Social Policy & Politics Program | Report
Unrequited Love: Middle Class Voters Reject Democrats at the Ballot Box
Judging by their rhetoric, Democrats perceive of themselves as the party of the middle class. This self-perception is bolstered by polls that show that Democrats win on middle class issues like jobs, education, and health care. Adding grist to the mill, surveys typically find that people believe Democrats are more in tune with middle class concerns.
Third Way conducted an in-depth analysis of the 2004 election results and found that this self-perception is really self-deception. Rather than being the party of the middle class, Democrats face a crisis with middle income voters. The 45% of voters who make up the middle class – those with household incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 – delivered healthy victories to George Bush and House Republicans in 2004. But even these solid Republican victories mask a greater underlying crisis for Democrats: among the largest middle class demographic groups in America, Democrats lose to Republicans by towering margins.
The following five key findings are described in greater detail in the body of the report.
Finding #1: White middle income voters (who constitute three-quarters of the middle class and one-third of the entire electorate), delivered landslide margins to Republicans. The economic tipping point – the income level at which whites were more likely to vote Republican than Democrat – was $23,700, not far above the poverty level.
Finding #2: Contrary to other voters, blacks conferred overwhelming majorities to Democrats, regardless of income level.
Finding #3: A rapidly growing Hispanic middle class is leaving the Democratic Party.
Finding #4: With the exception of those with graduate degrees, education level does not predict voting behavior. Education level predicts income, which predicts voting behavior.
Finding #5: The entrance of married women into the middle class led to a dramatic increase in Republican support.