the root causes.


These figures represent political action committees (PACs) representing financial companies made to candidates, not employees who work for those companies, and do not include contributions made to members’ leadership PACs. The Center for Responsive Politics defines financial companies as commercial banks, credit unions, real estate companies, and a variety of other related industries. The correlation coefficient between the binary outcome of the vote and the dollar amount of contributions was 0.34 for HR 83 and 0.42 for HR 992.


TIME facebook

How Well Do You Know Your Facebook Friends?

Take this quiz to find out

We all have Facebook friends with certain tells in their choice of status updates. There are the unabashedly peppy, the unrelenting complainers and the 800-word posters. To test how well you can identify your Facebook friends by these clues, we’ve built a simple quiz: This app will randomly select status updates from your recent newsfeed and present you with five possible authors for each one. (Note: This will not work for all users due to differences in privacy settings. If you’re asked for your password, you’ll be logging into Facebook. TIME is not recording or storing your password.)

Research suggests that a lot of our offline personality can shine through on Facebook, even if most of us complain about our friends’ behavior online. (And don’t delay. Facebook will soon be shutting down the service that lets us make apps like this one or the classic “How Much Time Have You Wasted On Facebook?”)

Read next: Find Out Which of Your Facebook Friends Makes You the Happiest


This Is the Most Popular Christmas Song Ever

TIME crunches the merry numbers behind the most popular Christmas songs of the modern era

The names Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber have largely vanished into the annals of Christmas tormentors, but their greatest triumph lives on. “Silent Night,” which Mohr wrote the lyrics for (in German) in 1816 and Gruber put to music two years later, is the most recorded Christmas song in the modern era of the holiday’s substantial oeuvre.

To determine this fact, TIME crawled the records at the U.S. Copyright Office, which offers digitized registrations going back to 1978, and collected data on every Christmas album recorded since that time. “Silent Night,” it turns out, is not merely the most popular carol; with 733 copyrighted recordings since 1978, it is nearly twice as dominant as “Joy to the World,” a distant second with 391 records to its name.

As one might surmise, songs that are no longer under their original copyright are considerably more prominent on modern Christmas albums, given that one needn’t share the holiday windfall. This lends an obvious advantage to the ecclesiastical hymns and tunes, like “O Holy Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” As intellectual property lawyer Paul C. Jorgensen explains, this does nothing to prevent artists from copyrighting their own recording of a song and collecting royalties whenever a radio station wants to play it–assuming the other 732 renditions weren’t to taste.

Nor is it strictly limited to American recording artists. “A lot of international artists will go ahead and register things in the United States,” Jorgensen said.

To determine secularity, TIME measured the likelihood that a song appears on the same album with either “What Child Is This?”, a decidedly devout 1865 tune, or “Jingle Bell Rock,” roughly it’s polar opposite. (The choice of those two songs is rather arbitrary, but proved in trial and error to offer the clearest dichotomy.) In true Christmas spirit, “Silent Night” aptly bridges that great divide: It co-headlines with just about anyone.


This project began by downloading every copyrighted recording of “Jingle Bells,” then expanding to every song on the same album as “Jingle Bells,” and so forth until the universe of Christmas music was exhausted. The data only includes “sound recording” records from the Copyright Office, as opposed to sheet music arrangements, videos, and other formats in which one might copyright a song. Variations on the same material, such as “O Christmas Tree” and “O Tannenbaum,” where grouped as one song.

Design by Alexander Ho


The Jaden and Willow Smith Poetry Generator

Let the famous Hollywood siblings be your inspiration

He is a 16-year-old actor and musician. She is a 14-year-old musician with one big hit under her belt already. Together, they are Hollywood royalty and apparently vessels for some extraterrestrial wisdom, if judged by this interview published by T Magazine Monday. To celebrate the uncanny insight of Jaden and Willow Smith, son and daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, we present you with this poetry generator using their own words from the new interview.

Read next: The 5 Weirdest Things Willow and Jaden Smith Said In That T Interview


How Liberal is Your Burger?

See the political leanings of the places Johnny Rockets, White Castle and other fast food restaurants call home

No matter how avowedly nonpartisan they claim to be, every major retailer has a political identity ingrained in the locations of its stores. Six in 10 Johnny Rockets can be found in Democratic congressional districts, while eight in 10 Sonics are in districts that will send a Republican to Washington in 2015. (Fifty-eight percent of Congressional districts will be held by Republicans come January.) TIME recently explored these dynamics in an interactive chart that is reprinted at the bottom of this post.

To further plumb the mysteries of burger politics, here are a few lists of the chains that are most often found in only Democratic or only Republican districts.

We also ran the numbers for clothing, grocery stores and auto dealerships. Fancy an Arby’s sandwich? Odds are you’ll be driving there in your Buick.

The Most Liberal Burgers in America

Franchise Dem. Rep. Total locations
Johnny Rockets 61% 39% 195
White Castle 58% 42% 409
Jack in the Box 53% 47% 2106
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants 53% 47% 494
In-N-Out Burger 52% 48% 264

The Most Conservative Burgers in America

Franchise Rep. Dem. Total locations
Jack’s Family Restaurants 95% 5% 127
Hardee’s 83% 17% 1741
Sonic 82% 18% 3435
HWY 55 78% 22% 112
Arby’s 76% 24% 3188

The Most Liberal Car Dealerships in America

Franchise Dem. Rep. Total locations
Tesla Motors 66% 34% 101
MINI 56% 44% 113
Land Rover 49% 51% 156
Audi 49% 51% 273
Acura 49% 51% 263

The Most Conservative Car Dealerships in America

Franchise Rep. Dem. Total locations
Lincoln 77% 23% 786
Pontiac 77% 23% 2021
Buick 76% 24% 2025
Chevrolet 74% 26% 2973
Ford Motor Company 74% 26% 3015

The Most Liberal Clothing in America

Franchise Dem. Rep. Total locations
American Apparel 84% 16% 134
Simply Fashion 77% 23% 228
Rainbow Shops 72% 28% 980
H & M 62% 38% 298
7 For All Mankind 62% 38% 732

The Most Conservative Clothing in America

Franchise Rep. Dem. Total locations
Factory Connection 95% 5% 282
Cato Fashions 83% 17% 1052
maurices 83% 17% 887
Vanity 81% 19% 148
Buckle 78% 22% 452

The Most Liberal Grocery Stores in America

Franchise Dem. Rep. Total locations
Stop & Shop 83% 17% 395
Whole Foods Market 67% 33% 293
Trader Joe’s 65% 35% 418
Safeway 64% 36% 865
A&P 63% 37% 300

The Most Conservative Grocery Stores in America

Franchise Rep. Dem. Total locations
Weis Markets 83% 17% 321
Kroger 78% 22% 1297
IGA 77% 23% 1081
Food Lion 76% 24% 1113
Winn-Dixie 73% 27% 628


TIME interactive

Are You a J. Crew Democrat or a Pizza Hut Republican?

Check out this chart and search tool to see the political leanings of the places that Starbucks, Walmart, and 2,700 other companies call home

If you live near a Ben & Jerry’s or a few Dunkin’ Donuts outposts, odds are good that your Congressional district elected a Democrat on Tuesday. More familiar with the inside of a Pizza Hut or a Long John Silver’s? Chances are you’ll be represented next year by a Republican.

The following chart places 49 common brands on a political spectrum based on the percentage of their brick-and-mortar stores that are located in Democratic or Republican districts. To do this, TIME matched nearly 2 million store locations provided by the research company AggData to their corresponding Congressional district and then tallied them by that district’s vote in 2014 midterms. Of the 139 American Apparel stores, for example, 83 percent are in blue districts. Nearly nine in 10 Belk department stores, meanwhile, can be found in red districts. All the other brands on the chart fall somewhere in between. You can look for any store you like in the search tool below the graphic.

There is no evidence, of course, that a regular infusion of banana ice cream and fudge chunks inspires a person toward liberalism. Because two-thirds of the Ben & Jerry’s in the United States are found in Democratic districts, however, the mere presence of a store in a district raises the statistical odds that its residents are people who vote for Democrats.

While stores like Whole Foods or Hobby Lobby might already conjure partisan stereotypes, the vast majority of America’s brands do not. Even so, where these stores are located tells us a tremendous amount about who their shoppers are sending to Washington.


The list of retail locations was provided by AggData. Stores were matched to Congressional district by comparing their longitude and latitude to the Census definitions of districts. The results do not include the 14 Congressional races that have yet to be resolved as of 6:00 AM on Nov. 6, 2014.

Read next: How the World Sees America Now

Correction: The interactive chart originally linked the incorrect record for Armani Exchange when the user clicked the icon in the chart. It has since been updated.


These 9 Slides Show the Surprisingly Low Impact of Libertarian Candidates

Despite growing numbers of candidates, they almost never even succeed as spoilers by throwing the race to one candidate or another.

Almost no one seriously thinks that Sean Haugh will be the next senator from North Carolina. But political observers in both major parties are worried that the pizza deliveryman and Libertarian candidate could siphon enough votes to sway the election, likely to be one of the closest in the country on Tuesday. And stakes couldn’t be higher: any one election could determine control of the Senate in 2015.

But which party has more to fear from Haugh? Kentucky Senator Rand Paul campaigned for Republican nominee Thom Tillis in early October, a move seen as an attempt to shore up Libertarian-leaning Republican voters. More recently, the American Future Fund, a conservative outside spending group, bet $225,000 that Haugh could flip the election in the Republicans’ with an ad campaign focused on his unembarrassed enthusiasm for marijuana, aimed to draw away younger supporters of Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.

Though Haugh is currently polling at around 5 percent—more than the margin between Tillis and Hagan—he is very unlikely to spoil anything other than the hopes of a few misled pot smokers. While the threat of spoiler candidates makes for breathless headlines and titillating front-page reads, the real odds of this happening are extremely slim.

For starters, it is very rare for a Congressional contest to be decided by a margin small enough for a third-party candidate to make a difference. Of the 1,873 elections that TIME examined—every House and Senate race going back to 2006, not including special elections and runoffs—only 70 were won with less than 50 percent of the vote. A Libertarian candidate ran in 46 of them.

The threat of a spoiler candidate is further exaggerated by the common assumption that third-party voters would otherwise turn up at the polls at all.

“That’s the old style to think about voting,” says Stanford professor Jon Krosnick, a social psychologist and polling expert. “We’ve now come to recognize that the candidates influence turnout. The presence of the third-party candidate can lure people to vote who otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all.”

It’s impossible to know with any precision how people would have behaved without the presence of a third-party candidate. Even asking them in polls is unreliable, given that pollsters typically report unrealistically high turnout figures when they ask people if they voted.

The picture is confounded yet further by the fact that a distaste for the major parties is often the motivation that draw a person to a third-party candidate in the first place.

That’s a view shared by Emily Salvette, who drew 10,630 votes as a Libertarian in the 2012 race for Michigan’s 1st District. “I do honestly think that a lot of people wouldn’t have voted,” she says. “They’re not engaged anymore because they don’t like the choice.” The Republican in that contest, Congressman Dan Benishek, edged out his Democratic challenger by 1,881 votes.

Depending whose base you think Salvette drew from, you might call her either a spoiler or nearly one. But Salvette says she saw support from voters with a variety of viewpoints, including people who supported her views on everything from medical marijuana to gun rights.

This is where the spoiler math falls apart: 1,881 votes doesn’t seem like a large share of Salvette’s 10,630. But to tip the election to the Democrat, every single one of the people who voted for Salvette would have had to show up had Salvette not been in the race—very unlikely—and they would have had to break for the Democrat by a sizable margin of 59-41. The fewer voters that show up, the larger that margin needs to be.

Of course, it is typically the Republican candidate who feels more threatened by a Libertarian in the race.

“Republicans think that the Libertarian vote comes out of their column,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. In fact, there’s evidence from exit polls in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race that Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who garnered 145,762 votes in a race decided by about 55,000, drew more support from winner Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, than from Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The majority of Sarvis’ supporters said they otherwise would not have voted.

It’s certainly possible to find more compelling cases for spoilers. In 2012, Democrat Jim Matheson beat challenger Mia Love in Utah’s 4th District by 768 votes, while Libertarian Jim Vein received 6,439 votes—and earned some unkind attention from Republicans before the votes were fully counted. Even so, half of Vein’s voters would have needed to show up without him in the race, those supporters would have had to vote for Love over Matheson by at least a 61-39 margin to make a difference.

Even the most famous supposed spoiler in modern history–the 2000 presidential election in Florida–is less clear-cut than most of us recall. One statistical analysis of polls and ballot returns suggests that Nader’s supporters would only have broken for Gore over Bush by a 60-40 margin, if they broke for either candidate. That many of Nader’s supporters would otherwise have turned out and supported either major-party candidate is far from established.

When an election is that close, blaming a third-party candidate is the electoral equivalent of blaming Bill Buckner for spoiling the 1986 World Series for the Boston Red Sox: It is merely the most visible excuse for a loss that could have been reversed if one of a thousand factors had gone just a little better.


The Incredible Rise in Campaign Spending

The cost of running for Congress has increased more than 500 percent since 1984. Here's an interactive look at how campaign expenditures have outrun inflation, health care, and even the rising cost of college

The NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, added an hour to its nightly newscast this year to profit from all the political ads ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, but demand was still too great. “There is only so much inventory I have,” explains WHO-TV station manager Dale Woods. It is the same in tight races all across the country. Nearly bottomless campaign and super-PAC bank accounts have been unloaded on airtime, mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts. And in recent years, the spending growth has accelerated.

Since the mid-1980s, the amount dumped on elections by campaigns and outside groups, as measured by the Federal Election Commission, has grown 555 percent—faster than even the alarming increases in the costs of health care and private college tuition. The reasons, say political scientists, include growth in the national economy, the razor-thin margin determining congressional control and changes to campaign-finance rules. Expect the trend to continue. Senate races in North Carolina and Kentucky this year could cost more than $100 million, and the estimated spending on TV ads in Alaska and Iowa already tops $11 per eligible voter.


Sources for interactive: Federal Election Commission summary files; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; U.S. Census Bureau; St. Louis Fed; National Center for Education Statistics. Outside spending data for the years 2006-2012, which are missing from FEC summary reports, are courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total value of an election is calculated in two parts: Campaign spending and outside spending. Campaign spending consists of all expenditures except authorized transfers of funds to other committees, as well as party-coordinated spending, and includes primary elections. Outside Spending encompasses third-party expenditures that are made without the knowledge or consent of the candidates, but only includes transactions that are explicitly used to advocate for or against a candidate.


Quiz: How Does Your City Affect Your Happiness?

Answer these 13 questions and find out

Happy CityIn his book Happy City, Charles Montgomery offers evidence that where you live has a powerful effect on how you feel. From our commutes to our neighbors and our daily routines, where we choose to live can influence our feelings in ways most of us never imagine.

mcgill_logoThe following quiz will ask you 13 questions about your life. After answering each one, you’ll see how thousands of others have answered the same question. This survey will help us reveal new insights about the relationship between cities and happiness. All responses are completely anonymous.

The quiz was developed by Montgomery, Chris Barrington-Leigh of McGill University, along with TIME.

The data for average happiness scores will update as more readers take the survey. Current results based on 3,302 respondents. Data may also be used for a future study by Barrington-Leigh on happiness across the United States.

Read next: What Your Zip Code Says About You


Can You Solve J.K. Rowling’s Anagram?

Channel your inner Gryffindor to figure out Rowling's latest puzzle

Speculation is swirling after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted a mysterious phrase that appears to be a scrambled message. Hogwarts fans are jumping at the idea that she could be hinting at another novel set in the wizarding world.

Use TIME’s anagram solver to see if you can figure it out. Then share your best guess. The winner gets 50 points for Gryffindor.

Here’s the full Twitter exchange.

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