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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Class without consciousness: An analysis of the role of place and income in the 2012 U.S. presidential election

  • Author(s): Shrode, John Robert
  • Advisor(s): Zaller, John R
  • et al.

Economic inequality has increased substantially in the U.S. over the past four decades. Some students of voting behavior have linked this to an increase in class voting and polarization in the U.S. At the same time several comparative scholars have argued for a general lack of class voting in the West since the end of World War II. I combine the use of individual level survey measures from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, along with county level measures from the American Community Survey to test for class voting effects in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. I find that county level measures of inequality are strongly associated with support for Obama in the 2012 election, but that class voting is not the primary driver of this relationship. Instead I find that individuals living in high inequality environments in 2012 supported Obama at higher rates regardless of family income, and that differences in racial resentment account for a substantial portion of this effect. Finally, I find evidence that the vote of working class urban whites responds to increased inequality to a greater degree than their non-urban, and middle/upper class counterparts. This last finding mimics previous findings in the comparative literature that class voting tendencies typically manifest in countries with high levels of population density.

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