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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State

A study by that title noted (last item) in the October Atlantic Monthly makes a very intriguing observation.

Historically, Democrats were the party of the lower class, Republicans the party of the rich. But in the last couple decades, the richest states have tended to be the ones that vote for Dems, and our popular conception of Democratic voters has shifted to someone with a latte in their hand. The authors of the study point out, however, that the strong correlation between class and voting habits (in the traditional direction) still exists on a nationwide level. Looking at class voting patterns state-by-state, they find that while class remains a potent predictor of party preference in poor states, it has recently disappeared as a factor in rich states -- the rich and poor in "blue" states are extremely similar in their partisan makeup.

The study is subtitled "What's the Matter with Connecticut?", a play on the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", which looked at the political realignment of rural America. The realignment of places like Connecticut is just as striking, though it hasn't gotten as much attention, and the authors point out that the subtleties they explore in state-by-state trends have led to confused analyses by journalists and pundits.

Since we don't actually know what's causing this trend, it doesn't serve as punditry fodder as easily as "latte liberal"-type stuff. It seems to me, though, that in the poor Southern states where the retention of class-based politics is most pronounced, there is a much more oppositional stance between the classes, and a lot of it stems from race. It looks like the researchers controlled for race statistically, but I think it's also pretty obvious that the effect of race is not the same from state to state.

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