Who are the conservative Democrats? (part 2)

A question below:

I'm curious about the demographics of this category, specifically their geographic distribution, religion and ethnicity.

First, I limited the sample to whites to remove confounds of ethnicity. Interestingly, in the GSS in the period between 1998-2008 24% of black Democrats/lean Democrats considered themselves conservatives, as opposed to 18% of whites. This surprised me, I generally remove blacks from he GSS sample in politics so had no data to fill in the gap where intuition lay. It does reiterate my suspicion that personal assertions of political ideology are less important than revealed preferences as determined by voting patterns. Another way of characterizing the racial breakdown is that while 21% of liberal + moderate Democrats were black, 28% of conservative Democrats were black.

As for the rest of the question, that's rather easy to explore. I simply combined the liberals and moderates into one category, placed the conservatives into other, and cross-referenced them when other variables. For your information, "SEI" = socioeconomic index below. The short of it is that conservative Democrats are less intelligent and educated, more Protestant and religious, less affluent, and of course, more Southern. This is for whites only again.


Liberal + Moderate Conservative
Northeast 86.5 13.5
Midwest 84.5 15.5
South 73.8 26.2
West 86.8 13.2
18-30 87.6 12.4
31-45 84.6 15.4
46.65 80.1 19.9
65- 76.6 23.4
SEI 17-37 76.7 23.3
SEI 37-57 80.8 19.2
SEI 57-77 86.9 13.1
SEI 77-97 92.1 7.9
Male 80.7 19.3
Female 83.3 16.7
Less Than High School 73 27
High School 80.2 19.8
Junior College 78.5 21.5
Bachelor 88.8 11.2
Graduate 93.8 6.2
Dumb (WORDSUM 0-4) 70.1 29.9
Normal (WORDSUM 5-7) 79.1 20.9
Smart (WORDSUM 8-10) 88.9 11.1
Atheist/Agnostic 94.7 5.3
Higher Power 92.9 7.1
Believe in God Sometimes 83.4 16.6
Believe with Doubts 85 15
Know God Exists 78.1 21.9
Protestant 78.3 21.7
Catholic 80.5 19.5
Jewish 92.7 7.3
No Religion 91.9 8.1
Never Married 87.8 12.2
Married 80.4 19.6
Divorced 82.8 17.2
Income > $25,000 84.9 15.1
Income < $25,000 78.8 21.2
Voted Clinton 96 83.3 16.7
Voted Dole 96 71.4 28.6
Voted Perot 96 76.4 23.6

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One large class of conservative Democrats can be explained by the residual Confederate / New Deal / ethnic loyalty of some white Southerners. At the local level in the South the Democratic Party still does fairly well on this basis.

The black conservative Democrats presumably are churchy social conservatives whose loyalty is based on the New Deal plus the civil rights movement.

Two rather contradictory loyalties.

For me (an economic liberal for whom the social issues are secondary) this is just more evidence of the way that ethnic appeals and peripheral issues screw up politics. For a long time in American politics (most of 1865-1932, except during the Bryan era) the D/R divide was almost purely ethnic and regional: Northern Protestants were R, Catholics and Southern Protestants were D. Substantive political issues rarely came up.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 21 Aug 2009 #permalink