Political Animal


July 20, 2012 12:44 PM Beyond Self-Interest

By Ed Kilgore

Amidst the chortling of conservatives that the president had blown the election by offending the sensibilities of “successful people,” Nate Cohn of TNR had this fascinating snippet of data yesterday:

[H]igh income voters might be less conservative on economic questions than self-interest suggests. Take today’s Quinnipiac poll of Virginia. It was a bad poll for Obama, but the President still earned 44 percent among those making more than $100,000 a year, down just slightly from 46 percent four years ago. But as strong as the President might appear among affluent voters, he’s less popular than his own proposal to raise taxes on precisely those voters. According to the same poll, 62 percent of voters making between $100-250,000/year support Obama’s tax plan and so do 48 percent of voters making more than $250,000/year. In 2008, Obama only received 47 percent of Virginia voters making more than $200,000/year.

Maybe a lot of better-off voters remember they did pretty well when the tax rates being proposed by Obama were in effect. Maybe they’re concerned about issues other than their own bottom line. And hell, maybe their definition of patriotism involves “giving something back” for the blessings they have derived from being American, as Obama suggested they should do in the allegedly offensive quote. But whatever it is, for all the caricatures of the president as some sort of Leveller who hates success, the successful like his Levelling tax proposal even more than they like Obama himself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Upper West on July 20, 2012 1:10 PM:

    maybe some of them are smart enough to realize that they pay the AMT and have been subsidizing the tax cuts for the really wealthy ($1M plus) for the last 12 years.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 20, 2012 1:18 PM:

    This whole issue seems like one of those stupid occasions where residents of the blogosphere, especially the right-wing part of it, convince themselves of their own importance. "Everyone is talking about this gaffe!" really means the 0.1% of the population that's both most right-wing and most politically active is talking about it. Fortunately the Romney campaign is both made up of these folks and too desperate to have anything substantive to talk about. I doubt the Obama campaign is even going to bother dignifying this stupidity with a response until there's some evidence undecided voters care, which is to say never.

  • DAY on July 20, 2012 1:18 PM:

    Other than Paris Hilton and Mitt Romney, Americans making over $250,000 a year are an intelligent lot, and are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, both is politics and in the wheat fields. That is why they earn over $250,000 a year. . .

  • c u n d gulag on July 20, 2012 1:19 PM:

    That's probably because the people making less than 5250,000 come in contact with the rest of us pretty often.
    They're frequently our bosses, or our bosses bosses. They live near us, shop with us, and do other things with, or near us. And they know how interdependent we all are on one another, and how we all rely on the same resources - town water, police, firefighters, schools, etc.

    It's the people above that level, who, I suspect with every $250,000-500,000 in additional income, become more and more detached from the rest of us.

    They live in gated communities, with their own security, schools, and maybe even firefighters.
    They have nannies take the kids to school and shop, so they don't have anywhere near the contact with regular people. And so, they have separated themselves, and hence, feel superior.

    And the farther up you go - the more and more detached from our reality they become.

    I bet the ONLY times in his life Mitt dealt with regular folks, was when he was on factory floors as he was about to buy a company (if then), and on the campaign trail.
    Outside of that, why would he ever need to come anywhere near us?
    We might have cooties.

  • tcinaz on July 20, 2012 1:34 PM:

    But this whole issue is about a numbers game and the wealthy lose those when you are counting potential voters not incomes. Only 1.5% of Americans live in families that earn $250,000 a year. That means there are something like 2 and a half million voters in this category. If Obama only wins 44% of that vote, that is only an actual loss of about 300,000 votes distributed over 50 states. Obviously, his advisers figured this out and decided to target the other 98.5% of voters, a far more productive strategy by my lights.

  • Skid on July 20, 2012 1:45 PM:

    Blown the election due to being taken out of context?

    If our electoral system has really denigrated to such crumbs, all we can expect to get is a crumby President.

  • Anonymous on July 20, 2012 2:03 PM:

    I'm thinking, right-wing bubble. It's certainly not true of all higher-income voters, but a decent percentage have the brains to realize that sustainable prosperity depends on having a broad and economically secure middle class, and will vote accordingly.

    I can't imagine that's changed a great deal since the straw poll my Wall Street law firm took a thousand years ago, for the 1992 elections, which when analyzed showed that support staff was inclined to re-elect Bush the Elder, but that the lawyers were going with Clinton, something like 75% to 25%. We expected him to raise our taxes, but it wasn't like we couldn't afford it, and if it got us a stable economy we didn't care.

  • exlibra on July 20, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Upper West, @1:10PM is absolutely right. For people in the 100K-250K bracket (especially those closer to the 100K range), the tax breaks weren't such a big deal. Not in actual dollars and not in the large scheme of things. We weren't living on scraps before '01 and '03, and we won't be living on scraps should those tax breaks disappear. So, I'd much rather support the people who make my life better overall -- the city's (well, OK; my "city" is about 10K strong ) sanitation dept, the modern equipment for the city police and fire depts, etc, etc, etc -- than those whose tax breaks alone are larger than my (very comfortable, thank you) entire income. They'll have to make do with one less lawyer looking for loopholes on their behalf? I'll lend them a bucket to cry into.

  • Barbara on July 20, 2012 2:09 PM:

    Maybe it's because they aren't wealthy enough to insulate their children from the evidently creeping inegalitarianism of the society around them and would like it to become fairer so that they can get some measure of peace, for their own old age and for their children and their children's children, not to mention, for some of them, their siblings and parents.

    Not that that would describe me or anything.