The undeserving rich: "moral values" and the white working class

Monica Prasad*, Andrew J. Perrin, Kieran Bezila, Steve G. Hoffman, Kate Kindleberger, Kim Manturuk, Ashleigh Smith Powers, Andrew R. Payton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


White working-class citizens who vote for the Republican Party have been fodder for much political discussion and speculation recently, and a debate has arisen about the role that "moral values" played in the political decision making of this segment of voters. In this article, we defend a version of the moral values claim. We show that although the Republicans' policies are unpopular, they are bundled with an overarching moral framework that is extremely resonant to this set of voters, and we use in-depth interviews to uncover this framework. A key feature of this framework, on which in the 2004 presidential election George W. Bush scored high and John Kerry scored low, is the appropriate attitude to wealth, which serves as an indicator for a candidate's general moral philosophy and as a heuristic about whether the candidate will govern with working-class voters' interests in mind. National Election Studies data support the argument that this was a key influence on the voting decision in 2004, even controlling for voters' partisan identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-253
Number of pages29
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Elections
  • Moral values
  • Political sociology
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Voting
  • White working class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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