Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blue Versus Red - a War of the Wealthy

The ever widening gap between Red and Blue America exists mainly among the wealthy.

The New York Times reports that a study based on exit polls shows lower-income Americans, whether from Blue or Red states, tend to favour the Democratic Party.  The divide seems to be the battleground of more well-to-do voters.

To picture this, imagine two alternative universes for the 2012 election. In the first, only individuals making less than $50,000 a year can vote; in the second, only those making more than $100,000 a year can. Based on exit polls from Election Day, we have a decent idea of how these scenarios would play out.

In the first universe, Barack Obama wins in a 1984-style landslide, with a near sweep of the Electoral College and around 60 percent of the popular vote.

In the second universe, Mitt Romney wins with a healthy 54 percent of the popular vote. Though he still carries the red states, a landslide remains out of his grasp — wealthy voters in blue states like New York and California still support Obama by comfortable margins.

Remarkably, this same pattern has occurred in every presidential contest over the past twenty years. Lower-income voters consistently support the Democratic candidate in nearly every state. Upper-income voters, on the other hand, are more mixed in their political views: wealthy voters in Mississippi are strongly Republican while wealthy voters in Massachusetts are strongly Democratic. Extensive analyses of survey information from these elections show that this relationship holds even when controlling for age, race, sex and education.

In other words, contrary to what you have heard, there’s only a strong red America-blue America split toward the top of the income distribution. Toward the bottom, the electoral map is a sea of blue.

It still seems hard to grasp that when rich and poor are tabulated together, Obama edged out Romney by just a couple of points.  That suggests an America today of enormous affluence in which lower-income voters make up a small minority.


Beijing York said...

Interesting. That suggests that many US citizens vote for their better interest. But when you see the number of tea party supporters who look to be less than affluent, the findings seem at odds. I guess aspirational feelings might be at play as in those who think that their less than affluent status is only temporary.

The Mound of Sound said...

I have to take this with some skepticism, B.Y. Why is it that the "bottom half" of the Red State voters don't show a greater Democratic impact in local elections? Red States, from what I've read, tend to be fairly consistently Red from local to state to federal politics. Something just doesn't seem to make sense with this NYT story.

Anonymous said...

I used to travel stateside on business trips through the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, amongst others. I found the societies to be very segregated, with a lot of bigotry evident.

Based on my personal experiences, I would guess that the bigotry would still trump income considerations.

Mark said...

Keep in mind that high income earners are more likely to vote than low income earners. People that feel like they've been left in the dustbin just don't see the point in voting. High income earners are more likely to take the view that they will be affected by the outcome of the election.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Mark - good point, thanks. I suppose there are several reasons the poor are less apt to turn out to the polls and likely suffer for that in the overall course of politics.

@ Anon. One thing Obama's presidency has done is to erase any wishful thinking that racism was a spent force in America. He has been a presidential lightning rod for white bigots.