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 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 groups and the presidential vote, 1980 and 1976|
|Size||1980 Carter||1980 Reagan||1980 Anderson||1976 Carter||1976 Ford|
|Less than $10,000||13||50||41||6||58||40|
|Professional or manager||39||33||56||9||41||57|
|Clerical, sales, white collar||11||42||48||8||46||53|
|Less than high school||11||50||45||3||58||41|
|High school graduate||28||43||51||4||54||46|
|Labor union household||28||47||44||7||59||39|
|No member of household in union||62||35||55||8||43||55|
|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|
|City over 250,000||18||54||35||8||60||40|
- Source: CBS News/The 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.
- 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.