Sunday March 9, 2014
Until Conservatives Can Influence Upper-Middle Class Opinion...
by Christopher Chantrill
During the Vietnam War, relates James Q. Wilson, the sea-change in public opinion from support for the war in 1964 to opposition in 1968 occurred mainly among upper-middle class readers of news and opinion.
Strikingly, opinion did not shift much among working-class voters, no matter whether they read these press accounts or not. Affluent people who read the press apparently have more changeable opinions than ordinary folks. Public opinion may not have changed much, but elite opinion changed greatly.
This finding came from a study by sociologist James D. Wright. It is important because Wilson did a similar study of opinion during the Iraq War.
Using 2004 poll data, I found a similar effect: Americans who rarely watched television news about the 2004 political campaign were much more supportive of the war in Iraq than were those who watched a great deal of TV news. And the falloff in support was greatest for those with a college education.
Wilsons findings point up the central political problem for conservatives and Republicans. During the period between election times we do not get enough access to elite minds. That means that at election time we are always playing catch-up with voters who are well-disposed towards us, because we have to use paid media to get our interpretation of events and ideas out to them
An example of this is shown in the internals(pdf) of the current Pew Center poll on the mid-term election. It shows that in the month since early October whites have flipped from 44% Republican/leaning Republican and 49% Democrat/leaning Democrat to 48% to 43%. Lets put that in a table to make it clear.
Over roughly the same period President Bushs approval rating among independents has risen from 27% to 35%
It is obvious why this is so. Up until a month ago, all that most Americans heard or read about politics came from the mainstream media. In the last month paid media has flipped the biggest democraphic in the nation.
It is intolerable for conservatives and Republicans to be operating at such a disadvantage. It is just not good enough.
And the big problem is public opinion among upper-middle class Americans, for they are the people whose opinions are easily swayed. Another way of saying this is that they are the Americans who are rated proficient in literacy, and able to divine the meaning of an editorial or opinion piece.
Let that be our goal. To reach the minds of the literate, opinion forming upper-middle class, so we dont have to spend good money playing catch-up at election time.
Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.