data for dunking #2: Ted Cruz's Wealthy Base

One day, we will possess technology that will be able to automatically distinguish sincere arguments written by conservative intellectuals from parody. Until then, Data for Progress (@DataProgress) is committed to fact checking the dumbest takes from all your least favorite fever swamps.

Colin Bowers (@colinsonofroy)

Early this week, Chris Hooks (@cd_hooks) took a deep dive into the 2018 Texas Senate race in GQ, where he quoted Ted Cruz as saying,

“The Democratic Party, more and more, has become the party of coastal elites. No offense but that party that reads GQ - your target demographic - are successful, urban professionals with a fair amount of disposable income. That’s the heart of the Democratic Party. That’s the heart, by all appearances, of Congressman O’Rourke’s campaign. But that’s not the bulk of Americans.”

Unfortunately for America’s least favorite Kevin Malone impersonator (or never caught serial killer, depending on your meme of choice) this hypothesis can be studied. Data on Cruz and Beto’s voters is obviously not available yet but data on Cruz’s 2012 race versus Paul Sadler is available via the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). See more about the survey here.

During 2012, 3,654 people answered the CCES from the state of Texas. The CCES survey collects a large amount of information from each person so Cruz’s hypothesis can be interrogated a number of different ways. This post looks only at family income levels. Since Cruz proposed that Beto’s voters (so presumably Paul Sadler’s as well) have a “fair amount of disposable income”, we can look at family income to see if that's the case. As you probably suspected, Cruz is incorrect. As Figure 1 shows, Ted Cruz’s typical voter had a higher family income than Paul Sadler’s typical voter.


Cruz’s modal voter had approximately $20,000 more than Sadler’s modal voter and the only income levels where Sadler achieved parity with Cruz (except for the small samples above $200,000) were below $40,000.

Another useful question on the CCES asks about ideology. For this question, respondents were asked to rate their ideology from Very Conservative to Very Liberal. Figure 2 shows these results for every income level. As with above, answers such as “Not Sure” are removed for the cleanliness of the figure.


Given that Texas was a ruby red state in 2012, conservatives outnumber liberals at nearly every income level. However, the disparity was particularly wide among those with a “fair amount of disposable income” (defined as at least $70,000 or approximately $20,000 above the national median income). Among those people, less than 17 percent identified as either Liberal or Very Liberal and over 49 percent identified as either Conservative or Very Conservative. Among those under $30,000, 24 percent identified as Liberal or Very Liberal and 38 percent identified as Conservative or Very Conservative.

Obviously, there are many ways this data can be sliced and viewed, but no matter what way you cut it (and despite what they like to say), Republicans are the party of the rich (with a “fair amount of disposable income”).

We award Ted Cruz four lying Wyatts, indicating gross perfidy in service of plutocracy.


Colin Bowers (@colinsonofroy) is a data analyst and engineer with an interest in using data science to advance progressive causes, especially those related to the environment, international affairs, and social justice. 

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