Pocketbook Politics.

A look at how each state voted in the presidential election, based on the income of the voters, via Andrew at FiveThirtyEight:


The five income categories I used in the analysis are: 0-20,000; 20-40,000; 40-75,000; 75-150,000; over 150,000. The graphs above show the estimates for the highest, middle, and lowest of these five categories. I assume the numbers represent family income (as reported by the survey respondent).

I have to admit that I’m a little surprised. Despite legitimate fears about whether poorer Whites in the Rust Belt would go blue, I figured Obama had a good shot at those Democratic voters. But I really didn’t think he would have so completely edged out poorer voters in the Deep South. Then again, these maps don’t tell us what the margins were.

But what’s up with Idaho and Wyoming? They’re as solidly red regardless of socioeconomic status as the Northeast and Cali are blue. Any ideas why?

9 thoughts on “Pocketbook Politics.

  1. Ron March 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm Reply

    Wyoming is a conservative place. Not so much even in a “libertarian” sort of way, as much as it’s just skeptical of pretty much anything and everything outsiders say.

    Even Democrats in Wyoming are pretty much nominal Republicans, save for the very small percentage of progressive liberals who live in certain parts of the state.

    People there (and Idaho is similar in this regard) are very reluctant about things like taxes, outsiders and other people spending their money or taking their guns.

    Couple that with the homogeneity of the population (it’s almost all white, save for the Native Americans on reservations and Hispanics speckled about the state) and the relatively isolation from things like national politics and insulation from most of the economic crisis that hit the country and you get a situation where people are inoculated from the generally populist groundswell that have seemed to have swept up the rest of the country.

    A pretty timely article about that is right here from the Economist blog yesterday: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/03/whats_right_with_wyoming.cfm

    • G.D. March 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm Reply

      Thanks for the link, Ron.

    • MJN March 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm Reply

      I’d also like to throw in that even though both democratic primary candidates visited the state – which I don’t think has ever happened before – they didn’t tailor their message to the state. Obama specifically talked about reduction in the use of coal, oil, and gas and increasing funding for education; WY has significant in-state funding for eduction (more than 8 credit hours per semester for a 2.5 GPA) provided for by state income from coal, oil, and gas: http://www.uwyo.edu/hathaway/eligibility.asp .

      • G.D. March 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm Reply

        That’s a big mistake for his campaign to have made.

        Since energy initiatives were off the table, were there any policy proposals that Obama could have made that would have made the state competitive?

        • Ron March 10, 2009 at 5:08 pm Reply

          No way.


          As it turns out, he didn’t even win Laramie County, a usually fairly reliable Democratic county and home of the largest city in the state. But Obama won Teton County (one of the richest counties in the country and home to largely out-of-state people) and Albany County, home to the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

          Wyoming is too rural, too independent and too conservative to really relate to the Democratic party. It’s not even about religion (Though that helps) and anything else. It’s about authenticity and feeling like the person can relate to them.

          The Governor is a Democrat, Gary Trauner used a lot of outside money to come close to winning a Congressional race twice, but he lost the authenticity gap.

          A national Democrat would have a massively difficult time winning in Wyoming, because it’s a place where handshakes and conversations make decisions, not macro-level policy discussions.

          • MJN March 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm Reply

            I don’t think there was anything that could have totally swayed the state. But he could have made a start by addressing things he’s doing now like minimizing signing statements (there’s still lingering resentment against final Clinton statements with restrictions about Yellowstone, etc.). More rhetoric on things most important to WY, like that he would actually decrease taxes for most of the state’s residents (assumed to be true for the Republican candidate and not the Democrat) and directly relating his green energy initiatives to in-state policies like wind energy would all contribute to decreasing his loss margin.
            I have to agree with Ron, though – the culture and tradition of republicanism is a hard thing to overcome.

  2. Ron March 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm Reply

    The Hathaway scholarship is really new and they’re changing the requirements next year to make it a bit more stringent, people thought it wasn’t challenging kids to take harder classes in school. A lot of folks didn’t like that, because they recognize that not every kid is going to go to college and get a “desk job” and others wanted it more open to students who get 2-year degrees.

    But the Hathaway money isn’t really all from the mineral severance tax, though that’s what initially funded it, the scholarship is a $400 million trust fund that funds the scholarships.

    So it’s not a program that will be subject to the ups and downs of the economy. Also, Wyoming only has 1 four-year university and seven state funded community colleges dotted around the state. So there’s no real “state college” infrastructure like in other places.

  3. young_ March 10, 2009 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting this. Interesting findings although it’s possible that they wouldn’t hold up with better data (especially data on the racial breakdowns and margins…)

    538 had some interesting speculation on Mike Steele’s future today too…

    • G.D. March 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm Reply

      Yeah. I’m wondering what happens to these breakdowns if you count the rich, as say, people making over a quarter million dollars a year.

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