Scholar: Economic Losers Embracing Conservatism

Mar 29, 2011

Richard Florida, a thinker who ponders many subjects, including demographic trends, makes a fascinating if controversial observation. Conservative states seem to be becoming even more so. And that seems to be linked to growing conservatism among Americans in those states at the relatively lower end of the income ladder.

He writes in a blog post on The Atlantic web site:

Conservatism, at least at the state level, appears to be growing stronger. Ironically, this trend is most pronounced in America's least well-off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states. Conservativism, more and more, is the ideology of the economically left behind. The current economic crisis only appears to have deepened conservatism's hold on America's states. This trend stands in sharp contrast to the Great Depression, when America embraced FDR and the New Deal.

Liberalism, which is stronger in richer, better-educated, more-diverse, and, especially, more prosperous places, is shrinking across the board and has fallen behind conservatism even in its biggest strongholds. This obviously poses big challenges for liberals, the Obama administration, and the Democratic Party moving forward.

Obviously, there are crosscurrents not captured in such generalizations.

For instance, the new Census data indicated that states traditionally thought of as conservative in the South, like Texas, had significant gains in their minority populations in the last decade, members of racial and ethnic groups that have historically been more liberal.

It might be reasonable then to conclude that would make those states less conservative, like North Carolina, not more.

Still, it was a thought-provoking observation that seemed worth mulling over. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit