In Major Flip, House Dems Now Represent Richest Regions

Dennis Cauchon, USA Today, October 14, 2009

Democratic members of the House of Representatives now represent most of the nation’s wealthiest people, a sharp turnaround from the long-standing dominance that Republicans have held over affluent districts.

A USA TODAY analysis of new Census data found that Democrats represent a far different constituency today than they did in 2005, when they were the minority in the House, or in 1990, when they were the majority.

The Democratic-controlled House is now an unusual combination of the richest and poorest districts, the best and least educated, and the best and the worst insured. The analysis found that Democrats have attracted educated, affluent whites who had tended previously to vote Republican.

Democrats now represent 57% of the 4.8 million households that had incomes of $200,000 or more in 2008. In 2005, Republicans represented 55% of those affluent households.

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The Democrats’ new coalition of extremes could cause friction on issues such as health care and tax policy because of Democratic proposals to raise taxes on affluent households.

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Democrats have virtually erased the historic wealth gap that has long defined the parties and their policies. The median household income of Democratic districts last year was just $1,180 less than in Republican districts, down from $6,793 in 1990.

Wasserman [David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report] says Republicans have tended to appeal to affluent voters since the Roosevelt era in the 1930s and 1940s but recently have appealed more to Southern and rural voters, who often have lower incomes.

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