Reagan coalition

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The Reagan coalition was the combination of voters that Republican Ronald Reagan assembled to produce a major political realignment with his landslide in the 1980 United States Presidential Election. In 1980 the Reagan coalition was possible because of Democrat Jimmy Carter's losses in most social-economic groups. In 1984 Reagan confirmed his support by winning nearly 60% of the popular vote and carried 49 of the 50 states. The Reagan Democrats were Democrats before the Reagan years, and afterwards, but who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (and for George H. W. Bush in 1988), producing their landslide victories. They were mostly white, socially conservative blue-collar workers, who lived in the Northeast, and were attracted to Reagan's social conservatism on issues such as abortion, and to his hawkish foreign policy. They did not continue to vote Republican in 1992 or 1996, so the term fell into disuse except as a reference to the 1980s. The term is not generally used to describe the southern whites who permanently changed party affiliation from Democrat to Republican during the Reagan administration, and they have largely remained Republican to this day.

Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, analyzed white, largely unionized auto workers in suburban Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit. The county voted 63% for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and 66% for Reagan in 1984. He concluded that Reagan Democrats no longer saw Democrats as champions of their middle class aspirations, but instead saw it as being a party working primarily for the benefit of others, especially African Americans and the very poor. Democrat Bill Clinton targeted the Reagan Democrats with considerable success in 1992 and 1996.

Voter demographics[edit]

VOTER GROUPS AND THE PRESIDENTIAL VOTE, 1980 AND 1976
Size '80 Carter '80 Reagan '80 Anderson '76 Carter '76 Ford
Party
Democratic 43 66 26 6 77 22
Independent 23 30 54 12 43 54
Republican 28 11 84 4 9 90
Ideology
Liberal 18 57 27 11 70 26
Moderate 51 42 48 8 51 48
Conservative 31 23 71 4 29 70
Race
Black 10 82 14 3 82 16
Hispanic 2 54 36 7 75 24
White 88 36 55 8 47 52
Sex
Female 48 45 46 7 50 48
Male 52 37 54 7 50 48
Religion
Protestant 46 37 56 6 44 55
White Protestant 41 31 62 6 43 57
Catholic 25 40 51 7 54 44
Jewish 5 45 39 14 64 34
Family Income
Less than $10,000 13 50 41 6 58 40
$10,000–$14,999 15 47 42 8 55 43
$15,000–$24,999 29 38 53 7 48 50
$25,000–$50,000 24 32 58 8 36 62
Over $50,000 5 25 65 8
Occupation
Professional or manager 39 33 56 9 41 57
Clerical, sales, white collar 11 42 48 8 46 53
Blue-collar 17 46 47 5 57 41
Agriculture 3 29 66 3
Unemployed 3 55 35 7 65 34
Education
Less than high school 11 50 45 3 58 41
High school graduate 28 43 51 4 54 46
Some college 28 35 55 8 51 49
College graduate 27 35 51 11 45 55
Union Membership
Labor union household 28 47 44 7 59 39
No member of household in union 62 35 55 8 43 55
Age
18–21 years old 6 44 43 11 48 50
22–29 years old 17 43 43 11 51 46
30–44 years old 31 37 54 7 49 49
45–59 years old 23 39 55 6 47 52
60 years or older 18 40 54 4 47 52
Region
East 25 42 47 9 51 47
South 27 44 51 3 54 45
South (whites) 22 35 60 3 46 52
Midwest 27 40 51 7 48 50
Far West 19 35 53 9 46 51
Community Size
City over 250,000 18 54 35 8 60 40
Suburb/small city 53 37 53 8 53 47
Rural/town 29 39 54 5 47 53

Source: CBS News/ New York Times interviews with 12,782 voters as they left the polls, as reported in the New York Times, November 9, 1980, p. 28; 1976 data are from CBS News interviews.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ehrman, John. The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan. (2005)
  • Ferguson Thomas, and Joel Rogers, Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics 1986.
  • Germond, Jack W. and Jules Witcover. Blue Smoke & Mirrors: How Reagan Won & Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980. 1981. Detailed journalism.
  • Greenberg, Stan. Middle Class Dreams: The Politics and Power of the New American Majority (1985)
  • Jensen, Richard J., Steven L. Piott, Christopher C. Gibbs; Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854-1983 Greenwood Press, 1983
  • Nelson Michael ed. The Elections of 1984 1985.
  • Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore. (2005), standard scholarly synthesis.
  • Pemberton, William E. Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1998)
  • Troy, Gill. Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s (2004). Study of Reagan's image.