Who is in that white working class moving away from Democrats?

Paul Krugman talks about this in his new book, so it’s getting a lot of discussion lately. Matthew Ygelesias’s rollup analysis makes sense of the Thomas Frank vs. Larry Bartels disagreement, too.

Krugman comments that “the conventional pundit wisdom about the relationship between class and voting” – namely that there’s less class polarization than there used to be “is, literally, the opposite of the truth.” The difficulty is that there’s a lot of ambiguity about how we should define class. Fortunately, the best article on this controversy was written by me. Krugman, following Larry Bartels, wants to define the “white working class” as being composed of white people in the bottom third of the income distribution (which, note, is considerably less than one third of all white people). Dissenters from this view make some good points:
[INDENT]Gopoian and Whitehead point out that “only one-third of the Bartels voters were actively doing paid work,” a fact that undermines the “working” half of the working-class label. What’s more, “of those who were working, nearly half were under the age of 30,” a category that would include such non-obvious members as several 20-something Ivy League–educated members of the Prospect’s staff.[/INDENT] In short, the low-income whites who Bartels finds to be strong backers of the Democratic Party have a marked tendency to be retirees or students and even those who are working tend to be very young. The alternative definition of “white working class” is “white people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree.” Under that definition of white working class, the white working class does, indeed, support the Republican Party. However:
[INDENT]The education-based definition of the working class comes with problems of its own. Using the education criterion, almost two-thirds of white voters, and a significantly larger portion of the overall population, get defined as “working class,” arguably making the group too large to target politically in a meaningful way. The median household income of non– college-educated whites was $47,500 in 2004, slightly above the national median. Consequently, the working-class category of those without four-year college degrees ends up comprising a rather miscellaneous group, lumping together people living below the poverty line with many reasonably well-off people. Indeed, college dropout and richest man in America Bill Gates is considered working class under this standard. One outlier hardly disproves a theory, but according to the NES fully 29 percent of voters have some college education but no degree, slightly outnumbering those with a bachelor’s degree or more. The “some college” group was, according to 2004 exit polls, the educational cohort in which Bush achieved his best performance. Thus, the conservative inclinations of the educationally defined working class are largely attributable to the sentiments of its best-educated members.[/INDENT]

He says the data isn’t good enough yet to really tease out what’s going on here, and I tend to agree. Of course, I would say that - from what I’ve read and seen there seems to be far too much scattered evidence of a culture war-driven shift in white voting patterns. Plus, there’s still the whole “explaining how rural Kansas, Idaho, etc. went from crazy socialist to Republican.”

To answer the topic’s question: whichever segment you decide to use, I have a suspicion that a big part of the answer will be “men”.

Oooh, more data.

So working class whites have been moving away from the party, in every region, although not as much as whites. Guy has a paper finding the drop was the it was originally the 1970s economic crisis, and then it stayed down due to culture war reasons. The trendlines are roughly equivalent for the various definitions of class (education, income, self-definied).

They regress across the changes in the composition of the white working class (union membership, urban/rural, religion, gender, income) and find nothing of note.

Fun history of the white working class data points: there was a 40 point jump in advocacy for increased military spending from 1975 to 1980.

As an aside, that 1996 bump in the midwest and plains is fascinating.

That’s an east & west coast bump, not midwest/plains.

Oh. Well in that case it’s just funny - the midwest stayed neutral during Monica, while the coasts were all gung ho. At least I think tha’ts the deal; what’s with the freefall after that?