The Politics of Money: How Finances Impact Voting Behavior

The Politics of Money: How Finances Impact Voting Behavior

It's cliché, but rings true: if you're wealthy, you're likely to vote Republican. If you're poor, the Democrats will be your party of choice.

But the relationship between money and politics is much more complex than that, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. The nonprofit public opinion firm found that financial security not only impacts your party leanings, but also how politically engaged you are.

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The report categorized the poll respondents' into five levels of financial security based on multiple factors, including whether they had checking and savings accounts, retirement savings and a credit card; whether they received government support; and signifiers of financial stress, such as the inability to pay for bills and expenses.

And it found that, in general, financially secure Americans are much more likely to vote than those who are financially insecure.

These findings put the Democratic Party at a disadvantage because it means people who would otherwise vote blue, demographically speaking, aren’t participating in the political process at all: In 2014, 94% of the most financially secure Americans were registered to vote, while 54% of the least financially secure were registered.

And while data is not complete from the 2014 voting season, it's estimated that 63% of the most financially secure were likely to have cast a ballot, compared with just 20% of the least financially secure.

The research also found a strong tie between financial security and support for Republicans. Last year, 49% of the most financially secure said they favored a Republican candidate, while only 17% of the least financially secure did. By contrast, support for a Democratic candidate was fairly consistent across all levels. In fact, the most and least financially secure respondents recorded the same preference for Democrats, at 42%.

But the more financially insecure a participant was, the more likely he or she was to indicate no preference for either party, or to support a third-party candidate. That’s partly because less financially secure Americans are more inclined to hold a mix of conservative and liberal values, which is also a signifier that they’re less likely to be interested in politics—and thus, to vote.

Perhaps as a result, the Democratic Party lost considerably more potential votes than Republicans did in the 2014 elections. The least financially secure Americans were much more likely to prefer the Democratic candidate—yet only 12% in this category actually showed up to vote.

The takeaway? No matter your income level, it's important to get out there and support the candidates who reflect your beliefs and values. And while you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to build your financial confidence at the same time—here are some of our pointers to help you get started.

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