As my colleague Nate Cohn has explained, people vote based less on their income and more on their cultural attitudes. In some cases, these beliefs are tied to specific policy issues, such as immigration or abortion.. Religious or national patriotism are also common topics of discussion.
Increasingly liberal cultural norms have been instilled in college graduates, who have also gained the power to influence Democrats, according to Nate. A large chunk of the Democratic Party’s traditional working-class constituency has shifted to the Republicans as a result.
More people are leaving the party than ever before. In both of his presidential victories, Barack Obama drew support from voters who lacked a four-year college degree. The last time around, Biden came up just short. Voters without a bachelor’s degree thumped McAuliffe by 10 to 20 percentage points in Virginia this week, according to exit polls. According to CNN, he lost favour with white working-class women in particular.
Race is a major factor in this situation. In part by appealing to white identity, Republicans — including but not limited to Donald Trump — have garnered more votes from the working class. The Republican governor-elect in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, employed a variation of this strategy. He even released an ad in which a white mother expressed her displeasure that her son’s high school English class was reading Toni Morrison’s classic novel.
Many Democrats, on the other hand, believe that the rise of the middle class is a direct result of racial tensions. That is not the case. Obama was the most popular Democratic candidate among white working-class voters in recent years. Or the fact that some divisive cultural debates, such as religion, do not neatly map onto race.
The most obvious evidence that racial and other factors are at play is the decline in Democratic support in Asian, Black, and Latino communities. In 2020, Trump did better than in 2016 among voters of colour. According to Nate’s analysis, McAuliffe’s worst results came from heavily Hispanic precincts in Virginia.
This year’s New York City mayoral election provided the same lesson. Eric Adams’ anti-crime message resonated with working-class voters across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, defeating more liberal Democratic candidates. Manhattan was the only borough Adams lost in the primary election.