Inclusion: noncollege whites

Lane Kenworthy, The Good Society
April 2017

Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, 2004

Are WCWs dissatisfied? Frank says yes (“backlash”).

Why?

  • Cultural/social issues: abortion, religion, homosexuality
  • Temperament: humility, honesty, authenticity
  • Feel disrespected, looked down upon
  • Perceived lack of influence: college-educated elites dominate government and media

Frank’s evidence: Ordinary Kansans and other red-state WCWs now regularly vote Republican.

What else would we expect to observe if Frank’s hypothesis is correct?

#1. States where conservatism/traditionalism is strongest should be the ones in which noncollege whites are most likely to vote Republican.

I don’t know if this is true or not. The fact that rustbelt states only recently swung Republican, whereas southern and plains states have done so for a while, seems supportive. See state voting map for 2000 election.

#2. WCW’s vote choice should be more strongly correlated with positions on key social/cultural issues than with household income.

Larry Bartels finds that, at least through 2004, the reverse is true. Gelman “red state blue state” graph illustrates this. I’m not sure if Bartels finding holds since 2004.

#3. The gap between noncollege whites and college grads on key social/cultural/moral issues should be getting bigger.

Not true for abortion, school prayer, homosexuality. See charts at https://lanekenworthy.net/inclusion-noncollege-whites-data.

#4. Noncollege whites should vote most heavily for Republican candidates who are the most conservative/traditional on key social/cultural issues. For recent presidential elections, they should have voted most strongly for Bush (George W.), then, McCain, then Romney, then Trump.

We observe exactly the opposite. They voted most strongly for Trump, then Romney, then Bush and McCain. See figure 1 at https://lanekenworthy.net/inclusion-noncollege-whites-data.