Class and Party in American Politics

By Jeffrey M. Stonecash | Go to book overview

about exactly how all this occurred, but it is clear that less-affluent whites have not moved away from the Democratic Party and that class divisions have not declined in American politics.


NOTES
1.
The initial distribution of all sample respondents by income categories is used to code individuals into thirds of the income distribution. If whites are then selected for analysis, the original distributions are still used to classify respondents. Since whites on average have higher incomes than nonwhites, this means that among the sample of whites, the percent in the top third is really more than one-third (a higher percent of whites are in this category), and the percent in the lower third is less than a third. Once actual voters are assessed, the top third contains an even higher percentage because high-income respondents vote more. It is recognized that these shifts in composition occur, but the goal of this analysis is to classify respondents by where they fall in the overall distribution of income in American society.
2.
The data reported are the Democratic percentage of the three-candidate vote. Voting results are reported by NES in two ways: the percent received by the Democratic Party of the total vote for the two major party candidates, and the percent received by the Democratic Party of the total of all major candidates. The issue of which one to use becomes relevant primarily with presidential election results. In 1968 George Wallace received 11.5 percent of the reported vote. In 1980 John Anderson received 9.8 percent, and in 1992 H. Ross Perot received 18.5 percent of the vote. If the former measure is used, the percentage provides an easily understood comparison with Republicans, but it does not represent the actual percentage of the vote received by Democratic candidates. The decision of what to use here is driven by the focus of the analysis. The concern is how Democrats have fared absolutely among the electorate. Given this focus, the percent of the three-candidate vote is presented.
3.
I conducted the same analysis of likes and dislikes for congressional House candidates. Among the less affluent the net likes regarding Democrats is positive, if somewhat erratic across the 1950s through 1990s, ranging from .29 to .75. The major change is that among the less affluent (bottom third) the net likes (likes minus dislikes) for Republican candidates steadily declines from .79 in the 1950s to -.65 in the 1990s. The result is that the less affluent become relatively much more positive toward Democratic candidates. Among the more affluent the reaction toward the Democratic Party becomes negative by the 1990s. The net reaction to the Republican Party is generally positive (though, much as polls indicate, it turns negative during the 1990s).
4.
The basis for the conclusion that voters had little coherence to their views is the work of Converse ( 1966b). Although his analysis is often used as a benchmark, some have argued that his requirements for "coherence" were too demanding, and that if there is allowance for an occasional opinion that does not fit with expectations, the percentage with coherent views is much higher ( Brody 1986: 666).

-118-

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