Rich Republicans and working class Democrats
Ezra has written a review of the book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State Andrew Gelman, who has written a book exposing the truth behind one of the weirder myths of American politics—that people are more likely to vote Democratic the richer they get. The other assumption, which is getting a lot of play as people gape in horror at the imbeciles filling up McCain/Palin rallies with their conspiracy theories and their hate, is that Republican voters are uneducated working class people. As I mentioned before, the most interesting example of that stereotype I’ve seen was the commenters at Sadly, No who looked at this picture and assumed it was a double wide. It is, in fact, an extremely expensive house in a pretty well-to-do neighborhood. Granted, most of the houses around it have Obama signs, so it’s easy to see where the stereotype of rich or at least upper middle class Democrats comes from, but Gelman has statistics to explain why that is, and a lot of it has to do with the blueness of Austin itself. See, well off liberals tend to flock together in dense areas where they have a disproportionate influence on the media image of both wealth and liberalism.
The reality of voting patterns is actually what you’d expect it to be, considering the economic philosophies of the two parties—the less money you make, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. But what makes it interesting is that the richer the area is, the higher percentage of well-to-do people are Democrats.
“Our original thinking,” writes Gelman, “was that some states were more Republican than others, but that there would be a consistent pattern of income and voting within each state.” It was not to be. Connecticut exhibits a gentle slope. The rich are more Republican, but not by much. Ohio is a steeper incline. The rich are a fair bit more Republican than the poor. And Mississippi shoots sharply upward. The rich are far more Republican than the poor. Why should rich states be less sharply polarized than poor states?
Part of it, I suspect, is the amount that people value being high and mighty compared to their neighbors. Republican policies are well-equipped to sharply divide the rich and the poor, but they don’t do much for the overall economy. In bluer areas, I suspect you see more well off people who would rather have a good economy where they make more money than a poor economy where they may not make as much as they would in a good economy, but they get the pleasure of being richer than everyone else. People vote Republican in red states, and the result is that their states begin to suck, but they continue voting for Republicans because they’d rather have a shitty state than a nice one where the wealth is spread around more equally.
Gelman has a lot more reasons, including the gap between the secular well-to-do and the evangelicals. But it’s a good reminder that the richer you are, the more likely to be Republican you are, because right now people are in a tizzy over Republican populism, which they automatically assume is working class. Not really—if anything, you’re seeing a lot of financially well off people play at being the everyday Joes because it soothes their egos. It’s almost kind of weird how ingrained the concept of Republican populism has become, because we’ve seen an election season where the expansively rich candidate who has a private plane is considered less “elitist” than the guy who owns only one house and one car.