The question of why poor people vote Republican is not simply an issue of income but primarily race and partly region and gender. Poor people may be more likely to vote Democrat; poor white people are not. In 2008 McCain won a slim majority (51%) of white Americans who earn less than $50,000 (this is just below the national median income which is not poor but the only figure available from exit polls that breaks down votes down by race and income), while Obama won a whopping majority of non-whites in the same category (86%). Asked in May which candidate would do more to advance their family’s economic interests middle-class white voters who say they are struggling to maintain their financial positions gave Romney a 26 point lead over Obama.
But that support is less pronounced among white women than white men and is not uniform across the country. In Mississippi 84% of whites who earn below $50,000 backed McCain: in Vermont 70% in the same category voted for Obama. Of the nine states that backed Obama in 2008 in three less affluent whites went for McCain, in five they backed Obama and one was a tie. In all of them non-whites voted Democrat.
The Guardian’s Gary Younge takes a closer look at what he believes to be the driving forces behind poor and working class Americans’ ballot decisions.