Republicans and the working class

I belatedly noticed this response from Timothy Noah related to the David Brooks column I commented on earlier. Noah takes away a different message than myself – mainly wondering if the GOP is really made up of the white working class (my emphasis in bold):

[…] The white working class is pretty evenly split between Republicans (29 percent) and Democrats (26 percent). The rest are mostly independents. Conceivably when you count independent “leaners” the narrow Republican plurality becomes a majority, but no way would it be an “overwhelming” majority because independents don’t lean “overwhelmingly” Republican. Brooks fudges his calculation with “maybe some college,” which I guess means people who began but didn’t complete college–of whom there are a lot, in part because college is so outrageously expensive nowadays. But are there really so many of them, and so many who vote Republican, as to make this group “overwhelmingly” Republican? And are people who have “some college” properly categorized as members of the working class? Many of them have been trained, at community colleges or elsewhere, to perform relatively skilled labor. I think it would be more accurate to call such workers “middle class.”

He also links to this work by sociologist Michael Hout, who goes into much more demographic detail:

If Republicans hold an overwhelming advantage in any group, it is among white college graduates. The Republican edge among them has slipped from 20 percentage points in 1992 to 11 percentage points in the most recent data, but that is as big a margin as the Republicans hold in any group defined by the combination of race and education.

He also graciously provides this graph of white voter political identification:

It’s interesting that Independents hold their largest percentage share in the category of “no credentials.” It’s long been the conjecture of some that being politically independent carries a somewhat lofty connotation. Which is to say that such voters would, probably mistakenly, be taken for knowledgable centrists. I would venture to guess that it’s more a mixture of centrists and uninformed voters who feel no compulsion to officially identify with one party or the other. Though I should point out that they most likely lean in one direction or another.

Either way Noah is very likely correct in presuming the white working class is not overwhelmingly Republican, as Brooks puts it – in fact it may simply be a case of too much Santorum narrative fever. Furthermore, as Noah reminds us, the “working class vote” is increasingly non-white, a category for which Republicans are doing a dismal job at attracting.


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