For POLITICO: On the geography of U.S. gun violence

In Politico, Nationhood Lab’s director writes about the project’s latest study on the geography of American gun violence and the staggering differences between regions.

Credit: Politico

On Sunday, Nationhood Lab published its latest data journalism package which looked at the staggering regional differences in deadly gun violence rates. Simultaneously project director Colin Woodard’s magazine-length story on the study’s findings appeared at Politico where racked up massive traffic and commentary.

Over the past 48 hours the Politico story – originally titled “The Surprising Geography of U.S. gun violence” — was picked up by MSN and Yahoo News, highlighted by the Poynter Institute and Talking Points Memo, and the subject of a column in the New York Daily News. It also led to Woodard’s live appearance yesterday on Katy Tur’s MSNBC program, Katy Tur Reports and forthcoming podcast and radio interviews. It’s apparently been the most read story on the Politico sites for two days straight, despite news on Tucker Carlson’s ouster at Fox and President Biden’s announcement that he is indeed running for reeelction.

The piece received social media praise from gun control campaigners like Mom’s Demand founder Shannon Watts, Sandy Hook victim parent Fred Guttenberg and Everytown head John Feinblatt and condemnation from mostly pseudonymous critics seeking to assign blame to southern cities with Democratic administrations or who argued the data should instead be presented as deaths per square mile. Some rightly pointed out that one of the (rotating) headlines Politico assigned to the piece — “Gun Violence is Actually Worse in Red States – It’s Not Even Close” — is a poor frame for the article and our research, which intentionally ignores state boundaries in favor of those of the regional cultures.

The article describes the enormous differences in homicide and suicide rates — including cities-only, whites-only, and Blacks-only — between the regional cultures described in American Nations. As Woodard told Katy Tur: “It’s almost like we’re looking at separate countries.”

[Update, 5/5/23: Politico editor in chief Matt Kaminski told Woodard the story has received more than one million readers to date, making it the most read story on their site so far in 2023. Woodard has also appeared on NPR’s Here & Now to discuss the findings.]