The Foley scandal has hurt the GOP with voters, including culturally conservative “religious voters.” Of course I would like to see a depressed tutnout among Christian Coalition type voters, just like the GOP would love it if voters from union households stayed home in droves. But perhaps the fallout from the Foley scandal-and all the attention paid to church-going voters- is very misguided.
In an essay entitled “Morals vs. Class” political scientist Phillip Klinkner did an interesting anaylsis of just how much voters who attend church at least once a week contributed to Bush’s victory in 2004. As TNR described it:
“The impact of a given bloc’s contribution to a candidate’s victory can be measured by something called “voter performance,” the group’s percent of the electorate multiplied by its level of support for a candidate. For example, if a particular group made up 50 percent of the electorate and gave a candidate 60 percent of its vote, that bloc’s performance would be 30 percent. A group’s performance can therefore rise or fall depending on two factors: its turnout relative to the rest of the electorate and how it votes.
“For all the talk of how religious voters made Bush’s victory possible, their performance didn’t change from 2000 to 2004. Four years ago, those attending church once a week or more were 42 percent of the electorate and gave Bush 59 percent of their vote–for a performance of 25 percent (that is, 42 percent multiplied by 59 percent). In 2004, these voters were 41 percent of the electorate and gave Bush 61 percent of their votes, for a performance of 25 percent–no change from 2004.”
But what of upper-income voters (those making $50,000K or more)?
“By contrast, Bush improved his performance with voters at the upper end of the income ladder. Among those making less than $50,000, Bush actually lost ground, as his performance fell from 21 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2004. Among those making over $50,000, Bush’s performance jumped 3 points, from 28 percent to 31 percent. And most of this improved performance was concentrated among the wealthiest of voters, those making over $100,000. In this group, increases in turnout and support for Bush, raised the president’s performance from 8 percent to 10 percent. In fact, Bush’s gains among the wealthiest Americans account for a good chunk of his popular-vote margin of victory.” In 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Among many of these upper-middle-class and wealthy voters in 2004, the answer is clearly yes.”
Bush may be in a “State of Denial” about Iraq, but he clearly sees how his vote totals went up. As TNR reminds us: “Perhaps then, it was no coincidence that at his press conference the day after declaring victory, Bush said little of interest to social conservatives and instead spoke of revising the tax code and privatizing Social Security, two measures likely to appeal to upper-income voters. Bush seems to understand who reelected him–even if his critics on the left and the wishful thinkers to his cultural right do not.”
In an interview with Rick Perlstein, Klinkner fleshed out some of his conclusions:
“Where did the lion’s share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? “Two of those points,” Klinkner said when reached by phone, “came solely from people making over a 100 grand.” The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare.
Their portion of the electorate went from 15 percent in 2000 to 18 percent this year. Support for Bush among them went from 54 percent to 58 percent. “It made me think about that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11,” says Klinkner, the one where Bush joked at a white-tie gala about the “haves” and the “have-mores”: “Some people call you the elite,” Bush said. “I call you my base.”
Note: Perlstein makes some excellent points about Kerry, values, and the lies Bush told about both. Check it out.
So Bush’s margin is more the result of upper-income voters voting their pocketbook than “religious” voters voting their church. In retrospect this may not be all this surprising. After all, only a minority of white, born-again Christians making less than 50K identify with the GOP (see Polarized America, by Nolan McCarty p. 100). What is amazing is ” how many people Republicans have been able to punk with this. Even Senator Charles Schumer, appearing Nov. 5, on The Daily Show, said that Republicans won on “these values issues.”
But judging by these examinations of how Bush actually won in 2004, maybe Democrats should welcome “religious” voters to the polls in 2006-provided there not upper-middle class. Or perhaps even better for Democracy, have the upper-income voters who do show up be a part of the “enlightened affluent”-the 43% of over 50k voters who sailed against the wind and voted for Kerry.