News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Democrat Party loss of non-college white voters 2011-2017 'highly problematic,' they're a larger share of electorate than commonly understood, well distributed throughout the country, influential in every state. Largest Democrat loss has been Obama to Trump voters, between 6.7 and 9.2 million voters: In 2011 50% were Democrat, in 2017 only 22%-Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, Dec. 2017, Robert Griffin

"The biggest common denominator among Obama-Trump voters is a view that the political system is corrupt and doesn’t work for people like them." 

Dec. 2017, "Party Hoppers: Understanding Voters Who Switched Partisan Affiliation," Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, Author: Robert Griffin (formerly with Center for American Progress and others) 

*While most Obama to Trump voters once identified as Democrats, a majority now identify as Republicans. Since 2011, there has been a 28 percent decline in Democratic identification and a 43 percent increase in Republican identification among these voters....

Partisan affiliation is one of the most stable features of the modern American electorate. While individuals’ feelings toward politicians or their attitudes about policy can change quickly, partisanship is a deep-seated identity resistant to change.

Within the last five years, however, we have observed a significant amount of partisan switching— individuals leaving their party to become independents or join the opposite party. While the overall number of Democrats and Republicans looks stable, a significant 13 percent of partisans have changed their affiliation.

What do these changes mean?

Close observers of recent elections have noticed substantial shifts in Americans’ voting behavior. Demographic and attitudinal dimensions that once played a more minor role in the choices of the electorate have become areas of significant cleavages. The 2016 election was notable for both the sharp divisions we saw around voters’ education levels as well as the increased salience of their attitudes toward immigrants.

It is an open question whether these changes represent a temporary swing or a “new normal” for American political behavior. The results presented in this report suggest that these changes may be more permanent. Many of the shifts in voting behavior have been mirrored by shifts in otherwise stable partisan identities.

Among those who identified as Democrats in 2011, the party has seen its largest losses among older voters, white people without college degrees, economic conservatives, and those with unfavorable attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants.

Among those who identified as Republicans in 2011, the party has seen its largest losses among younger voters, people of color, economic liberals, and those with favorable attitudes toward immigrants. 

In December 2016, analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum convened as the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group and helped construct the VOTER Survey (Views of the Electorate Research Survey). This longitudinal survey interviewed 8,000 Americans who had also been interviewed in 2011 and 2012, providing unique insights into the evolving views of voters. In July 2017, 5,000 of these respondents were interviewed again to track their opinions on specific issues as well as to identify changes in their partisan identification.

This report takes advantage of the VOTER Survey’s unique panel design to study changes in partisan affiliation. Instead of looking at aggregate changes in identification over multiple surveys — a more common approach given the relative abundance of these data — we track the same individuals over time. This gives us an unparalleled look into exactly who is changing their partisan identification, what party they are changing to, and the demographic and attitudinal correlates of that shift.

For the purposes of this report, the terms “Democrat” and “Republican” include individuals directly identifying with a given political party as well as those who initially identify as independents but admit to “leaning” toward a political party. “Partisan switchers” are those who self-identified as either a Democrat or Republican in December 2011 and switched their affiliation to something else by July 2017....

An Electoral Portrait of Partisan Switchers 

Americans’ vote choices in the past two elections also provide a useful lens for understanding partisan switching. In the aggregate, all voters shifted slightly toward the Republican Party and away from the Democratic Party — 4 points more and 2 points less, respectively (Figure 4). Trump voters displayed an exaggerated version of this same pattern with an 11-point increase in Republican affiliation and a 7-point decline in those identifying as Democrats.

The group to undergo the largest shift, however, has been the much discussed Obama to Trump voter."... 

[Ed. note: "The biggest common denominator among Obama-Trump voters is a view that the political system is corrupt and doesn’t work for people like them."...There were between 6.7 and 9.2 million Obama to Trump voters, "far more than enough to provide Trump his electoral College victory." 6/8/17, "The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought," NY Times,  Thomas B. Edsall, commentary]

(continuing): "Within the last five years, they have shifted 28 points away from the Democratic Party and 43 points toward the Republican Party. To put this in context, while about 50 percent of these voters identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaners in 2011, only 22 percent do so today. Republican or Republican-leaners once constituted a small portion of this group (16 percent), but make up a majority now (59 percent)....

Implications for 2018 and Beyond 

The changes documented here will probably disadvantage the Democratic Party in the short term and pose a considerable problem for Republicans in the long term.

For the Democratic Party, the loss of white people without college degrees is highly problematic. For starters, this group is a larger share of the electorate than is commonly understood. While the national exit poll of the major networks and the AP indicated that non-college white voters made up 34 percent of voters in 2016, the actual number is probably closer to 45 percent.(ii) 

Even small losses among these voters can have a decisive impact on parties’ electoral fortunes — particularly in state and local elections. The reason for this is that non-college white voters are well distributed throughout the country for the purpose of political representation. With few exceptions, they make up a significant, if not overwhelming, portion of voters in counties across the nation. This geographic dispersion makes them influential in every state and in a disproportionate number of congressional districts (Figure 6). 

Even if it were the case that the Democratic Party was making more enduring inroads with other demographic groups, these other groups are presently distributed in comparatively inefficient ways.

White people with college degrees, for example, are not only a smaller group but also tend to be clustered in densely populated areas. The fastest growing groups — Hispanics and Asians — are well represented in a relatively small number of counties located in electorally uncompetitive states. Additionally, black people already identify as Democrats at such high rates that further gains among them would be marginal at best.

Equally problematic for Democrats is the loss of voters from older age cohorts. Not only are those 45 years of age and older significantly more likely to vote, but they are also especially reliable voters during midterms when turnout is down overall. Even if a majority of the younger voters departing the Republican Party found their way into the Democratic camp, their lower participation rates would still make it an uneven trade.

Exacerbating both these problems for Democrats is the increasingly nationalized nature of our elections. Over the last several decades, presidential results have become more predictive of state and local elections. The precinct-level results from Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial election, for example, were highly correlated with the presidential results we saw in 2016 (Figure 7). Even if 2018 is a wave election for Democrats — a proposition that seems well supported — it is not clear that they would win the House given that they are losing the voters who wield an outsized influence in off-year congressional races and how closely these results may resemble the 2016 election.

All that said, these trends also suggest long-term difficulties for the Republican Party. Non-college white voters still make up a substantial part of the electorate, but they have been shrinking for over 30 years. Between the last two presidential elections, the percent of eligible voters who were white without a college degree shrunk from 49 to 46 percent.....

An Attitudinal Portrait of Partisan Switches

We now have a fuller picture of partisan switchers, but this tells us little about their beliefs. What attitudes and ideologies had a relationship to partisan switching and did these relationships vary for Democrats and Republicans?

To examine these questions, I have used the ideological and attitudinal measures developed for John Sides’ initial report for the Voter Study Group.1 While we have respondents’ answers to these questions from the most recent 2017 wave of the survey, we use the responses from 2012 for our analysis.

We did not use the more recent measures because individuals may have shifted their views to align more closely with their current partisan identity — lowering the dissonance between their beliefs and those commonly associated with their new affiliation. If we used the 2017 data we would have to ask ourselves: Did this person switch parties because they had this attitude or does this person have this attitude because they switched parties? Luckily, the 2012 data we have collected can help avoid this problem as they were taken prior to any of the partisan shifts we have observed.

The sections below highlight the results of my analysis,2 but in short: 

*Leaving the Republican Party was most strongly associated with positive attitudes about immigration, self-identification as more ideologically liberal, and more liberal economic views. 

*Leaving the Democratic Party was most strongly associated with negative attitudes about immigration, unfavorable attitudes toward Muslims, self-identification as ideologically conservative, more conservative economic views, and lower levels of economic anxiety (Figure 5)."... 


Added: A New York Times reporter said it's "tempting" to blame "racism" for Trump's win, but can't because many white Trump voters had been white Obama voters. (Why would it ever be "tempting" to cite racism?)

Above NY Times twitter image via 11/11/16, "2016: The Revenge Of The White Working Class Voter, And Where Millions Of Obama Supporters Flipped For Trump," Matt Vespa, Townhall



The Democrat Party has no intention of appealing to white, working class voters. It's staying with unisex bathrooms, identity politics, and being anti-Trump:

4/5/17, "Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say," Washington Post, William Wan, Youngstown, Ohio.

"One by one, members of the Mahoning County Democratic Party poured out their frustrations: Just months after the presidential election, they felt folks like them were being forgotten--again.

The party’s comeback strategy [after Nov. 2016] was being steered by protesters, consultants and elitists from New York and California who have no idea what voters in middle America care about

But worst of all, they said, the party hadn’t learned from what they saw as the biggest message from November’s election: Democrats have fallen completely out of touch with America’s blue-collar voters. 

“It doesn’t matter how much we scream and holler about jobs and the economy at the local level. Our national leaders still don’t get it,” said David Betras, the county’s party chair. “While Trump is talking about trade and jobs, they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into.”

Others around the restaurant table nodded. 

Since the election, Democrats have been swallowed up in an unending cycle of outrage and issues that have little to do with the nation’s working class, they said, such as women’s marches, fighting Trump’s refugee ban and advocating for transgender bathroom rights.

Mahoning Cty, Ohio
The party’s national leaders have focused on decrying Trump, opposing his Supreme Court pick and tying his administration to Russia.

That approach — trying to defeat Trump solely by attacking him and his policies — already has failed once, many at the dinner said.

Meanwhile, they think few are talking about issues that really matter to people in places such as Youngstown: Stagnant wages, vanishing jobs and sputtering economies. Even the Democrats’ recent success in blocking Trump’s attempt to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act matters little in the face of those core interests, local party leaders said. And unless the party begins addressing those blue-collar issues, they said, there will be real and dire consequences in states like theirs.

In more than a dozen interviews, party leaders across Ohio — from local precinct captains to the handful of Democrats who remain in Congress — said they are deeply worried.

“Every time Trump so much as sneezes, we as a party are setting our hair on fire and running around like it’s the end of the world,” Betras said as the dinner wound down. “Most people around here don’t care. They are living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to hold on. After everything that’s happened, if we as a party still aren’t speaking to them, then we are never getting them back.”...

Blue collar issues... 

Ohio’s Democratic Party has launched kitchen-table conversations to reorganize its agenda around economic concerns. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown recently unveiled a 77-page proposal for populist, pro-worker initiatives that could serve as a blueprint for the national party.

But the most forceful move came in U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s failed attempt to wrest control of the House minority leadership from Nancy Pelosi. In his pitch to fellow Democrats, the Ohio lawmaker argued that there is something fundamentally broken in the party’s relationship with the workers who once made up its base.... 

Most acknowledge the need for a stronger economic message, but there has been pushback against the idea of chasing white working-class voters to the detriment of minorities and social issues....

“It’s a false choice to say we have to decide between economic issues and civil rights. They’re all part of the larger problem of inequality that we should be fighting against,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, which is bringing together party luminaries in May for an brainstorming conference."...

[Ed. note: Why can't you have both economic issues and civil rights?]

(continuing): "At a bar on the hollowed-out edges of Youngstown, Betras slid a memo dated May 12, 2016, across the table. It was then that he saw the wave of anger coming and tried to warn Clinton’s campaign.

“I know I am just a chairman but I am a chairman in the trenches,” Betras wrote in the three-page memo, begging Clinton to focus on jobs.

In Mahoning County — a Democratic stronghold decimated by the manufacturing industry’s decline — Betras was seeing GOP yard signs suddenly popping up. During the primaries, he learned that 18 of his own Democratic precinct captains had crossed party lines to vote for Trump. Some areas had to print extra Republican primary ballots just to keep up with the demand. 

“That’s when I knew something was wrong,” he said.

He warned Clinton that she had lost all credibility with working-class voters by waffling on trade and offering tepid solutions. He urged in his memo that she talk about infrastructure instead. 

The workers we’re talking about don’t want to run computers, they want to run back hoes, dig ditches, sling concrete block,” he wrote. “They’re not embarrassed about the fact that they get their hands dirty. ....They love it and they want to be respected and honored for it.” 

He sent his memo to Clinton’s top campaign adviser in Ohio and other senior party officials. But Betras never heard back. 

Months later, he said he thinks his party leaders still haven’t gotten the message.... 

In recent decades, Democrats have relied on a new base, a diverse mix of minorities, millennials, women, LGBT and college-educated voters — who had turned out in droves for Obama but not for (Hillary) Clinton.... 

For now, the Democratic future in Ohio looks bleak. Trump not only flipped the state but also won by the largest margin of any presidential candidate since 1988.

Lou Gentile, 37, was among the Ohio casualties in November. A rising local Democratic star, he lost his state Senate seat in a district struggling with coal mining declines in the Ohio Valley. 

“It’s tough getting caught in this thing you have no control over,” he said while driving home after lunch with his former legislative aide in Columbus, the state’s capital.... 

The party’s losses have made it difficult to cultivate a strong bench for future elections, he said. It also has allowed Republicans to redraw Ohio’s districts, making it even more difficult for Democrats to claw their way back to relevancy.

“I’m worried about the party,” Gentile said. “If anything good comes out of this last cycle, I hope it’s that our national leaders finally get the message about what’s going on in places like this. We have to go back to basics — jobs, wages, the things that actually make a difference to people out here.”"


Comment: The Republican Establishment doesn't care about white working class voters either. For that matter, they don't care about any voters.



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