In Search of the Angry White Male: Gender, Race, and Issues in the 1994 Elections
GRANT REEHER JOSEPH CAMMARANO1
Aside from the change in the party control of Congress, the aspect of the 1994 elections that has probably received the most attention from media analysts is the supposed phenomenon of the "revenge of the angry white males." Looking at the voting data, we see the analysts have good reason to posit such a phenomenon: Although there have been for some time both gender and race gaps in American voting behavior, in which women and blacks have been more supportive of Democratic candidates than men and whites, in 1994 these gaps were particularly large. The gender gap in the support for Democratic House candidates, for example, went from 3 percent in the mid-term House elections of 1986 and 1990 to 8 percent in 1994. 2 More important for the angry-white-male thesis, however, is the fact that statistically, the increase in this gap was caused entirely by defections of men from the Democratic to the Republican candidates. In 1986, 1990, and 1994 women's support for Democratic House candidates remained constant at 54 percent, an 8 percent margin over that for Republicans. In contrast, in 1986 and 1990 men supported Democratic candidates by a 4 percent margin, while in 1994 they supported Republican candidates by an 8 percent margin. But most important for the thesis and perhaps most startling was the magnitude of the decrease in support for Democratic candidates among white men. White men supported Republican candidates by a 6 percent margin in 1986 and a 4 percent margin in 1990; in 1994 this margin was 24 percent.
Of course, media analysts had described American voters as angry well before the 1994 elections. In 1992, they held that voters were disenchanted with their futures, particularly their economic futures, and that this disenchantment in turn led them to reject an incumbent president whom they had overwhelmingly supported just 16 months earlier. But despite the media attention given to the angry voter (for example, Time magazine's devotion of its cover story to this theme in the spring of 1992), more systematic analyses of voters in 1992 found few departures from past patterns ( Frankovic 1993).