Paul Klugman on the Persistence of Race in Southern Politics
Since I’ve just published an op-ed about the enduring influence of race on Southern voting, I’m sure to be accused of being a typical Northeastern snob talking about poor white trash who don’t know what’s good for them. So I thought I’d mention an important point about Southern white voting that didn’t fit in 800 words: namely, the poor whites are not the issue.
In fact, if you look at voting behavior, low-income whites in the South are not very different from low-income whites in the rest of the country. You can see this both in Larry Bartels’s “What’s the matter with What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (pdf), Figure 3, and in a comprehensive study of red state-blue state differences by Gelman et al (pdf). It’s relatively high-income Southern whites who are very, very Republican. Can I get away with saying that rich white trash are the problem? Probably not.
What this reflects, in turn, is the odd fact that income levels seem to matter much more for voting in the South. Contrary to what you may have read, the old-fashioned notion that rich people vote Republican, while poorer people vote Democratic, is as true as ever – in fact, more true than it was a generation ago. But in rich states like New Jersey or Connecticut, the relationship is weak; even the very well off tend to be only slightly more Republican than working-class voters. In the poorer South, however, the relationship is very strong indeed.
This is why it’s true both that rich voters tend to be Republican, and that rich states tend to be Democratic.
Read it all here.
It would be interesting to see if these voting patterns are similar when religious belief is taken into account.