Thomas Edsall’s latest op-ed for The New York Times cites Public Religion Research Institute’s September 2012 study, “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America,” in an exploration of how Democrats can win back the votes of white working class Americans.
The key finding in the P.R.R.I. study is that working-class whites in the South are – no surprise — far more conservative than their counterparts in the rest of the country. Lumping all of these voters together exaggerates this constituency’s overall rightward tilt. The regional differences are striking in the cases of both partisan voting patterns and how voters feel about particular issues. The pre-election P.R.R.I. study found that white working-class voters in the South backed Romney over Obama 62-22, compared to a 46-41 Romney advantage in the West, a 42-38 edge in the Northeast and an Obama lead of 44-36 in the Midwest.
Similarly, while working-class whites in the South opposed same-sex marriage by 61-32 in the P.R.R.I. survey, in the Northeast they favored it 57-37; in the West they were split 47-45; and in the Midwest they were modestly opposed, 44-49. In the case of abortion, majorities of non-college whites outside of the South believe the practice should be legal, while those in the South were opposed 54-42.