Friday, March 6, 2009

Income and the 2008 US Election

Andrew Gelman takes a look at the 2008 election results in terms of class. You wouldn't know this if you followed the mainstream media depiction of politics as an essentially cultural battle rather than an economic one, but it turns out that people mostly vote their economic interest:







If you are rich, you probably voted Republican. If you are poor, you probably voted Democrat. Fancy that! Gelman notes, in response to a commenter: "Regarding Robert's comment that 'the map based on rich Americans only corresponds so closely to the image of the US presented by pundits TV talking heads': Exactly. That's a key point of Red State, Blue State."

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do is Gelman's book, in which he argues what these maps bear out: that people who don't have a lot of money favor the party that tends to offer more support for people who don't have a lot of money, and that people who have a lot of money favor the party that tends to offer more support for people who have a lot of money. Go figure. So why does the media seem to portray politics as a battle between church-going gun-owning social conservatives and secular gay-marrying liberals? Well, another thesis of Gelman's book is that, to the extent there is a culture war that manifests itself in the voting booth, it's a phenomenon of the upper classes: people who have the luxury of voting on cultural issues will do so; others will vote for their economic interests, all else being equal. But of course most media pundits are wealthy - they are just the sorts of people who have the luxury of voting on cultural issues. No wonder they tend to ignore the significance of class in voting behavior.

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