Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Demographics of the Right

So LTG started a string of threads about the right, anger, and their demographic characteristics. I think it will be interesting to revisit the 2008 exit polls and look at the demographics of voters for Obama and McCain.

Some highlights:

57% of white men and 53% of white women voted for McCain. White men make up 36% of the electorate and white women make up 39% of the electorate. So, to the extent that voting for McCain is correlated with the tea party/health care town hall crowd, US West is right to point out that this right wing populist anger is not just coming from men.

McCain only won majorities of the votes in age groups over 50. McCain tied in the 40-49 age group. So, again assuming a correlation between voting for McCain and the tea bag/health care demonstrations people, there is a clear generational divide that cuts somewhere around the age of 45. That's pretty much the boundary between Gen X and the youngest Baby Boomers (born in 1964 by the US Census definition). The interesting thing here is that the stereotype of Baby Boomers as hippies etc is not reflected in their voting patterns. The reality is that as a group, they are demonstrably more conservative than younger voters. I even saw an interview on CNN yesterday that Arlo Guthrie (Woody Guthrie's son for Christ's Sake!) is a registered Republican (he wouldn't say straight out but I gather he is a Ron Paul fan but he also talks about family values stuff and he said he liked Sarah Palin).

Income is much more complicated. Obama clearly had an advantage among the lowest income groups but he also did well among the highest group (people making more than $200,000). The middle income ranges were split about even.

Education and race interact interestingly. McCain did best among white non-college graduates, 58% of whom voted for McCain. 39% of the electorate are white non-college graduates. Exactly the demographic that had done the best in the Post WWII era and have seen the greatest decline in lifestyles since 1980 or so. 39% is very close to the numbers for strong opposition to health care reform and favorable attitudes towards demonstrators at health care town hall meetings.

McCain won a majority of the votes only in communities with populations of less than 50,000. He barely lost in the suburbs. So there is a rural/small town component to this angry group.

Here is the kicker! 24% of respondents said they would be "scared" if Barack Obama won the election. Of that group, 95% voted for McCain. I think that pretty much provides us with the link between the numbers discussed here and the tea party/health care demonstrator crowd.

A word of warning for Democrats who think they can get their entire wish list though. Only 22% of respondents self-identified as "liberal." That's compared to 34% who self-identified as "conservative." Again, notice that number in the mid 30s.


USWest said...


I would point out that "hippes" were only one of several social groups around in the boomer generation. There was a large portion of that generation that were never hippies.

RBR confirms then that education, age, and the type of place you live have a lot to do with how you vote. Joe the Plumber!

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is also true that a huge number of boomers who were hippies in the 1960s betrayed all of it in the 1980s for materialism (they then found "Jesus" in the 1990s).

Raised By Republicans said...

Joe the Plubmer is a successful symbol on the right because in many ways he represents the median conservative these days. He's a white, non-college educated, middle income (the wiki article says he makes about $40k/year near the median income) guy from a small town (an outer ring suburb or "exurb" of Toledo). He's also a low to no skill worker with big ambitious and dreams of future wealth. His bio is really interesting sociologically speaking. Although he's called a "plumber" he's not a licensed plumber (so no skills). As a result of his publicity it was discovered that he had been working illegally without a plumber's or apprentice plumber's license. When local authorities learned of it, he lost his job and now works as a public speaker and digital converter box salesman.

Think of life from Joe's point of view. As ticked as we get about Boomers (see other thread), Joe probably resents the hell out of the government regulations for getting him fired. He probably blames the existence of regulations themselves for his inability to make a go of being a plumber. Leave aside for the moment that licenses for plumbers protect property owners from crooked or incompetent plumbers and imagine what "Joe" must think.

There are lots of people like Joe. I'm related to some of them. People who used to work in auto plants maybe and tried and failed to start small businesses or can't find jobs that pay as well as the one they lost. They blame it all on the government because it's too difficult to accept that it might be their own decisions that put them in the spot they are in.

It's the inverse of the Reagan argument really. Reagan blamed government for absolving the poor of their personal responsibility for their own poverty (Welfare queens). Today's post-Reagan conservatives blame government specifically to absolve THEMSELVES of their own responsibility for their lack of financial success.