Merge Data Analysis: White Working Men

By: Dave Wilson

This article highlights key findings from a merge analysis conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of all interviews conducted by the firm on national surveys since 2004.  This merge analysis contains more than 100,000 interviews (and growing) and is a valuable tool for tracking demographic and attitudinal shifts over time.  For more information about this merge analysis, please contact us at

Below, please find a number of key findings among white working men drawn from POS merge data from 2004-2009.

1.    White working men are the most Republican they have been since 2004.

While the size of the white working male subgroup has shrunk in recent years, white working men have trended to become more Republican than they have in the past several years (see table below).

2.    While this group has become more Republican, it has become a smaller portion of the overall electorate.

The percentage of the electorate made up of white working men has shrunk to 17% thus far in 2009 (see above table).  This is a drop of nine percent since 2005 (when they made up a high of 26% of the electorate), and a four percent drop-off from 2007 and 2008, when 21% of the electorate was made up of white working men. For a subgroup that is majority Republican, this is a troublesome decline for the Republican Party.

This slide has been a part of the decline in Republican party ID that has occurred nationally over the past several years.  However, thus far in 2009, there has been a slight increase in the number of Republican white working males as a percentage of the overall electorate than there has been over the past couple of years. The party must continue to work to strengthen its grasp on this portion of the electorate to improve its current standing nationally.

3.    Conservatives make up a larger portion of white working men in 2009 than any previous year of merge data.

In 2004, 43% of white working men considered themselves to be conservative, compared to just 17% who are liberal, and 39% who consider themselves moderate. In the years between 2005 and 2008, white working men hovered between 44-45% conservative. However, this year, conservative white working men have upticked slightly, with just under half (49%) of all white working men now considering themselves to be conservative. Twelve percent (12%) are self described liberals, and 38% consider themselves moderate.

4.    There has been a decided movement towards suburban living for white working men.

While there has been little change in what region of the country white working men reside in, there has been an increase since 2004 in the percentage of white working men living in the suburbs. In 2004, half (50%) of all white working men lived in the suburbs. By 2006, the expansion of the suburbs increased the percentage of white working men living there to 56%, and by 2008, it hit a high of 58%. Thus far in 2009, 56% of all white working men are classified as living in the suburbs. Over the same time, rural and urban codes have traded positions with one another as the second most populous area for white working men, with urban (23%) outranking rural (21%) in 2009 as the second most populous area where white working men reside.

5.    While there have been some shifts over the last five years, there has been no change in education level among white working men since 2004 when compared to 2009.

In 2004, one half (50%) of white working men were college graduates, one quarter (25%) attended some college, and another 25% completed high school or had less educational training. There was a slight increase in 2008 to 54% college graduates (some college and high school or less both lost two percentage points each, down to 23% of white working men); however, by 2009, education levels returned to where they were in 2004, with 50% college graduates, and both some college and high school or less coming in at 25% a piece.

6.    The generic Congressional ballot has grown steadily more Republican among white working men since 2004.

Thus far in 2009, there have not been a substantial number of interviews asking the generic Congressional ballot to draw valid conclusions from; however, the 2008 data shows that the generic ballot has trended Republican among white working men since 2004 (see table below).

7.    Economy and jobs, Iraq, and terrorism and national security are consistently the three most important issues to white working men.

While there is not significant enough data so far in 2009 on the MIP issue question to draw any conclusions, in the preceding five years, economy and jobs topped the issue agenda among white working men three times, while Iraq (2007) and terrorism and national security (2004) topped the issue agenda among white working men one time apiece. These three issues rotated as the top three issues for every year of this analysis, with no other issues jumping into the top three.

The Bottom Line
With white working men trending more and more conservative and returning to 2004 levels of Republican party identification, over the six years of data in this analysis, there was a promising shift in the generic ballot as well. However, the group is currently the smallest portion of the electorate it has been since at least 2004. With white working men becoming a continually smaller group, the Republican party must firm up its grasp on this key subgroup, which if the 2009 data holds, the wheels are in motion to accomplish this.

This analysis was completed using POS merge data from 2004-2009. Total interviews per year (percent of overall electorate in parentheses) for white working men: 2004 – 3,863 (24%), 2005 – 6,015 (26%), 2006, 5,854 (25%), 2007 – 4,056 (21%), 2008 – 2,035 (21%), 2009 – 818 (17%).

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