In a recent monograph, Professor Heinz Eulau begins his analysis by quoting two “evidently antagonistic formulations” of the theoretical underpinnings of voting behavior in the United States:
1. “A person thinks, politically, as he is socially.”
2. Crucial among the elements in the electoral decision are “traditional or habitual partisan attachments.”
These rival conceptions of primacy among politically relevant variables are often summarized by the terms “class” and “party.” As Eulau points out, “from Aristotle to Harold J. Laski, the relationship between class and party has been one of the ‘grand problems,’ so-called, of speculation about political systems. It has also remained one of the most neglected areas of systematic theory and of empirical analysis.” Data drawn from Survey Research Center surveys have recently been used to explore the relative importance and specify the interdependence of class and party in American voting. Generally, they show party to be more immediately relevant to the voting decision than class, though class position clearly shapes and sets limits to possible party identification and party-related perspectives.
Difficult problems are involved in attempting to sort out and define the two postulated independent variables. The extent to which, in some sense, class determines party orientation is perhaps the most difficult. For example, even when it is found that a certain portion of the working class prefers the Republican party, it may still be that a generation or two earlier the families of this group were Republican on class grounds, and have perpetuated the identification through the socialization process. Campbell et al., conclude that party identification has a “conserving influence,” inhibiting or, at least, slowing down the political manifestation of changes in class position. Their dat a strongly suggest that in any immediate situation class will be much less highly correlated with the vote than party preference. Campbell et al., do not attempt to control for class in relating party identification to the vote, although they do explore the separate effect of class. Eulau deals with this problem at length, but his focus is rather different. He does not attempt to specify the relative weight of each independent variable in predicting the vote, but concentrates on exploring the interrelationships of the two variables.