Politics Counts: How Wealthier Areas Favored Cliff Deal

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Call it the cliff twist: Lawmakers representing areas most likely to get hit by the fiscal-cliff bill’s higher taxes were also more likely to vote it.

The fiscal cliff bill — which raises income taxes on households making  over $450,000  a year — passed because of support from House members representing some of the wealthiest congressional districts in the country. Viewed the other way, lawmakers from less wealthy districts — the ones less likely to see a big tax hit — were the ones most opposed to the bill.

On average, the “aye” votes on the bill came from districts where 4.7% of the households earned $200,000 or more. In the districts that voted “nay,” 3.6% of the households were in that rarified income group. (The U.S. median household income is around $50,000.)

And it’s important to note that those divisions held up even when one breaks the vote down by Democratic and Republican districts. In the Democratic “aye” districts, 4.7% of the households earned $200,000 or more. In the Democratic “nay” districts, it was 3.6%. In the Republican “ayes” 4.5% earned $200,000 or more. In the Republican “nays,” it was 3.6%.

That’s a pretty consistent split. What makes a House member who serves wealthy constituents more likely to vote for tax increase for the wealthy?  There are a number of possible factors.

It could be that these congress people decided that the increase could have been worse, reached further down in the income scale – “this deal isn’t great, but it’s better than a lot of the alternatives.”  Or it could be a different kind of self-interest. For the rest of this Politics Counts column, please visit the Wall Street Journal's website.