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Friday, September 11, 2009

The "Undeserving Rich" and White Working Class Voters

Hmmm. Did the working class voters who favored Bush over Kerry do so because they believed Bush, unlike Kerry, was part of the "deserving rich"?:

Democrats seen as the 'undeserving rich' face rejection by party voters, EurekAlert: In a recent study, researchers from several universities looked at why white working-class voters voted Republican in recent national elections even when they didn't like Republican policies.
The study, "The Undeserving Rich: 'Moral Values' and the White Working Class," is in the current issue of Sociological Forum. It finds that, even when Republican policies are unpopular, they often come bundled with an overarching moral framework that is extremely resonant to this set of voters, a framework marked by what voters considered an "appropriate" attitude toward personal wealth. [Note: ungated version of the paper.]
This attitude was characterized by respondents as a "down to earth" quality as opposed to "aloofness." Whether candidates see themselves as better than "normal human beings" because of their wealth, say the researchers, was to many respondents more important than how much money they actually have.
"For our respondents, this difference was not trivial," says one of the study's authors, Steven G. Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology, at the University at Buffalo.
"In particular, the way in which the two candidates in the 2004 presidential election -- both wealthy men -- handled themselves in relation to their wealth was important to our respondents; it was seen as a clue to candidates' moral fiber," he says.
For example, John Kerry (described by various respondents as "aloof," "upper level" and "a little snooty") was identified as being part of what the study calls "the undeserving rich," Hoffman says. "Whereas George W. Bush's wealth did not demean his character, because he was seen as a member of the 'deserving rich' ('…he's just a regular cowboy, a cowboy rancher.')."
"In fact, of all the Bush voters interviewed, 25.8 percent spontaneously mentioned some variant of that theme," Hoffman explains. ...
The researchers explain that the behavior of white working-class voters has puzzled many scholars because Republican economic priorities seem to favor the wealthy at the expense of redistributive policies that would provide immediate benefits to larger segments of the population. ...
The researchers used in-depth interviews to uncover the framework that has supported the voting practices of these Democratic voters. The notion of an "appropriate" attitude to wealth, served for these voters as an indicator of a candidate's general moral philosophy and as a rule-of-thumb signal of whether the candidate will govern with working-class voters' interests in mind. ...
The authors point out that in attempting to explain why Republicans have attracted votes from the less-wealthy segments of the population, scholarly literature has previously settled on six possible explanations. These include: beliefs among voters that Republican policies will help the general economy, or one day may help them become rich; that such voters generally agree with the ideology behind Republican policies -- that the rich become rich through hard work and should be rewarded; that while Republican economic policies are unpopular with this group, they are bundled with other issues that are popular, such as Republican positions on abortion, gay marriage or foreign policy; or that the voters in question are unaware of Republican economic policies or misinformed about their true nature.
Still another explanation is that, while Republican economic policies are unpopular, voters vote in this way because they prefer the "moral values" of the Republican Party, a position which the Hoffman study clearly supports. ...

    Posted by on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 02:19 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (100)


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