Election surveys reveal voters' class biases

US Government SealBenjamin Sosnaud, a sociology major now studying at Harvard University, analyzed survey data from eight presidential elections with special attention to whether individuals subjectively identify with classes that are higher or lower than their objective class position. Ben was awarded the Harper-Simpson Award for the best senior thesis in his department: Reconceptualizing Class Politics: The Relationship Between Subjective Class Identity, Objective Class Position, and Vote Choice in American Elections.

“I was inspired to write my thesis because the relationship between social class and vote choice is a popular subject in our society,” said Ben. “I thought, however, that the fact that so many Americans identify with a social class that is different from the one that they actually occupy was an important, but overlooked aspect of this relationship. I found that there are significant differences between Americans' objective social class positions and their subjective class identities. I then tested the extent to which differences between objective and subjective class are linked to Democratic or Republican vote choice and found important patterns stemming from differences between African-American and White voters.

With the help of his advisor, Professor David Brady, Ben plans to work towards publication of the thesis in a sociological journal. In addition, he has collaborated with Professor Brady on an article about working class voting behavior that is currently under review for publication.

“The thesis was a great chance for me to bring together my interests in sociology and political science and it helped me to develop my research abilities as I prepare to enter graduate school.”

Ben completed majors in sociology and political science and will be attending graduate school at Harvard in the fall to pursue a PhD in sociology. He was captain of the ultimate Frisbee B-team and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.

“My interest in sociology stems from my interest in social inequality. I believe that our government has a responsibility to provide equal opportunities to its citizens, and I took a sociology course that helped me to appreciate the large-scale structural forces that produce stratification in a way that extends beyond the political system. Inspired by this course, I declared a sociology major, and it was one of the best and most important decisions of my Duke career.”