The Establishment has forcefully pushed the explanation that Clinton lost due the fact that “working class whites” voted for Trump because they are racist. I was surprised to hear this theory, because as a poor white person, I know that the rich always vote for Republicans and the poor have very consistently voted for Democrats. This holds in exit poll data back into 1984 (we’ll talk about the income data and exit polls in general in a separate post, but that data can be found here). This year, Clinton only won those making 50,000 a year, while losing the other income groups.
Some have noticed that Trump won more uneducated voters, and called these people working class. This seems strange for two reasons
- Trump also won the educated white vote.
- Only 30 percent of the country has a BA and BA’s are no guarantee of social status in a country where there is limited social mobility
More detailed contextual information is here. After seeing these arguments, it was suggested that Clinton won the cities, where the poor are assumed to be nonwhite (there are in fact, poor whites in urban areas, I used to be one), while Trump won rural, white voters living in poverty. This theory will be deconstructed by looking at the precinct by precinct data. That data, which goes beyond exit polls to actual vote totals, can be found using this link. Please send the LA Times money for being kind enough to make big data accessible to everyone.
We’ll be looking at few case studies that will demonstrate that the majority of poor whites continued to vote Democrat, as they have for decades, while the turnout and share of voters from the upper classes increased over time. Over several days, we will explore examples that demonstrate that it was, in fact, the rich who voted for Trump.
Today we will be talking about the town of Gridley. Gridley is a town in the NorthEast portion of the state, north of Sacramento. It has one of those cute founding stories that many of these former Gold Rush towns have. The population of Gridley is about 6,584. This makes it a small town that is mostly rural. Indeed, there is no real urban area in Gridley. As you would imagine, this town, like most of the towns that surround it, is white. In fact, it is 65 percent white. There are two sides to Gridley. Gridley and East Gridley. A set of railroad tracks divides the two. The median family income in Gridley is 29,957 and over 20 percent of the county is living in poverty. Houses in Gridley sell for $180,000, but right across the tracks in East Gridley they sell for 650,000.
Clinton won Gridley with 56% of the vote, but lost in East Gridley. In East Gridley, which is the “right” side of the tracks with the substantially higher housing costs, Trump won with 54% of the vote. You can also compare turnout numbers. The residents of the wrong side of the tracks only had 272 voters, whereas the haves in East Gridley had 506 votes. This conforms with the national data that demonstrates that the poor barely voted at all.
The bottom line here is that in a town that is both rural and white there is a clear difference in voting patterns. The poorer portion voted for the Democrat, the haves in the East voted for the Republican. This is consistent with voting patterns in American presidential elections going back to 1984.
The working class white hypothesis, continues to be the only one being put forward in mainstream media. Given the paucity of data to support that and the abundant and growing data to support the fact that Trump was elected by the upper class, it seems like strange behavior for a society to claims to love empiricism so much. I’ll let you make up your own mind for now about why they seem to be clinging to this narrative so much. In the next several posts, we’ll be exploring exit poll income data changes over time, the representative cases of Sacramento, Grass Valley, Oxnard, Nevada City, and some interesting correlations with recent data about the health of poor whites.