• Has the white working class abandoned the Democratic Party? No. White voters in the bottom third of the income distribution have actually become more reliably Democratic in presidential elections over the past half-century, while middle- and upper-income white voters have trended Republican. Low-income whites have become less Democratic in their partisan
identifications, but at a slower rate than more affluent whites – and that trend is entirely confined to the South, where Democratic identification was artificially inflated by the one-party system of the Jim Crow era.
• Has the white working class become more conservative? No. The average views of low-income whites have remained virtually unchanged over the past 30 years. (A pro-choice shift on abortion in the 1970s and ‘80s has been partially reversed since the early 1990s.) Their positions relative to more affluent white voters – generally less liberal on social issues and less
conservative on economic issues – have also remained virtually unchanged.
• Do working class “moral values” trump economics? No. Social issues (including abortion) are less strongly related to party identification and presidential votes than economic issues are, and that is even more true for whites in the bottom third of the income distribution than for more affluent whites. Moreover, while social issue preferences have become more strongly related to presidential votes among middle- and high-income whites, there is no evidence of a corresponding trend among low-income whites.
• Are religious voters distracted from economic issues? No. The partisan attachments and presidential votes of frequent church-goers and people who say religion provides “a great deal” of guidance in their lives are much more strongly related to their views about economic issues than to their views about social issues. For church-goers as for non-church-goers, partisanship and voting behavior are primarily shaped by economic issues, not cultural issues.
I would add to this that not only is Frank wrong about American politics overall, he's particularly wrong about Kansas. Frank makes it sound as though Kansas has abandoned a long history of supporting Democrats. That's just not true, since it has almost always been one of the most Republican states in the country. The table below gives the Republican % of the presidential vote for both Kansas and the U.S. for each presidential election since 1864 (the first in which Kansans voted). In addition, I've included where Kansas ranked among all states for Republican vote percent. As you can see, in 34 elections out of 36, Kansas has been more Republican than the rest of the nation, and 20 elections it has been among the top 10 Republican states in the country. The only two times that Kansas ran behind the Republican ticket nationally was in 1896 and 1912. The first of these was at the height of the Populist movement, but even then, Kansas was only 3.4 percentage points less Republican than the rest of the country and the Democratic/Populist ticket barely won a majority of the vote. The second time was in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt bolted from the Republican party. If you look at the combined vote for both Republican candidates (TR and Taft), it was 50.6 nationally, and 53.4 in Kansas.