Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Classes and Parties in American Politics

IT often comes as a shock, especially to Europeans, to be reminded that the first political parties in history with "labor" or "workingman" in their names developed in America in the 1820s and 1830s. The emphasis on "classlessness" in American political ideology has led many European and American political commentators to conclude that party divisions in America are less related to class cleavages than they are in other Western countries. Polling studies, however, belie this conclusion, showing that in every American election since 1936 (studies of the question were not made before then), the proportion voting Democratic increases sharply as one moves down the occupational or income ladder. In 1948 almost 80 per cent of the workers voted Democratic, a percentage which is higher than has ever been reported for left-wing parties in such countries as Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. Each year the lower-paid and less skilled workers are the most Democratic; even in 1952, two thirds of the unskilled workers were for Stevenson, though the proportion of all manual workers backing the Democrats dropped to 55 per cent in that year -- a drop-off which was in large measure a result of Eisenhower's personal "above the parties" appeal rather than a basic swing away from the Democratic party by the lower strata.1

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1
See Herbert Hyman and Paul B. Sheatsley, "The Political Appeal of President Eisenhower", Public Opinion Quarterly 17, ( 1953), pp. 443-60. They demonstrate this on the basis of poll results from 1947-48, which already indicated that Eisenhower could win the presidency under the banner of either party.

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