Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Perot Coalition

Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics argues that the Republican loss in 2012 was because white turnout was down.  Specifically, turnout among "downscale, Northern, rural whites. In other words, H. Ross Perot voters."  He goes on to say "the 'Perot coalition' . . . was strongest with secular, blue-collar, often rural voters who were turned off by Bill Clinton’s perceived liberalism and George H.W. Bush’s elitism."  They were attracted to Perot because "His campaign was focused on his fiercely populist stance on economics. ... Given the overall demographic and political orientation of these voters, one can see why they would stay home rather than vote for an urban liberal like President Obama or a severely pro-business venture capitalist like Mitt Romney."

Perot voters were definitely white:  only 2% of the blacks in the American National Election Studies sample said that they voted for him.   Trende is right about the "secular" part too:  if we break the sample into people who said they attend religious services every week and those who don't (all results from now on are just for non-black voters)

                        Clinton          Bush         Perot
Infrequent               46%              32%          22%
Frequent                 33%              52%          15%

He's also right about region:

                         Clinton        Bush           Perot
South                     41%           45%            14%
Non-south                 42%           35%            22%


                         Clinton      Bush         Perot
Professionals              45%       38%          16%
Managers                   34%       38%          28%
Proprietors                30%       45%          25%
Non-manual                 44%       39%          17%
Manual                     44%       34%          21%

Perot actually did best among businessmen, not blue-collar workers.  There's a reason I said "businessmen" instead of a gender-neutral term:

                  Clinton          Bush       Perot
Men               38%             38%         25%
Women             46%             37%         16%

Of course, you could interpret "downscale" in terms of income:
                   Clinton     Bush      Perot
0-16%               58%         29%        12%
16-33%              50%         34%        16%
33-67%              44%         35%        21%
67-95%              34%         40%        25%
95%+                36%         48%        16%

or education

                 Clinton        Bush       Perot
Not HS grad       52%           35%        14%
HS                48%           35%        16%
Some college      38%           35%        27%
College grad      40%           44%        16%

So no matter how you look at it,  Perot voters were not "downscale" or blue collar or working class.  They were primarily  middle class, or slightly above the middle.  The interesting thing here is the tendency of many political commentators to assume that every "populist" movement appeals mostly to the working class.  

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