The Democrats’ Nonwhite Working-Class Problem Re-Emerges
Those Margins Just Keep Dropping
The latest New York Times/Siena poll has made an impact and underscored the Democrats’ vulnerabilities on many fronts. The poll found Trump and Biden tied in a 2024 trial heat 43-43, with 16 percent saying they are undecided, would vote for another candidate or not vote at all. There are many striking demographic patterns in this result but one of the most striking has been little talked about: Biden’s weakness among nonwhite working-class (noncollege) voters. Biden leads Trump by a mere 16 points among this demographic. This compares to his lead over Trump of 48 points in 2020. And even that lead was a big drop-off from Obama’s 67-point advantage in 2012.
This evolving weakness among nonwhite working-class voters is a direct threat to the massive margins Democrats need to maintain among nonwhite voters to achieve victory. That is because these working-class voters are two-thirds to three-quarters of the nonwhite vote so the direction they trend in will drive the nonwhite vote as a whole.
Why is this happening? The beginning of wisdom is understanding that the nonwhite working class is not particularly progressive while the Democratic Party has become more so. In the Times poll, these voters overwhelmingly say they are moderate-to-conservative, with less than a quarter identifying as liberal. This has created increased contradictions between the Democratic Party and the nonwhite working-class voters they have relied upon for huge margins to make up for shortfalls elsewhere.
Data from a recent 6,000 respondent survey conducted by AEI’s Survey Center on American Life (SCAL) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) exposes these contradictions by allowing the views of moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters to be examined in detail. My analysis shows the following differences between the Democratic Party and nonwhite working-class voters:
Structural racism. Is racism “built into our society, including into its policies and institutions”, as held by current Democratic Party orthodoxy, or does racism “come from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions?” In the SCAL/NORC survey, by 61 to 39 percent, moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters (70 percent of whom are moderate, not conservative) chose the latter view, that racism comes from individuals, not society. In stark contrast, the comparatively tiny group of nonwhite college graduate liberals favored the structural racism position by 78 to 20 percent. White college graduate liberals were even more lop-sided at 82 to 18 percent. That tells you a lot about who influences the Democratic Party today and who does not.
Public safety. Voters were offered a choice between “we need to reallocate funding from police departments to social services” and “we need to fully fund the budget for police departments.” Nonwhite moderate-to-conservative working-class voters supported full police department funding by 63 to 36 percent. But nonwhite college grad liberals favored moving police department funding to social services by 69 to 30 percent and white college grad liberals the same by a whopping 76 to 22 percent. Hmm.
Transgender athletes in team sports. Should “transgender athletes… be able to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity” or should they “only be allowed to play on sports teams that match their birth gender?” By a staggering 70 to 26 percent, moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters chose the second option, that sports team participation should be determined by birth gender, directly contradicting current Democratic Party doctrine. But nonwhite and white college grad liberals are exactly the reverse, endorsing the Democrats’ gender identity stance by 40 points each. Again, it is easy to see to whom today’s Democratic Party is really listening.
Renewable energy. As the Democrats rush headlong into an energy transition to replace fossil fuels with renewables, this too threatens to leave most nonwhite working-class voters behind. In the SCAL/NORC survey, when given a choice between the country using “a mix of energy sources including oil, coal and natural gas along with renewable energy sources” and the current Democratic approach, phasing “out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely, relying instead on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power only”, moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters endorse the continued use of fossil fuels by an overwhelming 75 to 25 percent margin. In contrast, the much smaller group of nonwhite college grad liberals favor getting rid of fossil fuels completely by 64 to 36 percent and liberal white grads feel the same by 66 to 34 percent.
Biden administration accomplishments. Nor is the nonwhite working class particularly happy with what the Biden administration has accomplished. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters believe Biden has accomplished not that much or little or nothing during his time in office. But 65 percent of nonwhite college grad liberals disagree, saying Biden has accomplished a great deal or a good amount. White college grad liberals are even happier, with 76 percent giving Biden two thumbs up.
Further confirmation of the divorce between the median nonwhite working-class voter and current Democratic Party practice and rhetoric is provided by The Liberal Patriot’s new survey of American voters conducted by YouGov.
Moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters give Biden just a 35 percent approval rating on handling inflation. These voters prefer Republicans to Democrats on building up America’s manufacturing capacity, on ensuring American energy independence, on maintaining a strong military and defense, on protecting American interests around the world, on being patriotic, on fighting crime and ensuring public safety and on standing up for free speech and freedom of religion (!).
Moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters overwhelmingly believe the Democratic Party has moved too far left on both economic and cultural/social issues. On economic issues, 72 percent of these voters say Democrats have moved too far left. On cultural and social issues, 69 percent say the same.
And consider the transgender issue again. Here are the three choices offered voters in the TLP/YouGov survey:
States should protect all transgender youth by providing access to puberty blockers and transition surgeries if desired, and allowing them to participate fully in all activities and sports as the gender of their choice;
States should protect the rights of transgender adults to live as they want but implement stronger regulations on puberty blockers, transition surgeries, and sports participation for transgender minors; or
States should ban all gender transition treatments for minors and stop discussion of gender ideology in all public schools.
The first position here, emphasizing availability of medical treatments for gender-confused children (euphemistically referred to as “gender-affirming” care) and sports participation dictated by gender self-identification, is unquestionably the default position of the Democratic Party today. Indeed, to dissent in any way from this position in Democratic circles risks being labelled a “hateful bigot”—or worse. Yet a mere 17 percent of moderate-to-conservative nonwhite working-class voters endorse this position. Indeed, the most popular position of the three is the most draconian: that transgender medical treatments for children should simply be banned, as should discussion of gender ideology in public schools. That’s embraced by over half (52 percent) of these voters; another 31 percent of them favor the second position, advocating stronger regulation on puberty blockers, transition surgeries, and sports participation for transgender minors. Together, the latter two positions make it about five-to-one (!) among these voters against the Democratic position.
Possibly none of this will matter if Trump’s third indictment makes a bigger dent in his standing than his first and second indictments did. But I would not count on it. It still seems likely beating Trump or any other Republican will still be very challenging. Democrats should think very carefully if they can afford an image and policy commitments that are so unattractive to so many nonwhite working-class voters. In 2020, very few Democrats thought their support against the hated and presumably toxic Trump could possibly slip among nonwhite working-class voters. But it did. I wouldn’t be so sure it couldn’t happen again.