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How Big Is the White Working Class Vote?

Iíve documented how poorly Democrats have been faring with white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four year college degree). In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by 23 points among these voters, according to the NEP exit poll, up from the 17 margin Bush enjoyed among these voters in 2000. Also according the NEP exit poll, white working class voters were 43.3 percent of all voters in 2004.

That certainly sounds like Democrats have to improve their performance among these voters, and quickly, if they hope to build a majority coalition.

Last week, I presented some data from the newly-released Census voter supplement data on the age, race and education distribution of voters in 2004. Further analysis of these data to look at the specific question of white working class representation among voters in 2004 reveals that the Democratsí white working problem isnít as bad as suggested by the NEP data. Itís worse.

Thatís because the NEP data underestimate the proportion of non-college-educated in the voting pool and, therefore, the proportion of white working class voters. The Census voter supplement data indicate that white working class voters are actually a majority (51.5 percent) of all voters, rather than the 43.3 percent indicated by the NEP exit poll.

A big challenge for the Democrats just got a little bigger.