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The White Working Class and Voter Turnout in US Presidential Elections, 2004-2016

Through an analysis of the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Current Population Surveys, as well as the 2004 through 2016 General Social Surveys, this article investigates class differences and patterns of voter turnout for the last four US presidential elections. After developing some support for the claim that a surge of white working-class voters emerged in competitive states in 2016, a portrait of class differences on political matters among white non-Hispanic eligible voters between 2004 and 2016 is offered to consider the consequences of this compositional shift. These latter results are consistent with the claim that racial prejudice, anti-immigrant sentiment, concerns about economic security, and frustration with government responsiveness may have led many white working-class voters to support an outsider candidate who campaigned on these themes. However, these same results give no support to the related claim that the white working class changed its positions on these matters in response to the 2016 primary election campaign or in the months just before the general election.

Authors: 
Stephen Morgan, Johns Hopkins University
Jiwon Lee, Johns Hopkins University
Publication Date: 
October, 2017
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2017-078
File Description: 
First version, October 2, 2017