On the poor, underprivileged voters being more Conservative in US…

It seems to me the US is a rather unique position in having the grass roots / poor / underprivileged masses within it’s boundaries leaning further to the right that the left. In most other countries age and wealth lead ideology to the right, whilst poverty and youth lead to the left (very generally).

The young, the underprovided for and the menial workers are commonly the ones who see the world and their situation as unfair, who wish the Government to provide legislation to help lessen the gap between rich and poor, to help bolster their position, to provide protection and security for them as they work. It is commonly this segment of the population who join or form unions, who attend anti-globalisation marches, who fight against corporations they view as unregulated monsters.

But, even those people in the US who have to work the most back-breaking dangerous jobs in factories, abattoirs or building sites will, more commonly, consider themselves aligned with conservatism, (whereas the rich Hollywood, academic types are the liberal thinking ones.) They will fight against the formation of unions (dismissed as ‘communist’ plots?), accept low wages as normal and tolerate their position in society as long as the Government doesn’t interfere too much in their lives.

Is this general conservatism stemming from an adoration or acceptance of one specific law or core belief within conservative thought (say, less government interference, freedom of gun ownership, defence / foreign policy ideals, patriotism), or from an intense hatred of all things socialist, regardless of how specific leftist ideas may help the members in question. Or something else?

I realise this is vastly simplified and probably a not entirely accurate blanket to throw over an entire nation and its people, but I’m interested in how this particular phenomenon (poor > right wing) has developed in the US in marked contrast to other countries.

If I am stupidly wrong in any/all of this, please be sure to tell me; this is all only random opinions at the moment, after all.

Any thoughts appreciated.

i dont agree with that, go to a college and its filled with young and (temporarily) poor people and they are fanatical leftists more often than fanatical right wingers.

In regards to why some poor choose right wing views, i would say US culture seems to view the idea of a government as a babysitter as a bad thing, so anything intervention is frowned upon. its all hypocritical but people still believe it.

And because, im assuming, in the US the poor don’t consider themselves poor by force of an evil capitalist society as much as poor because they are unwilling to do what it takes to better their lot in life (work 80 hours a week, go to night school, etc), and therefore not worth $10 an hour and healthcare for being a waiter. At least this mindset probably holds back unionization and attempts to better the lot of the working poor. From birth alot of us in the US are brought up on Horatio Alger stories and stories about how anyone can do anything in the US if you only work hard and if you end up at the bottom of the financial ladder its taken to be your own fault.

This is all my opinion and perspective of course.

Wesley Clark, Aro mentions in the OP, that young people are part of the left (poor or not). I think s/he is saying the working class tends to be more conservative, where in other places they would be on the left.

My personal opinion on it is that the “underpriveleged” vote more conservatively because of policies traditionally held by the right. The religious issues, (lack of) gun control, “low” taxes, and being against affirmative action are things that I think the “underpriveleged” might find appealing. A conservative candidate can tell a person that when he is in office he will cut taxes and let the worker spend it rather than “waste” it on government programs. It might sound good to someone that doesn’t really pay attention, so they get a couple bucks back, but don’t realize a program they use is being cut.

If I’m remembering correctly, in Catch-22, Major Major Major Major’s father is a farmer that doesn’t like the government giving people money … except when the gov’t gives him farm subsidies, then it’s OK. If the program doesn’t benefit him though, then he thinks it’s a waste. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I might not be sharp on the details.

For example, I know some older people that vote a straight Republican ticket, even though they heavily depend on government help for healthcare. They would benefit from socialized medicine, but for other reasons they’re affiliated with the GOP.

[QUOTE=Wesley Clark]
i dont agree with that, go to a college and its filled with young and (temporarily) poor people and they are fanatical leftists more often than fanatical right wingers.
That’s not even correct either. Go to a private college in the North East like BC or Villanova or a football school like Notre Dame and compare it to Berkley or some school in Oregon. Many schools, especially ones with a focus in business or engineering tend to be more conservative than your basic hippy-factory.

Other than that, I think your post is straight-on. Maybe there are still poor people who feel that they would rather work hard and earn what they can then to be dependent on the government handouts and subsidies controlled by the whims of well-meaning, if somewhat naive, liberals.

The other thing is that we middle class folks are the ones who end up footing the bill for all these high-minded government programs.

Hahaha. Yeah i guess you hit the attitude dead on. Doesn’t mean i agree with it though. now if you could just earn $30k a year less than you do and you could probably answer this post perfectly.

In the US its certainly stronger than elsewhere… but I would venture that right wing politicians are more likely to pander to the working class votes with promises and populist offers… whilst left wingers talk about ideology. The ignorant poor fall for the rhetoric and promises more easily.

The US is not alone… in Brazil for example many conservative and corrupt governors and mayors were elected using religion, rhetoric and a “I will protect you” BS. Their votes came mostly from the poor and less educated. Our formerly left wing President was elected heavily on the votes of the middle and lower middle class. So its not a US only phenomena…

'Cause poor people are stupid, that’s why… :dubious:

Seriously, I believe that right now the right wing has a better line on the demagoguery required to sway those of lesser means (both financially and mentally) than does the left.


I was going to pit you for this,thinking, “Oh, it’s the old ‘if you’re poor, it must be because you’re lazy’ argument again”, but then I re-read the post and realized what it was you were really saying.

I’ve always had liberal tendencies, no matter what income bracket I’ve been in- even when I was making good money, I never had a problem with the idea that my tax dollars were going to help those less well off than I was, in fact, I felt a moral responsibility to the poor, but I’ve also always been one to, as you said, work hard and earn what I can… even at a point in my early working life when I was working my body into the ground and making so little I would have qualified for food stamps, I refused to apply for them.

Right now, I’m at a point in my life where working hard to earn what I can has put me into a physical state that within the next week or so, I’m going to be having to choose between my job and my physical health. Right now the job is winning. I have some Pell Grant money from school and I’m due a tax refund that would be enough that I could probably afford to not work the rest of the semester and still keep up my share of the household expenses, but the money wouldn’t last much past that. If I quit, I can concentrate on my studies, continue in physical therapy and in a few months have my body back into good enough shape that I will be able to work as a massage therapist, which would be a lot easier on my body than my current job. But, at the end of the semester, I will be flat broke with nothing to fall back on, and if I don’t find work in my chosen field quickly, I will be back in a situation where I may have to take a job that will wreck my body in order to make ends meet.

If I go back to work (I’m just in the last week of my leave of absence), I run the risk of wrecking myself physically to the point that even with the physical therapy I would be unable to do any kind of work that would involve being on my feet for any length of time, like, oh, massage therapy.

At this point in my life, I would have no qualms about going on welfare so that I could take care of my body and focus on my education, and be both physically and mentally ready to go to work in my field when the time comes. Unfortunately, I live in Nevada, where it is extremely difficult to qualify for any kind of state-administered public assistance, so either way, I’m going to be white-knuckling it for probably the next six to eight months.
Anyhoo, as far as the original subject of the thread, I think the reason the poor in this country tend to be more conservative has more to do with moral issues than with economic ones. Folks in the lower income brackets, especially rural residents, Southerners, and black people in all geographical areas, tend to be more religious, and more conservative to fundamentalist in religious flavor, and thus tend to vote for canditates who appeal to their religious and moral sensibilities.

Not that different, imho, to that of another empire - it’s more exaggerated in the US now because that country is in the middle of empire (actually past the middle but that’s another day . . .)

Anyway, my response is equally superficial and generalised . . and not based on the US: Substitute as appropriate.

It kind of reminds me, in the broadest, most general terms, of the racist, ignorant working class football hooligan mentality around these parts – those people tend to be nationalistic right of centre types as well; Margaret Thatcher and all that.

A common explanation goes something like this:

Not bright knucklehead, not great self-esteem, working in a crap dead-end job and going anywhere much for the next 40 years; crap housing, crap relationship, crap money, crap education. Brought up on a diet of war films, Winston Churchill and the glories of empire (for US read similar crap).

Build your self-esteem, find a justification for your life and an identity by associating with a greater ‘good’ (as its popularly portrayed – you, of course, don’t question the merits of that portrayal) - we did great, we are the best, we saved the world, we are heroes: Agincourt, Crecy, Trafalgar, Waterloo, D-Day, etc., etc . . wave that Union Jack ‘Land of Hope and Glory’

And it’s great if you’re not the sharpest tool in the box because you get the whole mantra reinforced every Sunday afternoon (war films on the idiot box) Zulu., Battle of Britain, etc, etc. . .never mind the sports internationals and other media.

All of a sudden you feel really good about yourself and your life. Excellent.

Kind of thing . . . there are others explanation sbut much seems to centre on transposing ones own desires/needs onto this strange post-empire culture.

Perhaps the poor in America are smarter than the poor in other countries?

Everyone who is poor in the US but is willing to work hard knows other poor people who are simply lazy and prefer to live off Uncle Sam. They also know that these people are trapped: stay on welfare too long and you may just end up stuck there for life. It follows that those who are poor, yet hopeful for the future, want conservatives in power so, when their lot in life improves, they don’t get taxed to death so the lazy poor people they know can continue to sit on their asses.

Let me explain some of the great American cultural myths that basically pervade our culture and hopefully I can tie it to the OP. The first is the American As Rugged Individualist. The Ideal American makes his own way in the world, never accepting help from anyone, because We Are A Land of Rugged Individualists. Everyone should take care of themselves (and be a Rugged Individualist). Lost your job? Shoulda saved your money! Can’t afford health insurance? Shoulda stayed in school and got a better job! It’s not MY problem.

We’re not a country with a sense of the Common Good, we’re a country with a sense of I Got Mine. Or I Will Get Mine Eventually.

The second is the Hard Work/American Dream. We’re taught that if you just work hard enough, you will eventually get whatever you want. Consequently, there’s a deep cultural suspicion towards those in poverty. They just Don’t Want To Work Hard Enough.

This pervades discussions on the poor, especially those who have trouble finding a job. Let’s take a someone that lives in housing projects as an example. Here’s what I’ve seen time and time again, in various forms:

“Why doesn’t she just get a job?”
“Well, there aren’t a lot of jobs in the inner city, for starters.”
“So, if she wanted one, she could get one! There’s plenty of jobs!”
“Yea, but it has to be within walking distance, cause she doesn’t have a car.”
“So?! Is she too good to take the bus?!”
“Um, there’s very little bus service, it usually runs late when it runs at all…”
“Well, if she WANTED the job, she’d TAKE it and wait for the bus TWO HOURS if that’s what it takes! Or walk! A little walking never hurt anyone!”
“Have you ever walked in the projects at night? It’s pretty scary.”
“Well, no, I Work For A Living, not like these slackers who waste my tax dollars! They should just move if it’s so bad there!”
“They can’t move! They don’t have any money!”

I guess I’ll call this the Work Will Make You Free Principle. So it’s pointless to spend money on job training, better public transportation, whatnot, because these people just don’t want to work bad enough, if they did, they’d just get a job. Or they would’ve stayed in school. Or they should move. Or whatever.

Thirdly, we’re a country where the Government Can’t Be Trusted and this is where the conservatives got a lot of their appeal. If the government is crafty, devious, and untrustworthy, the smaller it is, the better. Conservatives in the US have traditionally been against larger government (and some of the articles I’ve read have hinted that Old School Conservatives are kinda pissed about Bush’s expansion of the government, here’s an interesting article on the subject). Since the government is bad and can’t be trusted, why would we want to entrust them with our health care/our guns/our safety/our money/whatever?

I don’t think a lot of Europeans/others realize just how deep this runs. Do you guys know that Britian is frequently held up as an example of government gone crazy (they took all your guns away!)? That for a lot of people, having British/Canadian style health care is used as a scare tactic (Do you want THE GOVERNMENT picking your doctor?!)? I’m not joking.

And, yes, I think the Republicans draw a lot of their support from the types London_Calling was describing, though I’d change it to a white guy, worried because blacks/Mexicans/whoever are coming in in larger and larger numbers, weaned from the Golden-Arched Teat of Momma America on America is Number ONE and We Don’t Take No Crap and The Government Is Coming To Take Your Guns and here come the Republicans, wrapping themselves in the flag, fighting for God, country, and apple pie, and how can the Democrats compete? Well, they want to take your tax money and give it to poor people (who don’t deserve it, see above) and they think we should try and get along with other countries (Hey Europe! We saved your ass in the WAR! If it wasn’t for us, you’d be speaking GERMAN now!) and the UN (none of whom realize America is Number ONE! We saved their ass in the WAR!).

Wrap THAT around the social changes that have been taking place lately–keep in mind, 40-50 years ago, White Male ruled the roost around here–and all the upheaval that entails, and you get the Republicans that offer the “Your Way Of Life Is Under Attack!” along with the more base “Those damn Blacks/Mexicans/Gays want your job/rights/whatever and they just don’t deserve it!” There’s a not-insignificant chunk of the population that’s scared shitless of the idea of gay people getting married or being recognized as human, so you have that chunk of their support. And if the poor happen to be more religious and more prone to fundamentalism, well, there’s that chunk of their support. Also, our Nostalgic Golden Age is the 1950s as portrayed in sitcoms like Leave It To Beaver. So when the Republicans say they’re for Traditional Family Values and Supporting the Nuclear Family and Upholding Marriage, well, it resonates with a lot of people, especially if they’re poor/more religious.

That clear anything up?

The sad truth is that it’s because the poor are less educated in general, and therefore more inclined to believe conservative rhetoric - the right in the United States has a very well-run propaganda machine, and the left, at least at present, has been unable to match it.

Therefore, the conservatives manage to attain populist appeal with notions of tax cuts and smaller government, even when these tax cuts hardly make a difference to the poor - although they certainly help the right’s financial backers.

This ties into the myth of the American Dream; self-sufficiency and hard work have been talked about above, so I’ll just reiterate that in the U.S., we have a collective notion that hard work is all it takes to succeed - we live to work - and this dates back to the earliest days of our nation, even though nowadays hard work is hardly ever enough.

Finally, America is a more patriotic country - nationalistic, really - as compared to the rest of the industrialized world. And the right has always managed to inflame the nationalism of the uneducated, as it’s done recently, with talk of war, and threats to our grand empire, and talk of the American Way. Pacifism is harder to sell.

What can the left do about it? I don’t know. It’s hard to sell peace and reasonable government when the other side is screaming about war and how “our hard-earned money” is going to support big government. The poor simply do not have the education or the luxury of enough time and energy to research and understand the real meaning of this right-wing demagoguery.

"The sad truth is that it’s because the poor are less educated in general, and therefore more inclined to believe conservative rhetoric"

Do you have any evidence to back this up or is this just your own little theory?

"The poor simply do not have the education or the luxury of enough time and energy to research and understand the real meaning of this right-wing demagoguery."

How condescending can you possibly get? Do you have to have a Ph.D. to think for yourself these days? ONLY “educated people” research and put thought into their political opinions? Let me guess: only liberals have thoroughly researched their positions, right? If you’re a financially poor conservative you MUST be some illiterate hick who listens to whatever the nice anchor on the TV tells you.

Furthermore, only the wealthy are educated? Since when? I know lots of poor people with college degrees. They’re poor either because of bad choices or poor job availability, that or they’re on disability because of bad health.

“The poor” that I assume you are talking about: welfare recipients, for example, would be FAR FAR more likely to vote liberal, IMHO. All the democrats have to do is tell them the eeeevil Republicans want to take away their check and off they go to the polls to vote for The Party That Is On The Little Man’s Side™.

First, the OP is ill informed. “The poor” in the U.S. DON’T vote Republican. Black Americans, the poorest of all ethnic groups in the U.S., vote almost exclusively for the Democrats. About 90% of the black vote in nearly every election goes to the Democrats.

Now, if the question is why so many blue-collar Caucasian voters often go Republican… well, read through some of the posts from liberals on these threads, and you’ll see EXACTLY why blue-collar folks are so leery of liberals! NOBODY likes to be looked down on, NOBODY likes to be patronized, and NOBODY likes to be treated like an idiot. And yet, that’s precisely how liberals approach the blue-collar voters they claim to represent.

Liberals treat blue-collar white Americans as morons, then wonder why they aren’t beloved.

I think you got the cause and effect reversed. If liberals tend to look down on blue-collar white Americans, it’s because because they are (or at least vote for) conservatives.

So the blacks are so stupid that they don’t notice it… but poor whities are smarter and notice they are looked down upon ?

Aren’t American Indians the poorest of all ethnic groups in the US?

Also - to my knowledge, the far right isn’t currently attracting working class votes in America the way it is in parts of Europe (I am knocking, actually pounding on wood as I type this).

You have to be more specific about the working class. Working class union people tend to vote overwhelmingly for the Dems, because that’s what a union guy is supposed to do. And it is often the only thing they are voting on. When I was in Michigan I new several people from long time union families. If you went issue by issue with them , they would agree with the republican platform almost unanimously But they never even considered voting against the dem.

I think that the US is different from other countries in many ways, actually. The US is the only developed Western nation without a socialist party, which is the result of some underlying factor that also causes the poor people in our country to be liberal. Many of the protestant religions and especially puritanism if I recall correctly require a personal relationship with God and require the believer to make it on his own. You basically have to save yourself. America has had this puritanical background since the Pilgrims. Also the same reason why we are more closed towards sex than other countries in Europe. In most of Europe, Catholicism was the norm, where people are members of the church, and there wasn’t at that time so much emphasis on personal responsibility to find God. On top of that we have the whole westward expansion which also affected us to a serious degree. America has been, since the beginning I believe, based on taking action for yourself. The first settlers left Europe to better their lives. The first western settlers also did the same. From that, I believe we have this attitude of, “well if your life isn’t how you like, why don’t you just pick up the pieces and start again.” This has the effect on people that their own social class that they were born into is basically their own fault. Now, America does have a social ladder that is much more upwardly mobile than many other countries, but at some point there is a glass ceiling for some people. Take the dotcom boomdays for example. There was a huge stardom of the new millionaires. Everybody was envious, jealous, and respectful for the new millionaires at the same time. In Europe things are quite different. Rich people aren’t looked upon so kindly here. Sure there are many factors leading to why America has no socialist sentiment, but the main reason is that the poor basically think that they at least “could have” accieved whatever they would have liked had they applied themselves. This is basically true to anyone to a greater extent. I could have been accepted into Harvard if I had only worked “that” much harder (just an example, btw. didn’t apply). If you think about those kind of sentiments, then its true. Most of the American society was possible for any of us to achieve. Thinking that it is their own choice to live on a minimum wage salary of two parents, the poor blame themselves. And why not? You’ve seen the success stories of all the rags to riches in America. There are a lot. I think the poor will have to get a lot more poor and numerous before we get to a situation like the one is in Europe where there are socialist parties. Also countries like German have representative elections, meaning that third parties are viable in Parliment, giving some of these ideas constant play. There is nowhere in America for Socialists to take a foothold on the national stage. I wish there would be.

Moving this to Great Debates.