A quick update on the white working class

by John Quiggin on September 25, 2012

As I mentioned a little while ago, if “working class” is defined in terms of income (the same is true, I think, for self-description) rather than the lack of a college education, the “white working class” in the US is about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Lots of commenters made the point that this split varies sharply by region, and this has been confirmed by Kevin Drum and John Sides who cite recent research from the Public Religion and Research Institute. Using the “non-college” definition, they point out that the Repubs have overwhelming majority support from white working class voters in the South (as they do from white Southerners more generally), but that for the rest of the country, “working class” whites divide evenly between the parties.

Unfortunately, neither the PRRI report nor the data I received from Andrew Gelman seems to give a breakdown by region and income, but the data I presented showed overwhelming Repub support among high-income non-college whites, who are not concentrated in the South. It follows, I think, the the Dems are winning a clear, though not overwhelming, majority of low-income non-Southern white voters. That’s the same pattern observed with labour/social democratic parties elsewhere.

In other words, if it weren’t for the South, the US would be a lot more similar, in this as in other ways to other developed countries. Conversely, from the Southern perspective, large parts of the US are, indeed, more like Europe than like the America they know and love.