The Arizona Desert Lamp

UA Research in the News

Posted in Campus, Media by Evan Lisull on 11 October 2008

And, even better, it’s not related to Mars! Instead of Scientific American, it’s the New Yorker; and instead of the Astronomy department, it’s Sociology:

Last year,  four sociologists at the University of Arizona, led by Lane Kenworthy, released a paper that complicates Frank’s thesis. Their study followed the voting behavior of the forty-five per cent of white Americans who identify themselves as working class. Mining electoral data from the General Social Survey, they found that the decline in white working-class support for Democrats occurred in one period—from the mid-seventies until the early nineties, with a brief lull in the early eighties—and has remained well below fifty per cent ever since. But they concluded that social issues like abortion, guns, religion, and even (outside the South) race had little to do with the shift. Instead, according to their data, it was based on a judgment that—during years in which industrial jobs went overseas, unions practically vanished, and working-class incomes stagnated—the Democratic Party was no longer much help to them. “Beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s, there was increasing reason for working-class whites to question whether the Democrats were still better than the Republicans at promoting their material well-being,” the study’s authors write. Working-class whites, their fortunes falling, began to embrace the anti-government, low-tax rhetoric of the conservative movement. During Clinton’s Presidency, the downward economic spiral of these Americans was arrested, but by then their identification with the Democrats had eroded. Having earlier moved to the right for economic reasons, the Arizona study concluded, the working class stayed there because of the rising prominence of social issues—Thomas Frank’s argument. But the Democrats fundamentally lost the white working class because these voters no longer believed the Party’s central tenet—that government could restore a sense of economic security.

Obviously, as a political science/economics major, I have a bit of a vested interest in tooting the horn of UA accomplishments that aren’t related to astronomy and the other “hard sciences.” While I’m pretty optimistic about the UA Transformation Plan, the few concerns I have revolve around an overemphasis on scientific accomplishments, and ultimately pigeonholing the UA to a greater extent than it already is.

By the way, if you have the time, read the entire essay. For all the talk of “Joe Sixpacks” and “helping the middle class” in this election, it takes a hoity-toity NYC publication to provide the most vivid depiction of that vaunted subset.

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One Response

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  1. Connor Mendenhall said, on 12 October 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Here’s the paper, by the way:
    http://www.u.arizona.edu/~lkenwor/thedemocratsandworkingclasswhites.pdf


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