A shift from a couple of years ago has held steady — more Republicans identify as working or lower class than Democrats do.

Democrats are more likely to identify as upper-middle or middle class.

That’s according to a new poll from Gallup. Forty-six percent of Republicans consider themselves working or lower class and 35% of Democrats do. Sixty-two percent of Democrats identify themselves as upper-middle or middle class and 53% of Republicans say the same.

Deeper into the survey: The survey data comes from self-identification, not factors like education level or profession or income. Economic experts differ on the specifics of what qualifies as working class, but generally, it refers to people who do not have college educations (around 62% of the country) and/or those who receive an hourly wage rather than a salary.

Gallup survey data started showing this shift in 2022. When the same survey was done in 2019, 46% of Democrats identified as working or lower class while only 34% of Republicans did. In contrast, 65% of Republicans called themselves upper-middle or middle class and 54% of Republicans did. Self-identification has fluctuated along those lines, but from 2002 to 2019, Republicans generally identified more as upper-middle and middle class more than Democrats did — the reverse was true for Democrats calling themselves working and lower class at a higher rate than Republicans.

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Zooming out: What are the broader trends about the politics of the working class?

Precipitating this shift was another trend — working-class voters not identifying strongly with either party .

Stephen L. Morgan, a Johns Hopkins professor, said in a 2017 report that working-class voters started not solidly identifying with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party when President Barack Obama was in office.

“Even before the 2016 election cycle commenced, conditions were uncharacteristically propitious for a Republican candidate who could appeal to prospective voters in the working class, especially those who had not voted in recent presidential elections but could be mobilized to vote,” said Morgan.

Left-of-center think tank Progressive Policy Institute did a survey with YouGov about the politics of the working-class voters (defined in the report as those without four-year college degrees). The report found that the working class trusts Republicans more on the economy, natural security, immigration and crime while they trust Democrats more on climate change, clean energy, abortion access and respecting elections.

Forty-seven percent of the working class said they want a federal government involved in the economy mostly via protecting free markets while 34% said they want a small federal government with less taxation and spending. Nineteen percent responded in favor of a large federal government involved in wealth distribution.

As far as which party the working class trusts to put the interests of the working class people first, respondents were almost evenly divided — 38% said Democrats and 37% said Republicans. Twenty-two percent of respondents said neither.

A plurality of respondents to the survey also said they would prefer if the Democratic Party would spend tax dollars more efficiently rather than grow government programs. As for what they want the Republican Party to do, they said they’d like if the GOP would cut spending and increase taxes on the wealthy.

Among those surveyed, 50% said their household income was less than $50,000 annually and 27% said it was between $50,000 and $100,000 with the remainder either not marking prefer not to say or reporting a household income above $100,000.

“In the short term, the political preferences of working-class voters are likely to be shaped by urgent issues such as high prices and illegal immigration,” wrote William A. Galston for Brookings Institute about the survey. “In the longer term, however, a party that combines moderation on cultural issues with support for government programs that would improve the prospects of upward mobility for the working class would likely improve its performance in this key part of the electorate.”

Galston also pointed toward specific policies that some members of the working class have taken issues with such as student loan forgiveness. Fifty-six percent of working-class voters said they oppose student loan debt relief because they think it’s unfair to those who don’t get a college degree. Working-class voters don’t typically have a four-year degree and subsequently wouldn’t have student loan debt, but could experience higher taxes as a result of student loan forgiveness policies.

Writing for The New York Times, David Leonhardt analyzed a handful of reports about the working class and observed what makes some working class voters bristle — elitism.

“Most professionals now vote for Democrats, which is a stark change from past decades,” said Leonhardt. “Most working-class voters vote Republican, partly because they see Democrats as an elite party dominated by socially liberal and secular college graduates.”

Leonhardt noted how the Republican Party still faces challenges with the working class in terms of economic policy, but the conservative populist response “is an effort to show that Republicans understand Americans’ struggles and want to help.”

A lot of ink has been spilled over whether or not there’s even been a significant shift among working-class voters — some don’t think the Republican Party has the stronghold others think they do.

“I think the claim that says the Republican Party is the party of the working class is at best, insincere, and more likely, political misdirection and rebranding exercises,” John Russo, visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, told NPR in 2021. He pointed toward Biden winning the majority of voters earning less than $50,000 a year in 2020 and Trump winning the majority of voters who made more than $100,000 annually.

Others point toward areas where the working class may poll differently than what the messaging from Democratic politicians sounds like. Ruy Teixeira, fellow at American Enterprise Institute, wrote for The Liberal Patriot that working-class voters are less ideological, have economic struggles and in his words are “more focused on material concerns.”

Patrick Ruffini, Republican pollster and co-founder of Echelon Insights, said the dividing line right now is whether or a not a person has a college degree.

“Since college diplomas translate to higher incomes, the Republican Party now has more people in it who are in the bottom half of the income distribution than it ever has, while it bleeds votes among the wealthiest,” said Ruffini in Politico. “To be clear, this is happening not because its economic message has changed.”

Instead, Ruffini postulates, it’s because of a political different shift. “Working-class populism gives Republicans the opportunity to build a more broadly based party based in the working and middle classes.”