Obama vs. Romney: Poll Exposes Myths About White Working Class Voters

Obama vs. Romney: Poll Exposes Myths About White Working Class Voters


Recent polls have suggested that President Obama has a White working class voter problem that could hurt him on election day. Traditionally that group leans Democratic, but pundits relying on current polling, have been hypothesizing that this group is leaning towards Mitt Romney.

A recent survey, released last week, tells another story.

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey, Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White working Class in America, shows that while working class Whites give Romney a double digit lead over Obama (48 to 35 percent), their perspectives were not monolithic.  There were stark differences depending upon the religion, region and gender of those polled.

The survey found that White working class people are not more likely to be members of the Tea Party.  Only 13% polled identified themselves as members.   The findings also noted that “white working-class voters who reported receiving food stamps in the last two years preferred Obama to Romney by a significant margin of 48% vs 36%.”

One can’t help but think back to Romney’s remarks, revealed last week, suggesting that the 47% of American who “do not pay taxes” are overly reliant on government and refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives.

“PRRI’s recent survey shows that, compared to their college-educated peers, White working-class Americans are simultaneously working longer hours and struggling more financially,” PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox told Politic365.com. “Romney’s recent comments about the 47% certainly won’t help him with one of his biggest hurdles down the home stretch of the campaign: to make the case that he understands the significant challenges facing white working-class Americans.”

And then there is the nagging perception out there that White working class whites vote against their economic interest and support the Republican party because of common interests among social issues, even though social spending cuts would affect them greatly.

That assumption is part of several myths which the PRRI report debunks.

  • Half surveyed support abortion in all or most cases, 43% favors same-sex marriage, and 70% say the economy unfairly favors the wealthy,  while
  • A “plurality” of 46% believes that capitalism and the free market system are at odds with Christian values.”
  • Further, 62% agrees with raising the tax rate on Americans with household incomes of over $1 million per year.
  • Meanwhile, 53% say the economy is their most important voting issue, undercutting the notion that they ignore economy over social issues.

All of these issues embody principles promoted by the Democratic Party more so than the Republican Party.

It may matter less for Working Class Whites in the south, though.  As the blog postbourgie pointed out while noting a Mother Jones graphic, the majority of Republican working class voters supporting Romney over Obama reside in the south.

The pundits and polls may have it all wrong after all. It looks like Obama’s working class White voter problem may just be concentrated in the South.

The PRRI results were based on a telephone survey  of 2,501 adults  between August 2 and August 15, 2012.