The White Working Class and Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections, 2004 to 2016

Stephen L. Morgan, Jiwon Lee

Sociological Science, November 20, 2017
DOI 10.15195/v4.a27

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 U.S. 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 assess the electoral consequences of this surge. 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.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Stephen L. Morgan: Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
Email: stephen.morgan@jhu.edu

Jiwon Lee: Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
Email: jiwonlee@jhu.edu

Acknowledgements: We thank the editors for their incisive suggestions for revisions.

  • Citation: Morgan, Stephen L., and Jiwon Lee. 2017. “The White Working Class and Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections, 2004 to 2016.” Sociological Science 4: 656-685.
  • Received: October 2, 2017
  • Accepted: October 12, 2017
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v4.a27

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