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Title page for ETD etd-11242009-191030

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Hale, William Beardall
Author's Email Address william.b.hale@vanderbilt.com
URN etd-11242009-191030
Title The role of class identity in political orientations
Degree Master of Arts
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Larry Isaac Committee Chair
Karen Campbell Committee Member
  • middle class
  • working class
  • upper class
  • lower class
  • conservative
  • liberal
  • class identity
  • political orientation
  • democrat
  • republican
  • welfare
  • social security
  • political party
  • income inequality
Date of Defense 2009-09-24
Availability unrestricted
For a variety of reasons, scholars have increasingly turned their attention to the role of gender, race, and ethnicity and away from social class during recent decades. This paper argues that through class identity’s influence on salient political orientations, social class remains relevant in contemporary American society. Using data from the General Social Survey, I demonstrate net of a host of theoretically important conditions, a significant positive relationship between class identity and conservative political orientations for white respondents, as measured by political party identification and views on particular government spending issues—income gap, social security, and welfare. My analyses also indicate a significant race-class identity interaction effect, with class identity and conservatism remaining independent of each other for black respondents. Moreover, I contend that neither the argument for the increase in class politics nor the argument of the decrease in class politics (both typically based on objective class measures) is applicable to the effect of class identity on political orientations, with my analyses demonstrating a rather stable positive effect for white respondents over time as well a rather consistent independence between class identity and political orientations for black respondents. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings for debates on the role of class in contemporary American society and suggest additional directions for research.
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