Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mo wisdom

Why are Americans angry at this moment? The conventional wisdom is that it's the economy. Specifically, the tired phrase "jobs, jobs, jobs" is invoked at every turn. But is that why we're so mad? And is it those upset about losing a job or not having a job that turned out the Democrats or that have fired up the Tea Party kettle?

Well, my mother has another idea.

Her idea is that it's not the jobs outlook that has people angry, but rather the drop in their net worth. Certainly this gets talked about frequently, but during the lead-in to the recent mid-term elections, the talk was of jobs, and not of wealth.

My mom's political insights are sharp. So I thought this idea was worth investigating a little.

Polling data doesn't look at wealth nearly as often as income or employment. It would be great to find polling data that breaks along net wealth rather than income. I didn't let that stop me, though.

Consider a recent Gallup Poll look at the Tea Party. Gallup concludes that in many ways Tea Party supporters resemble average Americans demographically. The ways in which they stand out are: they're more likely to be male, to be conservative and to have higher incomes than average Americans. And, they participated strongly in the mid-term election, and of course they overwhelmingly voted for the GOP.

The jobless or the poor typically don't vote. They are usually near the bottom of ranking in participation, and that was true in this election too. The Edison Research poll, published by the NYT, shows those earning less than $50,000 comprised 37% of the voters. Presumably this lower income bucket includes the jobless and those who took lame jobs to survive. But, I'm sure that if you looked at the fraction of the population earning this much or less, you'd find that they make up a larger percentage of the population than their electoral participation. The same poll shows that those earning $100,000 or more participated at 26%, which is surely an over-representation of their fraction of the population.

This reduces to: If you lost your job, you didn't vote much or all that conservatively, but if you lost wealth in the financial crisis, you voted often and strongly conservatively.

Instead of the mantra, "Jobs, jobs, jobs", a more accurate slogan might be, "Wealth, wealth, wealth".

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