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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Demographics, Economics, and House Elections

There is an important new National Journal article on the demographics of the 2008 vote for the House. See excerpt below. For full text, click here.
Generally, the greater the district's nonwhite population and the higher the education level of its white residents, the more likely it is to be represented in the House by a Democrat. In contrast, the analysis found, the whiter the district and the lower its number of white college graduates, the more likely it is to elect a Republican...
In the struggle for House control, the two parties thus face tests with contrasting timeframes. As racial minorities and better-educated whites, or both, become a larger share of the population in more districts, the long-run challenge for Republicans is to compete across a demographically broader range of districts than they do now. Democrats face a more immediate trial: Avoiding a repeat of the huge wave, particularly among working-class whites, that carried Republicans to control of the House in 1994. The increase in the number of high-minority and well-educated districts provides House Democrats defenses that they lacked back then. But if the tide of white working-class discontent reaches high enough or spills over to include enough upscale white voters, even those levees may not protect the House majority that Democrats labored so long to recapture.

Why have Democrats not made greater inroads among working-class whites? Why have these voters responding to Scott Brown populism? Michael Barone suggests an answer:
One reason is that Americans, unlike Western Europeans, tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that's fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected.