Revival of the New Deal Coalition? Social Groups and Political Change in the 1990s
In this study we ask whether, and in what ways, the impact of social cleavages in American politics changed in the unusual 1996 presidential election. Has the pattern of alignment of key social groups remained constant in the 1990s? Have over-time trends observed in earlier years (and analyzed in our earlier work) continue in 1996? And what bearing do the causal factors identified by researchers as explaining elections in the 1990¹s economic voting and the importance of "new" policy conflicts relating to gender and family have on cleavage voting? While single elections provide insufficient grounds for asserting the existence of new trends, the results of our analyses have unearthed two developments that represent dramatic extensions of past trends. The deepening of the gender cleavage confirms our earlier finding about the importance of labor force participation in shifting women voters towards the Democrats. But, since labor force participation can account for only a portion of the increase in the gender gap since 1992, other causal factors are at work. Second, there was a sharp decline in the class cleavage between 1992 and 1996. This is primarily the result of nonskilled workers¹ partisan dealignment during this election. Additional analysis provides evidence that nonskilled workers continue to report disproportionate economic hardship under Democratic administrations (while also failing to return to earlier, higher levels of welfare state support in comparison with other classes). There are thus grounds for expecting that this development will continue into the foreseeable future.
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