Walking the Line: The White Working Class and the Economic Consequences of Morality

Monica Prasad*, Steve G. Hoffman, Kieran Bezila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Over one-third of the white working class in America vote for Republicans. Some scholars argue that these voters support Republican economic policies, while others argue that these voters’ preferences on cultural and moral issues override their economic preferences. We draw on in-depth interviews with 120 white working-class voters to defend a broadly “economic” interpretation: for this segment of voters, moral and cultural appeals have an economic dimension, because these voters believe certain moral behaviors will help them prosper economically. Even the very word “conservative” is understood as referencing not respect for tradition generally, but avoidance of debt and excessive consumption specifically. For many respondents, the need to focus on morality and personal responsibility as a means of prospering economically—what we call “walking the line”—accords with the rhetoric they associate with Republicans. Deindustrialization may have heightened the appeal of this rhetoric.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-304
Number of pages24
JournalPolitics and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • class and voting
  • political sociology
  • voting behavior
  • white working class
  • working-class Republicanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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