Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Responses to “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America”
Last Thursday, September 20, we were honored to have Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University and a contributor to the New York Times’ Campaign Stops blog, and John Sides, a professor of political science at the George Washington University and a co-founder of the political science blog, “The Monkey Cage,” speak on a panel as part of the release of the 2012 Race, Class, and Culture Survey. Both Edsall and Sides posted articles on their respective blogs which discuss “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America.”
Sides describes the report as “a valuable corrective to so many stereotypes of the white working class.” He also notes the irony of the fact that because “political participation remains highly stratified by social class and, moreover, only the views of the upper class appear to affect whether policies are enacted in law,” the white working class has a much smaller political voice than the attention lavished upon it during election season would indicate.
This aligns with one of the most interesting findings in the survey: white working-class Americans are less likely than white college-educated Americans to feel connected to government. While a majority (51%) of white college-educated Americans say they think of the U.S. government as “our” government rather than “the” government, only 39% of white working-class Americans think about the U.S. government as “our” government.
Edsall uses the survey to discuss why the Romney campaign has largely conceded Pennsylvania in its quest for 270 electoral college votes. Although increased diversity in traditionally white neighborhoods is certainly a factor, Edsall observes, “even if there were a higher percentage of working class whites in the region, Romney would have faced an uphill struggle.” This is because, as the report shows, Romney’s advantage among the white working class is largely due to an enormous margin among white working-class Americans in the South. In other parts of the country, Romney and Obama are all but tied.
Take a look at both of these pieces for a rich and enlightening discussion of the survey’s implications.