Raw Data: We Have Met the Meritocracy, and It Is Us

Via Tyler Cowen, here are a couple of interesting charts from Thomas Piketty about voting patterns in the US. Generally speaking, poor and working-class folks vote for Democrats, while more affluent people vote for Republicans. But 2016 was an odd outlier:

There’s a big range here, but in general the richer you are the more likely you are to vote for a Republican. That’s held true in every single presidential election since 1948—until you get to 2016. In that year, the top two income deciles (D9 and D10) suddenly diverged from their usual historical pattern and voted for Democrats by about 30 points more than they should have.

30 points! That’s a huge divergence from the norm, and it holds up even at the very tippy top of the income ladder. The upper middle class and the rich like Donald Trump way, way less than they like the average Republican.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, aside from the fact that maybe this is the wrong time for Democrats to suddenly decide they don’t want to fundraise from rich people. But it’s worth pondering.

And as long as we’re looking at this stuff, here’s another chart showing one of the ways that voting patterns have changed:

As you can see, high-income voters have historically favored Republicans by about 12 points, and that’s remained constant until very recently. The big change has been education. In 1948, highly-educated voters preferred Republicans by 16 points. That’s changed pretty steadily, and in the 2016 election highly-educated voters preferred Democrats by 24 points. That’s a swing of 40 points.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are having a meritocracy moment right now, and it’s a bit of a paradox. The consensus among liberals is that the meritocracy is bad, but increasingly liberals make up most of the meritocracy. I have a football game to watch right now,¹ so I’ll leave comment on this for later. But it’s worth thinking about.

¹A very egalitarian sport! OTOH, I’ll be rooting for USC, a very elite school. Contradictions and paradoxes are everywhere.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.