Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 27, 2007

RE: Rich State, Poor State

Filed under: culture, politics — codesmithy @ 10:17 am

Crooked Timber has some maps on how the 2004 elections would have turned out if they were divided along poor, middle income and rich lines. The visual results are pretty stunning, and worth checking out, but I’ll approach it from a strictly textual/numerical perspective.

To summarize, if only poor votes were counted only Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah would be red states.

When only middle incomes are taken into account, the country becomes vastly red but leaving Washington, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine as blue states.

When only the rich are considered, many blue states drop leaving only California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell by looking at the maps which way Washington D.C., Alaska or Hawaii went. But, here are the numerical totals on how the election would have turned out along in each scenario along with the actual result.

Bush Kerry Unknown
Poor Only 66 462 10
Middle Income Only 304 224 10
Rich Only 394 134 10
2004 Actual 286 252

The paper states:

For poor voters, there is no systematic difference between rich and poor states. But for middle-income and especially for rich voters, there is a very strong pattern of rich states supporting the Democrats and poor states supporting the Republicans.

Crooked Timber concludes:

In short, rich people and poor people who live in poor states have very different voting preferences from each other. Rich people and poor people who live in rich states have much more similar voting preferences. Gelman et al. don’t have any hard and fast explanation for this (they note that race explains about half of this disparity, but only half). However, their results do suggest that some of the conventional wisdom of American journalists on class, voting and geographic location stands in sore need of revisiting.

My hypothesis on the differences between middle-class and rich voters in the heartland of America (i.e. not the West Coast or Northeast) is due to interests of the corporations located in that part of nation.  The middle-income and rich voters align themselves with the interests of the companies that they work for.  In this view, the Republicans represent corporate interests of the old economy (primarily nationals); Democrats represent corporate interests of the new economy (information economy) and some other professional classes such as doctors, lawyers and teachers.

Nationals represent the old established economies of freight, power, telephone, mining, etc.  Making a profit in a national is done by reducing costs and tactically increasing markets.  Therefore, their interests are aligned with decreased regulation, reduced taxes, higher government subsidies, access to cheap resources both at home and abroad, anti-labor (no unions, health care, minimum wage increases), etc.

The West Coast and Northeast represent the new information economy. Making a profit means being competitive in the global marketplace with new technology and products. These companies have an interest in ensuring that education continues to be subsidized to ensure access to a relatively cheap supply of scientists and engineers.  They also tend to be more concerned with enforcing intellectual property rights at home and abroad.   Although, they may share interests with the nationals in some areas such as reduced taxes and deregulation, they are willing to make concessions to the poor to gain political leverage when national and new economy interests come into conflict.

The states that are red even when only the poor voters are considered is due to some cultural artifacts.  Poor ranchers and white farmers tied to agro-business tend to be Republicans.  Despite the fact that white farmers in the West are poor, they behave as if they were middle-income employees for a national corporation.  I think the isolation and self-employment contribute to that culture.  It is a special case, much like Utah, which is Republican for value platform reasons.

I think liberals, in particular, have a very bad sense of who they are arguing against.  It has a lot to due with misconceptions about history and how the opinion making elite project a myth about America.  They are not, by in large, uneducated rednecks living in a trailer or some other anti-intellectual stereotype.  They are people like this guy.  Middle-class or rich, religious, educated and probably employed by some private national business in the heartland of America.

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