Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Pure giving advice to the hoi polloi... Stop answering centrist questions: The Left can only win when it answers the questions it was founded to pose

Johnson, Matthew, Johnson, Elliott and Nettle, Daniel (2023) Stop answering centrist questions: The Left can only win when it answers the questions it was founded to pose. Transform! Europe, Brussels, Belgium. ISBN 9783903343344 (In Press). Feb 2023.

Abstract: This article summarises a series of findings from a programme of research on the viability of Universal Basic Income as a transformative public policy. The findings suggest that the left should stop answering liberal questions. This means no longer being preoccupied by who currently votes and their assumed ‘inherent’ values. Instead, as the left’s founding figures thought, it must consider how the vast majority of the population who would benefit from transformative material change can be persuaded of the benefit of voting for left policies. Our findings suggest that workers are keenly aware of the need for transformative material change and can be persuaded to support that change electorally through narratives that demonstrate specific benefits to specific groups. The findings ought to grant hope to progressive policymakers: change is possible and incrementalism is not an inevitable strategy.

Polarization of the Rich: The New Democratic Allegiance of Affluent Americans and the Politics of Redistribution

Polarization of the Rich: The New Democratic Allegiance of Affluent Americans and the Politics of Redistribution. Sam Zacher. Perspectives on Politics, Feb 8 2023.

Abstract: Affluent Americans used to vote for Republican politicians. Now they vote for Democrats. In this paper, I show detailed evidence for this decades-in-the-making trend and argue that it has important consequences for the U.S. politics of economic inequality and redistribution. Beginning in the 1990s, the Democratic Party started winning increasing shares of rich, upper-middle income, high-income occupation, and stock-owning voters. This appears true across voters of all races and ethnicities, is concentrated among (but not exclusive to) college-educated voters, and is only true among voters living in larger metropolitan areas. In the 2010s, Democratic candidates’ electoral appeal among affluent voters reached above-majority levels. I echo other scholars in maintaining that this trend is partially driven by the increasingly “culturally liberal” views of educated voters and party elite polarization on those issues, but I additionally argue that the evolution and stasis of the parties’ respective economic policy agendas has also been a necessary condition for the changing behavior of affluent voters. This reversal of an American politics truism means that the Democratic Party’s attempts to cohere around an economically redistributive policy agenda in an era of rising inequality face real barriers.

See also... Liberal political views may be seen as a subtle signal of wealth in today's society; the shift of wealthier people to the political left may coincide with a working-class shift to the right

Are Political Views the New Luxury Goods? Bence Nanay. Psychology Today, January 25, 2023.

Why Have Affluent Americans Swung Democratic?

Political scientists tend to agree that political competition generally happens on two dimensions of issue bundles, the social/cultural and the economic. Debates surrounding the shifting of American party voter coalitions and party policy agendas have often centered on social/cultural issues. I propose that there are four possible proximate causes to the changing voting behavior of affluent Americans: a) social/cultural issue shifts among i) voter preferences or ii) party policy agendas or b) economic issue shifts among i) voter preferences or ii) party policy agendas. I will describe each in turn, highlighting the under-recognized nature of the economic dimension for both party policy agendas and for voter preferences.

As Kitschelt and Rehm (Reference Kitschelt and Rehm2019) make clear, the rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, followed by the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy—where the economic gains to educational attainment have vastly increased—has created a new class of voters with “libertarian” (a.k.a. socially/culturally liberal) views on issues such as abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, drug laws, racial inclusion, and other issues that involve extending civil rights to subgroups of Americans. Dovetailing with a literature that argues that voters with more education and more income are more likely to hold more socially/culturally liberal views than other voters (e.g., Inglehart Reference Inglehart1981; Broockman, Ferenstein, and Malhotra Reference Broockman, Ferenstein and Malhotra2019) which may even be more likely than their economic views to drive their voting behavior (Enke, Polborn, and Wu Reference Enke, Polborn and Wu2022), many scholars agree that many more Americans today simply hold more socially/culturally liberal views than ever before. One likely crucial element to the increase in socially/culturally liberal voters is the increasing (although still minority) shares of Black, Latino, and other voters of color earning relatively high incomes (e.g., figure 4), in addition to the decrease in white Americans expressing “racially resentful” views—which are symbolic and do not necessarily imply concrete economic policy preferences—over time (Clemons Reference Clemons2022). These various interrelated forces shaping the social/cultural views of many affluent voters, in particular, very likely drive more of them to feel more allegiance to the Democratic over Republican Party, as there is clear polarization between the parties on these issues. This explanation certainly carries some weight in explaining the Democratic shift among affluent voters.

A large chorus of scholars and pundits have described how the U.S. parties’ policy agendas (and messaging) have polarized on the social/cultural dimension over many decades. The Democratic Party’s relative warmth toward the movements for Civil Rights and women’s liberation of the 1960s and 1970s created the impression that Democrats care more than Republicans about the well-being of Americans who are not white and not men (e.g., Ladd and Hadley Reference Ladd and Hadley1975; Edsall and Edsall Reference Edsall and Edsall1992; Kitschelt and Rehm Reference Kitschelt and Rehm2019). Followed quickly by the rise of the Christian Right’s ascendance within the Republican Party, by the 2000s, Democrats and Republicans had clearly opposing policy agendas on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, and Republicans had begun winning majorities of white Americans (e.g., Miller and Schofield Reference Miller and Schofield2008; Abrajano and Hajnal Reference Abrajano and Hajnal2015; Hacker and Pierson Reference Hacker and Pierson2020). The Democrats had become the party of social/cultural liberalism, through and through (Brownstein Reference Brownstein2021). The pulling apart of the party agendas on this range of issues likely attracted some affluent (more educated) Americans, particularly in stark contrast to the increasingly conservative Republican agenda—which, interacted with an increasingly social/cultural base of affluent voters, has clearly been a main part of the story of the new rich Democratic voting base.

When it comes to possible voter preference changes on economic issues, the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy is once again relevant. Economic activity in the twenty-first century is now far more likely to be generated in cities and metropolitan areas and primarily powered by people with college and post-graduate degrees, and these voters do seem to favor increased government spending on infrastructure, research and development, transportation, and what might be called “new labor market risks” such as education and childcare spending—essentially, policy demand created by the economic activity of a more educated workforce living in dense metropolitan areas in both the United States and Europe (Gingrich and Hausermann Reference Gingrich and Häusermann2015; Abou-Chadi and Emmergut Reference Abou‐Chadi and Immergut2019; Ansell and Gingrich Reference Ansell, Gingrich, Hacker, Hertel-Fernandez, Pierson and Thelen2021; Hacker, Pierson, and Zacher Reference Hacker, Pierson and Zacher2021). In this way, a certain class of upper-middle income (educated) voters may have preferences for new kinds of government spending (which the Republican Party has generally opposed on ideological grounds for decades, e.g., Hacker and Pierson Reference Hacker and Pierson2020), potentially pulling some affluent voters toward the Democratic coalition. There is some merit in this explanation, although likely not as much as the social/cultural issue dimension, given the inconsistent salience of issues like infrastructure, education, and government-funded research in national political competition over decades (especially compared to the salience of social/cultural issues).

Finally, the economic policy platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties have changed over decades, and I argue this is a more important part of the story of affluent voters swinging Democratic than previously imagined. In the 1990s and 2000s, Democratic elites converged with Republicans on immigration and trade (i.e., becoming more open to them, e.g., Greenberg Reference Greenberg2017; Geismer Reference Geismer2022), financial deregulation (Keller and Kelly Reference Keller and Kelly2015; Kelly Reference Kelly2020; Geismer Reference Geismer2022), and somewhat on welfare (Geismer Reference Geismer2022). Democratic politicians like Bill Clinton were also more hostile toward organized labor than any Democrats for decades (Geismer Reference Geismer2022; in part a reflection of the decline of the power of organized labor, e.g., Rosenfeld Reference Rosenfeld2014), and while the Democratic Party platform has increased its rhetorical focus on means-tested and public goods spending since the 1990s, it has not much increased its focus on increasingly progressive taxation (Malpas and Hilton Reference Malpas and Hilton2021), even after Democrats played a key role, alongside Ronald Reagan, in massively cutting the top income tax rates in the 1980s (Prasad Reference Prasad2019). To be sure, the Republican Party’s economic agenda has remained largely in favor of minimal government taxation, spending, and regulation for decades (Hacker and Pierson Reference Hacker and Pierson2020). While Obama and congressional Democrats did pass the Affordable Care Act and Biden and congressional Democrats did pass large spending on COVID-19 stimulus and physical infrastructure in 2021, the Democrats at the head of the party have not meaningfully altered the policy agenda in ways that would threaten the interests of affluent Americans. Therefore, it is quite likely that the Democratic economic policy agenda’s relative friendliness toward affluent income earners, homeowners, and stock owners (even as high as the top 5%) is a necessary condition for keeping and increasing the share of affluent voters from the 1990s through 2020.

In summary, the divide between the parties on social/cultural issues interacted with the increasing share of socially/culturally liberal voters—who prefer relatively economically costless forms of extensions of civil rights to more subgroups of Americans—is clearly a major driving force in bringing more-affluent Americans to the Democratic Party voter base. And it may be the case that educated, somewhat affluent voters who live and work in large metropolitan areas have new demands for economic investments that only the Democratic Party has been willing to consider. I also propose that a necessary condition to the increasingly—and now-majority Democratic allegiance—of affluent voters is the moderate nature of the Democrats’ economic policy agenda: Obama, Biden, and other Democratic leaders do want to use government to increase spending and some kinds of regulation, but they do not want to impose direct economic costs on any segments of affluent voters to execute a redistributive agenda.

Did Donald Trump Cause Polarization among Affluent Voters?

Readers may wonder about how these trends interact with another major new force in American politics: Donald Trump. He was clearly a unique Republican presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020. Trump campaigned on a platform that was more anti-immigration, anti-trade, and pro-social safety net than nearly all Republicans in recent memory. He also broke from the mold via his rhetoric, framing other political actors more starkly as winners or losers and employing insults, among other ways (e.g., Ross and Rivers Reference Ross and Rivers2020). Because of his uniqueness—and because he provoked seemingly stronger reactions, among both supporters and opponents, than prior presidential candidates—it is worth inquiring, how much of the swing of affluent voters to the Democratic Party may be caused by Trump’s prominence and two-time candidacy?

A few clues show that this trend is not primarily related to Trump. First, the ANES and CES over-time data (e.g., figures 1 and 2) show that the shift of higher-income voters toward the Democratic Party started decades before Trump’s rise. Second, the data on voting for U.S. House and gubernatorial candidates (online appendix figures 2 and 3) show that mostly similar kinds of trends have been underway in the decisions for non-presidential (i.e., non-Trump) candidates. Third, European studies of shifts in the voter coalitions of different parties show that the trend of more-educated, urban, middle- and higher-income voters toward center-left parties (and less-educated voters toward right populist parties) is happening in those countries, too (e.g., Gingrich and Hauserman Reference Gingrich and Häusermann2015; Oesch and Rennwald Reference Oesch and Rennwald2018).

At the same time, nearly all the figures in this paper show that 2016 and 2020 were the elections when more-affluent voters most preferred Democratic candidates in recent memory, even at above-majority levels (a sort of “backwards”—i.e., severely unexpected—polarization). Those two elections were the first time that majorities of the top 5% (by income) voted for the Democratic candidate. There are a few reasons why this recent political behavior by the rich may not be unexpected. Survey evidence has consistently shown that the wealthiest Americans are the most liberal (or moderate) on issues like trade and immigration (e.g., Kitschelt and Rehm Reference Kitschelt and Rehm2019; Broockman and Malhotra Reference Broockman and Malhotra2020) that Trump campaigned against, contrary to other Republicans in recent memory. Relatedly, an impression of Trump was that he was more anti-elite in his rhetoric, in addition to being less predictable in general—two things that higher-income Americans may be more likely to oppose than other voters, as they are a certain kind of “elites,” and they may relatively prefer political-economic stability. Finally, as establishment Democratic politicians, nominees Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (in 2016 and 2020, respectively) may have seemed relatively safe choices for the richest Americans. For all these reasons, Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and 2020 may have made those two recent elections outliers, even in comparison of this trend through the 2000s and early 2010s. Therefore, while Trump clearly did not spark the trend of affluent voters choosing Democrats over Republicans—which really began in the 1990s and has been happening in other advanced democracies—his candidacy may very well have accentuated the trend in recent elections.

Being in the sexual minority is comparable to the other well-documented sociodemographic predictors of attitudes; unlike these other sociodemographic characteristics, sexuality consistently predicts more liberal attitudes among sexual minorities

Denise, Eric J. 2020. “Does Sexuality Matter? A Comparison of Heterosexuals’ and Sexual Minorities’ Sociopolitical Attitudes.” SocArXiv. November 17. doi:10.31235/

Abstract: Few researchers have examined the influence of sexuality on individuals’ sociopolitical attitudes. Using data from the 1991-2012 General Social Surveys (GSS) and 2008 American National Election Survey (ANES), I compare the social and political attitudes of heterosexuals and sexual minorities across a wide array of domains. Examining sixty measures of sociopolitical attitudes in the GSS, I find evidence that sexual minorities are significantly more liberal than their heterosexual counterparts across both sexual (e.g., sexual morality) and non-sexual (e.g., civil liberties, environmentalism) domains. In comparing the effect of sexuality on attitudes to the effects of gender, race, and education, I find that the influence of sexuality is comparable to these other well-documented sociodemographic predictors of attitudes. However, unlike these other sociodemographic characteristics, sexuality consistently predicts more liberal attitudes among sexual minorities compared to heterosexuals. Expanded analyses using 278 attitudinal items in the GSS and 64 in the ANES yield similar results. My findings provide evidence for the necessity to incorporate sexuality in future assessments of sociodemographic predictors of sociopolitical attitudes.