Class politics and political change in the United States, 1952-1992

Clem Brooks, Jeff Manza

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Recent debates over the relationship between class and voting in democratic capitalist societies have focused primarily on the question of whether levels of class voting have declined. As a result, few studies have distinguished between "class voting" as an outcome versus class factors as causal mechanisms of vote choice. This distinction is critical to understanding what rok class-related factors play in explaining vote choice - and thus to advancing debates over the changing relationship between class and political behavior in the U.S. and elsewhere. We use National Election Studies data to first investigate class-specific changes in voting behavior in presidential elections and then analyze the causal mechanisms explaining the three most significant class-specific trends. We find that while the realignment of the self-employed with the Republican Party is largely explained by class-related factors, professionals' realignment with the Democratic Party is a product of their increasingly liberal views of social issues. Also, prompted by higher levels of economic satisfaction and declining support for the welfare state, unskilled workers' historically high levels of support for Democratic candidates have eroded since the 1980 Presidential election. Our analyses also show that while class politics increasingly competes with other salient bases of voting behavior, the political impact of social issue attitudes has not displaced the class cleavage in recent presidential elections.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)379-408
    Number of pages30
    JournalSocial Forces
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Dec 1997

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology and Political Science


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