Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republicans wealthier than Democrats, especially in red states, but will it continue?

Razib reviews Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do at his SB site. It appears the authors delve deeply into what's been pointed out and discussed here: While Republican voters are on average wealthier and (slightly) more educated* than Democratic voters are, blue states are wealthier and more educated than red states are.

They also show, unsurprisingly, that wealthy Republicans in red states are more socially conservative than Republicans in blue states are (just as I suspect poor Democrats in red states are more socially conservative than poor Democrats in blue states are).

More intringuingly, wealthy red staters are said to often be more religious than poor red staters are. That wouldn't surprise me in Utah, but in Louisiana? My first inclination is to wonder if the red state poor are more likely to be 'Scots-Irish'--a group that has historically been less religiously committed (I think) than English and German settlers have been--than the affluent red staters are.

Razib makes no mention of it in his review, but to anyone who has read the book (I have it on the way), does it address how race effects the white vote? For states where at least 10% of the population is black (excluding DC, for once a theoretical state has a black majority, it doesn't matter how whites vote), there is a correlation of .42 (p=.07) between the state's Republican support and the relative size of its black population--that is, the blacker the state, the more likely it is to vote Republican. I suspect this is in part due to whites in heavily black states perceiving welfare programs as little more than a means of taking money from them and giving it to blacks, whereas in lilywhite states like Vermont, welfare programs are seen as merely taking money from overabundant whites and giving it to fellow whites who are momentarily down-and-out.

* Looking at exit polling data for the '06 mid-terms and the '96-'04 Presidential elections, I 'estimated' mean income for Republicans and Democrats. I took the middle value of the income range category, determined what percentage of each party's total vote it represented, did this for each income category, and then came up with a mean income (rounded to the nearest thousand) accordingly. For "under $15,000", I used $7,500. For the highest income range, I used 125% of the minimum value (ie, for "$200,000 or more" I used $250,000):

Rep avgDem avg

The income gap has remained pretty steady over the last decade, with Republicans earning somewhere in the area of 10%-20% on average more than Democrats. The estimates are useful for comparative purposes. It's a pretty crude method of estimating the actual mean income of each party's voters, though.

Income grows for both parties every election cycle for a couple of reasons. One is artificially due to the way I came up with the averages--the uppermost range was $100,000 for '96 and '00 (thus capping the top earners at $125k), then grew to $200,000 for '04 and '06 ($250k tops). The other is that, according to exit polling data, the lowest income range has seen decreased representation as time goes on. In '96, it's 11% of the total vote. Ten years later, it only comprised 7%. In '96, voters earning less than $50,000 constituted 61% of the total vote. A decade later, only 40%. Of course, this doesn't take inflation into account.

Educationally, Republican and Democratic voters are close to parity. Using a simple formula similar to what was used in looking at educational attainment by state, I assign an index score to voters in each party by election cycle. The formula used is [(1.5 * Post-graduate % + Bachelor's only % - < HS grad %) * 100]:

Reps Dems

Voters are wealthier and more educated than non-voters are. If the same formula is used for the nation as a whole, it earns a 9.3 in 2000. Half Sigma has lamented what he sees as an exodus of the well-educated and wealthy from the GOP to the Democratic side. It's difficult to discern an income trend evidencing this, especially since blue states tend to be more expensive states to live in then red states are (thus Republican voters' real buying power advantage over Democratic voters is even larger than the nominal income advantage is).

But educationally, he may be onto something. The Democratic index score has increased every election cycle over the past ten years, while the GOP's declined until '06, when it shot back up to where it had been when Clinton was reelected.

The abrupt increase is attributable to the walloping Republicans received in '06. Moderates tend to be less intelligent and less wealthy than conservatives or liberals are, and the "uncommitted" types who see their electoral leanings ebb and flow with things like gas prices or the S&P 500 index probably tend to be less educated and less affluent than those who are more committed. These moderate middlers primarily went for the Democrats in '06.

This election looks set to offer something similar. A large black turnout could again lead to Republican voters being slightly more educated than Democratic voters, as was the case in '06. Going forward, I'm hesitant to assume the increase in educational attainment among Democrats will continue because the party is increasingly becoming non-white. Some well-educated, affluent whites may continue to move away from the GOP, but I expect middle class and working class whites to move in the other direction. The educational attainment and affluence of white Democrats may well increase going forward, but it might be more than offset by the increasing number of Democrat-supporting Hispanics.


Stopped Clock said...

Thank you for doing this research. I've been wondering about this for a while and I'm glad to see us get closer to an answer.

However I would like to ask one more favor. I can't find the raw data you must be looking at. Do they provide info we could use to correlate income and education with party membership among whites only? I mean, it's not really surprising that the average Democrat makes less than the average Republican when you consider that almost half of the Democrats are black or Hispanic. But given that the income gap seems to be only about 10 to 15%, it isn't hard to imagine that the average white Democrat might be richer than the average white Republican. Likewise, it's nearly certain that the average white Democrat has a better education than the average white Republican.

That swing voters tend to be uneducated and unintelligent is one of the few things I can agree with my ultra-liberal debating partner on.

Audacious Epigone said...


I'm looking at CNN exit polling data by election cycle. The organization presents it for Presidential voters during those elections, and exit polls on House voters during mid-terms. Unfortunately, the exit polling service dropped the ball in '02, so there aren't any data for that cycle.

Have HS or Inductivist looked at the GSS for an answer on your questions? I'm sure they probably have, although I don't recall it recently. Anyway, if not, I'll take a look at it.

Steve Sailer said...

By the way, I crunched the missing 2002 House election exit poll data that was temporarily lost due to software malfunction. In 2002, the GOP voters' advantage in education over Democratic voters was clear, whereas the way I count it the two sets of voters were equal in 2000 and the Democrats had an advantage in 2004.

GOP voters in 2002 were more like what you might think of as old-fashioned Republicans -- educated and affluent -- than in 2000 or 2004.

Steve Sailer said...

White Democrats tend to be a little better educated than white Republicans. Since white liberal only compare themselves to other whites, that's where the Democrats-are-smarter stereotype comes from.

Steve Sailer said...

My guess would be that people who have more education than income tend to be Democrats while those who have more income than education tend to be Republicans.

Anonymous said...

That is such a crock of crap; I am a NP for very good reasons; having extensively studied both sides of Political Partiies though leaning more on the Democrat side; both parties have their never ending forms of Corruption; Has anyone of them been able to beat 4+ years of celibacy...then we can say that they are truly conservative...In among the 16 lands and the 10 Kingdoms that are...