Spread My Wealth!

The flight of the wealthy toward the Democratic Party continues apace.

Pew shows a Dem pick-up of 8% from 2004 among voters making over 100K, making it practically a push.

Andrew Gelman adds finer graphical detail.

2. As with previous Republican candidates, McCain did better among the rich than the poor:

But the pattern has changed among the highest-income categories:

This last one is the stunner. After about 110K, voters in this election became less likely to vote for the ostensibly anti-“spread the wealth” candidate.

Obama also had a huge pick-up in 18-29 year-old voters. What explains all this? Here’s my conjecture, in one word: secularization.

Rich people who don’t go to church are especially socially liberal. The richer they get, the less they prioritize economic issues over social issues, as Inglehart’s “post-materialism” theory predicts. And, if I recall from recent surveys, there has been a big decline in religiosity among the young, which tends to go along with an increasingly socially liberal cast of mind. The overall effect is that the Republican Party has become too socially conservative for increasingly secular wealthy people and increasingly secular twenty-somethings. The GOP is now pretty clearly the party of the religious, white, middle-aged and elderly middle class–not a group with a shining political future. The increasing popularity of the Democrats among the rich is going to move the economic policy preference of the median Democrat “right” and the economic policy preference of the median Republican “left”. In the short term, this might make for a decrease in polarization on economic policy, which may produce bipartisan support for policies that will horrify libertarians. In the long term, the Democrats will continue to become ever more “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” despite the attempt of the ideological left-leaning media and academic opinion elites (who are full of New New Deal ideas) to prevent this.

Andrew Gelman: I’m stealing at least half of these ideas from your book. Is this wrong?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center