John Quiggin set out to determine whether or not the white working-class in the United States has abandoned the Democrats in favor of the Republican Party (by looking at the Republican voting base in 2008).
The pie chart above summarizes his findings:
the biggest group in the Republican voting base, and the group with which they do best is that of middle/high income whites without college degrees (the percentage after the group name gives the Republican share of the vote for that group). There’s nothing surprising in this, since all three variables are correlated with Republican voting. It’s the practice of calling this group “working class” that causes the confusion.
So, as it turns out, the white working-class is split pretty evenly between the two parties.*
To defend the “white working class problem” thesis, you might argue that the Dems, as the less rightwing party, ought to do better than a 50-50 split among this group if they were voting in line with their own economic interests, and obviously the politics of race and culture are playing a significant role here. But that would require a much more explicitly redistributionist position than the Dems have taken for a long time. The most obvious illustration is Obama’s determination to keep the Bush income tax cuts for the first $250 000 a year of income, a policy that greatly benefits the middle class and the rich, but does little or nothing for those with less than $40 000 a year, whose income is taxed mainly through the payroll tax. Add to that the fact that most politicians of both parties are millionaires and you can see why working class voters aren’t filled with enthusiasm for the Dems.
*Quiggin uses an income-based definition of the working-class, as having incomes less than $40,000.