Class Conscious? Economic Inequality, Party Commitments, and Class Rhetoric in American Presidential Campaigns
42 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 4, 2015
The growing gap in outcomes and opportunities between citizens of different economic classes over the past five decades has given rise to an explosion of scholarly research on the ways in which economic inequality has reshaped the politics of class in American life. To date, however, this work has largely ignored whether - and if so, how - this development has affected the politics of presidential campaigning. Drawing on a comprehensive new dataset of presidential candidate class appeals over the 1952- 2012 period, we analyze trends in the volume, tone, and policy linkages of Democratic and Republican candidate class appeals. We show that these trends are closely linked to the rise in economic inequality, but that party differences have mediated this relationship, with Democratic candidates making much more extensive use of class rhetoric. Given mounting evidence that elected officials are most responsive to the wealthy, our findings raise concerns that candidates are increasingly exploiting the salient language of class for purely tactical purposes.
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