The publicly available exit polls now break down data on income and education by racial group. Among all whites without college degrees (40 percent of the electorate), Obama lost by a whopping 18 points. But among whites making $50,000 per year or less (a quarter of the electorate), he lost by a mere 4 points.The chart I want to see would compare voting patterns among those earning more or less than $50K (or perhaps more income brackets) across various education levels. My hypothesis about what the data would say goes something like this:
Which is to say, the big divide last night wasn’t between working-class whites (i.e., whites without college degrees) and educated whites. It was between working-class whites who are relatively well off, and working-class whites who aren’t. The aforementioned numbers imply that Obama struggled hugely among working-class whites making more than $50,000 per year, but did well among those making less than that. The upshot was that, despite losing the white working-class by wide margins nationally, Obama came reasonably close in the economically depressed states of the industrial Midwest (down only 8 in Ohio and Indiana, actually up 6 in Michigan). Hence the electoral college landslide.
- Relatively uneducated but above-median income white folks are hard-core for the GOP. These people not only vote their pocketbook, but also have nothing but disdain for pointy-headed intellectuals who use learning to put on airs. Sarah Palin is the apotheosis of this segment.
- The highly educated white vote (college+) is likely to lean Democratic across all income levels, except in the highest income brackets (where, again, the pocketbook comes into play).
- The third segment -- namely less educated (high school or less), low income voters -- is the most interesting. With this group, I'd guess that normally they vote their cultural prejudices, except during times of severe economic hardship, when, at the end of the day, they'd rather have a Democrat. This group is the key swing constituency.
What Lehman Brother's collapse (and the subsequent implosion of the stock market, the partial nationalization of the banking system, and the obvious oncoming trainwreck in the real economy) did, as Mark Danner so vividly described it was to "strike like a bolt of lightning, illuminating for all to see the ruins of the economic landscape." And with those ruins apparent -- and so evidently the result of a generation of failed GOP macroeconomic and deregulatory jihad -- all the Palin claptrap about bulldogs, moose, and pigs became just cheap talk, allowing Obama to coast to a broad victory.