Why is there a difference between “working class” and “professional” voters?


Well. Here’s a controversial topic — especially when considering the current presidential race.

But before I dive into the differences, I want to dispel a few notions. 1) Education does not determine political preferences. 2) Those without higher education are not stupid. It’s simply not true that higher education brings intelligence. Brings life enrichment, yes, but intelligence strictly speaking, no. 3) Education is not be a tool to gain leverage over someone in political discourse. Bring credibility to statements or positions, sure. But used as leverage? No.

With that being said, this article explores what exactly the differences are between two groups of voters, and the implication that has on individual political preferences.

BUT, keep in mind that this does not mean that educated people are always Democrats while working class people are always Republican. This simply isn’t the case at all — but there is something to be said about a person’s level of education and their political preferences on the whole. As in, we’re talking about the majority of working-class workers, not the minority.

This is a tricky subject, but I’ll try and tackle it anyway (if anyone has other thoughts on this, comment or email):

JOBS and PROFESSIONS — yes, there’s a difference.

There are two types of jobs in the world. 1) Trades, which require practical skills and 2) professions, which require broad “soft” skills. And there is a difference.

Trade work is when a utilitarian skill is practiced as a job. For example: Carpenters, roofers, electricians, janitors, plumbers, servers, or coal miners are all workers where the worker’s have a skills and get paid to produce something with that skill. And within these professions, there are varying levels of difficulty (we can all agree that waiting tables takes less skill than, say, being an electrician), hence some get trade jobs get paid more than others. Regardless of the job, the concept is that, in trade jobs, there is a product at the end of the day. There is something produced. Every day, there is a product — satisfied customers, a house, a wall, something was fixed, etc … Something that can be seen and is tangible.

While these jobs are valuable, there are two things to remember: 1) The skill can be learned through apprenticeship, and anyone who wants to learn a trade can learn such skills without getting any sort of general higher education. 2) The value of their work is determined largely by demand and what they produce. For this reason, trade jobs (broadly referred to as “working class” jobs) are somewhat hostage to demand.

So, with trade work, if you don’t own your own business, your jobs are largely determined by the demand of that particular skill. So, if a worker’s skills are very narrow, it may hurt their chances for steady work — I know this is the case in the construction business. In addition, depending on the job, there could be a HUGE pool of people who can perform the same skill. For example, there are a lot of people who are capable of performing janitorial work, so the pay is generally lower because the pool is larger (although, if nobody applies and demand is high, it could yield substantial pay) But, in general, trade pay is generally determined by two things: 1) The demand for the skill and 2) the availability of people wanting to perform the skill, or applying for the job.

Now, how is that different from a “profession?”

… Well, professional work requires a bit more time, education, patience, capacity building, and mentoring to perform.

Remember: professionals aren’t concerned with one single skill — instead, professionals need to have general skill sets. Lawyers, doctors, researchers, and investment managers MUST know more than one skill. In their jobs, they perform a variety of tasks, and they don’t serve one singular function.

Doctors don’t just tell you what’s wrong with you. They have to think about ethics, attend meetings, talk to board members sometimes, meet with other doctors to compare research, progress the medical field, sometimes they have to write articles or do lots of public speaking. Lawyers, while they perhaps specialize in one area, also must be able to write opinions, navigate political ranks, help clients (sometimes despite their personal beliefs), perhaps write articles or speak as well. Police officers don’t just give parking tickets. They build relationships with local leaders, speak and mentor youth, provide a sense of security, offer advice and guidance to businesses and government. Researchers must be able to answer questions that come from a variety of sources, blend different answers to make a coherent (and empirical) answer. Human resources managers must navigate policy, implement budgets, make hiring and firing determinations, and stay up-to-date with laws, be personable, and maintain relationships within any given organization. Professionals must always be flexible in what they do every day, because it can always change despite their title.

While trades get new laws and products introduced, the workers are largely insulated from becoming immersed in the field.

Tradespeople deal with their specialized function and go home at the end of the day (unless there are some sort of extreme circumstances). But professionals deal with problems on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps giving a proposal one day, and meeting with clients the next.

Because of this, professionals, by necessity, need to be more flexible. They need to be able to publicly speak, write, articulate ideas, talk in front of board members or executives. They need to be able to brief people, know how to pull out specific and meaningful information for top leaders. They need to contribute to the organization and be able to go outside of their “specialty” on occasion. That’s what they are there for. For stability, and the reassurance that if leaderships needs something unique done, that it happens.

So: The primary difference between trade workers and professional is, in fact, level of education. Because higher education is where people learn these “soft skills” (or they should learn it if they weren’t lazy during college).

Hiring officials look for problem-solving skills, the ability to work with any type of person, flexibility in workloads, and general experience when hiring. They need to know you can handle problems and not complain. That you can work with a woman as a boss. They need to know that you aren’t just there to take up space and sit and that you’re willing to do stuff without direction. And in general, professional work requires education — because education is connected to being “well-rounded” in your understanding of the world and being aware of your responsibilities.

And one last difference: While the educational development is a large expense, professional jobs are more insulated from the supply-and-demand cycles of trade work. Because organizations always need professional people to fill their organization, demand will always be there for effective professionals. And the reason professional people *can* get paid more than tradespeople is that their highly generalized skillsets are more rare. So, if businesses find a unicorn, they tend to want to keep it.

Education, jobs, and politics

So there is a difference between working-class and professional jobs. And we know that more-generalized education is the key to getting entry professional experience (which can then be used to broaden those desired “soft” skills). So, what effect does education (and by extension professional work) have on political preferences?

Well, we all know that these days there’s generally a stereotype that those with higher education have “liberal” views. … and while I take issue with the label as “liberal” (that term has been bastardized like “conservative”), these days, the stereotype somewhat holds weight. … but not really.


Here’s how, I would say, “professional” or “educated” workers form political preferences: 1) They are informed by ideas they latched onto during their exploratory years. 2) Professionals are more insulated from demand, so they don’t make political decisions based on whether or not they have a job. Hence the “I’ll make more jobs” argument doesn’t hold weight with them. And 3) They calculate political decisions by considering past, present, and future — because they consider consequences of actions rather than search for instant political gratification.

And here’s how, I would say, “working-class” workers form political preferences: 1) Based on their immediate financial needs. Because they are susceptible to the volatility of the job market, they consider their livelihoods first and foremost. So the “I’ll get you a job” argument holds plenty of weight. And 2) workers consider security before historical legacy or potential lingering consequences when making political choices. Because their jobs can be taken away because of one poor business move up top, working-class people see the world in the present. In the now. Not five years from now, but now. Because of that, they value security, in the now, over security in the future.

Indeed it matters where you are, what groups you belong to, what job you have, and how much education you have when going to vote. Voters are informed by the world around them, and exposure to education matters, and the job you perform every day matters.

It’s not that working-class voters don’t comprehend what their counterparts do — it’s that they face a separate set of challenges. While professionals struggle to promote their chosen profession and struggle to remain relevant, workers are far more interested in secure, stable work.

I would even go a step further in saying that there is a higher likelihood that if you’re a worker, you’re far more present-tense oriented than those in a profession who take a more historical approach to thinking. And that’s part because of higher education, but it’s also because of the job performed. And, anecdotally, I’ve been a mechanic, gas station worker, pizza maker, Applebee’s cook, a waiter, editor, and researcher (among other things). I’ve gone through educational ranks, and, in general, my perspective has shifted from an “I-need-a-job-now” mentality to a “what’s-better-for-the-future” mentality.

So, in any case, this hopefully leaves the reader with something to think about …