US politics are fascinating in some ways, for example because they pose many challenges to economic logic. Political economy, especially when applied to the United States, relies a lot on the concept of the median voter, self-interest and the fact that voters act rationally, that is, they understand what they are voting on.
Take one important dimension of electoral platforms: federalism and equalization payments across states. There is no explicit system that would redistribute fund across state in the US like there is in Canada or some European countries. However, there is implicit redistribution through various programs and through taxation. For example, if NASA gets more funding, Florida, Texas and California are going to benefit the most. If the food stamp program gets cut, Mississippi will suffer more than Massachusetts. And if the marginal income tax rate is increased for high incomes, Connecticut will suffer more than Arkansas.
The Republican party is typically associated with the right wing, which advocates little redistribution. The Democratic party is pushing for more redistribution, at least compared to the the Republican party. All this would imply that states that would gain the most from redistribution should vote for the Democratic party, right? Right?
Well, look at this data from the Tax Foundation, which describes for each dollar in federal taxes, how many dollars are spent by the federal government in that state. The states that gain the most from this type of redistribution are those that tend to vote Republican. And the bottom is a nice collection of typically Democratic states.
What does this mean? Voters do not understand what they are voting for? Republican congressmen are better at pork spending? Democrats are genuinely generous? Equalization payments are irrelevant and the observed correlation is spurious?