A few months ago I listened to Frank Newport of Gallup tell Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace that upper class Americans tend to be Democrats. Ryssdal was skeptical, but Newport reiterated himself, and explained that’s just how the numbers shook out. This is important because Newport shows up every now and then to offer up numbers from Gallup to get a pulse of the American nation.
Frankly, Newport was just full of crap. I understand that Thomas Frank wrote an impressionistic book which is highly influential, What’s the Matter with Kansas, while more recently Charles Murray has come out with the argument in Coming Apart that the elites tend toward social liberalism. I’m of the opinion that Frank is just wrong on the face of it, but that’s OK because he’s an impressionistic journalist, and I don’t expect much from that set beyond what I might expect from a sports columnist for ESPN. Murray presents a somewhat different case, as outlined by Andrew Gelman, in that his “upper class” is modulated in a particular manner so as to fall within the purview of his framework. Neither of these qualifications apply to Frank Newport, who is purportedly presenting straightforward unadorned data.
When the “average person on the street” thinks upper class they think first and foremost money. This is not all they think about, but in the rank order of criteria this is certainly first on the list. We can argue till the cows come home as to whether a wealthy small business owner in Iowa who is a college drop out is more or less elite than a college professor in New York City who is bringing home a modest upper middle class income (very modest adjusting for cost of living). But to a first approximation when we look at aggregates we had better look at the bottom line of money. After that we can talk details. And the first approximation is incredibly easy to ascertain. Below is a table and chart which illustrate the proportion of non-Hispanic whites after 2000 who align with a particular party as a function of family income, with family income being indexed to a 1986 value (so presumably $80,000 hear means what $80,000 would buy in 1986, not the aughts).
|Family Income||Strong Dem||Dem||Lean Dem||Ind||Lean Rep||Rep||Strong Rep|
|Less than $20,000||12||15||12||24||9||15||12|
|More than $80,000||12||12||10||11||11||23||21|
The results are straightforward: the more income a family has, the more likely they are to be Republican. There is a lot of nuance and geographical detail to be fleshed out in these results. But these facts are where we need to start.
Andrew Gelman has much more as usual. For example, this chart:
Why do I keep posting this stuff? Because facts matter. That’s my hope, my faith. Tell people facts, and they will open their eyes. Tell your friends, tell your family. Have whatever opinion you want to have, but start with the facts we know. Look up facts, calculate facts, analyze facts. They are there for us, we just need to go look. Google is your friend, Wikipedia is your friend. The General Social Survey is your friend.