Planet Money
12:07 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

How Income Divides Democrats, Republicans, And Independents

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 10:25 am

For more, see our post: How The Poor, The Middle Class And The Rich Spend Their Money

"In politics today, do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or independent?"

The Pew Center for the People and the Press has been asking Americans this question for decades. At our request, they sliced the responses according to household income from 1992 to 2012.

In the graphic below, "Low income" refers to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income spectrum, which was roughly $20,000 a year and below as of 2011. "Middle income" refers to households in the middle 20 percent, whose income is between roughly $39,000 and $62,000 a year. "High income" refers to households in the top 20 percent, which is over $102,000 per year.

A few trends jump out. Perhaps most striking is the rise of independents, particularly in the last few years. At all income levels, independents (and people who say they don't know) outnumber people who identify themselves as either Democrats or Republicans. Also notable is the decline of Republicans among top earners.

Note that this survey is not about likely voters, nor is it based on actual political registration. But studies that have parsed the data in that way have found similar conclusions. In a story last year looking at voter registration data, USA Today pointed to the striking rise in independents, and noted that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.

Note: All data from these polls are annual averages except for those in 2012. The data for 2012 come from polls conducted between January and September this year.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.