Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why the Wealthy Voted for Obama

From the Wall Street Journal:

Exit polls show Sen. Obama did best among two main wealth brackets–the bottom and the top. (The middle was split about evenly). According to the polls, Sen. Obama won 60% of the votes of those with family income of less than $50,000.

He also won 52% of the votes of those earning $200,000 or more. That compares with Sen. John McCain’s 46% showing for the same group. Sen. Obama’s showing among the affluent is about 15% better than Sen. Kerry’s did with wealthy voters four years ago.

(Sen. McCain won among voters in 3 of the 4 middle categories of income–or those earning $50,000 to $200,000).

That Sen. Obama did well among the well heeled and well educated is no surprise. Claims that Sen. Obama is an elitist popular with the elite have long been part of the GOP playbook.

But given Sen. Obama’s proposals–which are still just proposals–to raise tax rates on those earning $250,000 or more, it is striking that the affluent came out so strongly in Sen. Obama’s favor. An earlier wealth survey by the Harrison Group showed that voters with incomes of $250,000 or more were leaning strongly toward Sen. McCain, 48% to Sen. Obama’s 29%.

So what gives?

There are several explanations. First, the wealthy, like many voters, may have placed a higher emphasis on the state of the nation than the state of their wallets. Even though their taxes may be going up, their greater priority may be Sen. Obama’s promises to fix the economy, education, health care, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and overseas relations.

Another possibility is that the wealthy don’t believe Sen. Obama will go through with his tax increase–at least not right away. With the economy sliding fast into recession, some affluent voters may be betting that any tax increases will be delayed or watered down–and Sen. Obama did signal this possibility on the campaign trail. It is harder to vote against an increase in the capital-gains tax if you don’t expect any capital gains for the next year.

Finally (and perhaps least likely), the wealthy may be responding to Sen. Joe Biden’s argument that paying higher taxes is patriotic. Like Warren Buffett, some of the wealthy may feel it is time to raise their own taxes for the betterment of the country. There may be some voters–more likely those in Upper Richistan rather than those in the $200,000-plus group–who think a shared sacrifice among the rich is necessary to get the American wealth-creation machine moving again. (Among the Upper Richistani’s supporting Sen. Obama, tax policies ranked last in one earlier survey, with only 16% citing them as important. “Social issues” ranked first, with “policies dealing with wars” ranking second, at 67%, and Supreme Court nominations and health-care issues ranking next.)

Blog Archive