Even if Nate Silver is right and the odds are in President Barack Obama's favor tonight, there's no denying the fact that America in 2012 is not only more divided, but far more conservative than it was a decade ago.
In several prior posts, I've examined these overall trends toward increased conservatism. The sluggish U.S. economy only appears to have deepened conservatism's hold. Since 2008, Americans have been significantly more likely to identify as economically conservative than as any other ideology, as tracked by Gallup:
Earlier this year using 2011 Gallup data, I examined some of the underlying economic, demographic, and cultural factors that have contributed to the rise of American conservatism in recent years. What we found was that, at the state level at least, the trend reflects deep cleavages of income, education, and class that divide America. A few of our key conclusions:
- As American states become more religious, they also become more conservative.
- Conservative states tend to be less educated than liberal ones.
- Conservative political affiliation is strongly positively correlated with the percentage of a state's workforce in blue-collar occupations and highly negatively correlated with the proportion of the workforce engaged in knowledge-based professional and creative work.
No matter which candidate occupies the White House for the next four years, he will be responsible for governing a nation that looks likely to continue to lean conservative on economic matters. This shift has had much less to do with how Americans perceive the current condition of the economy than you might think. Rather, it reflects great cleavages of income, class, religion, and diversity that continue to divide Americans by state and region.