Friday, June 5, 2015

Research report: How Democrats can win in 2016

Here is an update to my post yesterday "Connecting the dots: How to make voters care about big money in politics - and vote against it."

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona highlights a research report that provides the rationale for recapturing the "White Working-Class Voter."

Stanley "Stan" Greenberg is a leading Democratic pollster and political strategist who has advised the campaigns of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, as well as hundreds of other candidates and organizations in the United States and around the world.

In a must-read feature article in the June edition of the Washington Monthly, Greenberg writes about the Democratic Party’s challenge to recapture some of what has been called the "White Working-Class Voter."

The basic message from Greenberg's research reported in The Average Joe’s Proviso is this: "Surprising numbers of white working-class voters will support the Democratic agenda—if Democrats promise to reform the government that would carry it out."

Meanie is right - this is a must read. Here are snippets but you really should read the more expansive report.

Democrats cannot win big or consistently enough, deep enough down the ticket or broadly enough in the states, unless they run much stronger with white working-class and downscale voters. That includes running better with white working-class swing voters, of course. But it also includes winning more decisively with white unmarried women, a demographic group that, along with minority and Millennial voters, is integral to the Democrats’ base in a growing American majority that I call the Rising American Electorate. Working-class whites and white unmarried women are both key to competing in the states where Republicans are pursuing a conservative governing agenda unchecked and to keeping Democratic voters engaged in both presidential and off-year elections.

These voters, as we shall see, are open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda—to more benefits for child care and higher education, to tax hikes on the wealthy, to investment in infrastructure spending, and to economic policies that lead employers to boost salaries for middle- and working-class Americans, especially women. Yet they are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed. Championing reform of government and the political process is the price of admission with these voters. These white working-class and downscale voters are acutely conscious of the growing role of big money in politics and of a government that works for the 1 percent, not them.

... the white working-class and downscale voters in our surveys do support major parts of a progressive, activist agenda, particularly when a Democratic candidate boldly attacks the role of money and special interests dominating government and aggressively promotes reforms to ensure that average citizens get both their say and their money’s worth. These findings came out of innovative research conducted in partnership with Page Gardner’s Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and David Donnelly’s Every Voice.

In Greenberg's research, likely voters were presented with two narratives, one emphasizing government reform and the other middle-class economic concerns.

Most importantly, when voters hear the reform narrative first, they are then dramatically more open to the middle-class economic narrative that calls for government activism in response to America’s problems.

Among voters who heard the reform message first, 43 percent describe the middle-class economic narrative as very convincing—11 points higher than when they hear the economic message first. Among white working-class voters in particular, this effect produced a 13-point jump in intensity for the Democrats’ middle-class economic message (from 27 to 40 percent).

In recent years, too many Democrats have presumed that the white working class is out of the party’s reach and that talk of reforming government and the political process simply does not move voters. My contention is that both of those presumptions are wrong. An agenda of reform is the key to Democrats winning the greater share of white working-class and unmarried women votes that will give the party the majorities it needs to govern.

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