Monday, May 4, 2020

Class conflict?

Some people have said that the coronavirus epidemic will bring Americans together, uniting us behind a goal that transcends political differences.  It doesn't seem to be working out that way--whether to ease restrictions has become a political issue, with Republicans more in favor of a quick end and Democrats more  in favor of keeping restrictions.  There have been some claims that it's also a class issue.  The more common version is that the "elites" can work at home, so they are happy to keep going on that way, but most ordinary people can't, so they want to get back to work (see this article for an entertainingly unhinged example).  But you could also argue it the other way--affluent people are getting fed up with online meetings, and tend to have jobs that would let them keep more space from their co-workers, so they want to get back to normal; less affluent people have jobs that would expose them to infection, so they want to stay safe.  I couldn't find individual-level data for any survey, but I did find one report that breaks opinions down by some demographic variables.

The most relevant question is "Do you think current restrictions on how restaurants, stores and other businesses operate in your state are appropriate, are too restrictive or are they not restrictive enough?"

                         Too restrictive       Appropriate     Not enough
Republicans           29%                     60%              11%
Democrats               8%                     72%              19%

Although majorities of both parties say (or said--the survey was April 21-26) they were appropriate, there is a pretty big difference.

By education:

College grads          15%                       72%             12%
Others                    18%                       63%             18%

or restricting it to whites:

College grads          17%                       72%             10%
Others                    20%                       64%             15%

To the extent there is a difference, it's that less educated people are more likely to have "extreme" opinions of both kinds.  Maybe that's because more educated people tend to have more trust in the authorities.  But basically, it's not a major factor.

A few other variables:  income is similar to education, with lower income people more likely to take both "extreme" positions; non-whites, women, and younger people more likely to say "not restrictive enough" and less likely to say "too restrictive".  All of those differences are considerably smaller than the party differences.  Region and urban/rural residence seem relevant in principle, but aren't included in the report. 

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