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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

“Team Spirit” explains why white working class voters think economic system favors the rich but support GOP

Greg Sargent today poses a seeming mystery today in his Washington Post blog:

The new Washington Post/ABC News poll starkly illustrates the challenge Democrats face. It turns out that an overwhelming majority of non-college whites believes the U.S. economic system is stacked in favor of the rich — but far more of those voters also think Republicans, not Democrats, have better ideas to address that problem.

Greg suggests this represents a paradox but the answer lies in the analysis of “team spirit” vs policy. As the poltical scientist Lilliana Mason noted in a recent WaPo commedntary:

My research suggests a key reason why this happens: our partisan identities motivate us far more powerfully than our views about issues. Although voters may insist in the importance of their values and ideologies, they actually care less about policy and more that their team wins.
This “team spirit” is increasingly powerful because our party identities line up with other powerful identities, such as religion and race. Over the last few decades, Republicans have generally grown increasingly white and churchgoing, while Democrats have become more non-white and secular. This sorting of identities makes us care even more about winning, and less about what our government actually gets done.
…When social and partisan identities align, we begin to detach our votes for candidates from our policy interests. The most important thing is to stick with the team. It doesn’t matter if the team you voted for opposes the very policy you voted to enact.

Unfortunate, but true.

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