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Working Class and Hispanic Voters Are Losing Interest in the Party of Abortion, Gun Control and the January 6th Hearings
White College-Educated Voters, On the Other Hand, Are On Board
Democrats are betting on a small set of issues to mitigate their losses this November. Inflation may have just hit a 40 year high (9.1 percent) with concomitant recession risk but Democrats believe that campaigning against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, arguing for more gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings and highlighting Trump’s anti-democratic malfeasance through the January 6th hearings can turn the tide in their favor.
It is true that recently the polls have tightened a bit in the Democrats’ favor (though some of this could be the eagerness of motivated Democrats to be polled). And there is general agreement that Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate are much better than their chances of holding the House.
Recent data indicate that success for the abortion-gun control-January 6th strategy, to the extent it is working (and might work in the future) is attributable to those voters for whom these issues loom large and are less likely to be influenced by current economic problems. Such voters are disproportionately likely to be college-educated whites and it is here that Democrats have been demonstrating unusual strength.
In the just-released New York Times-Sienna poll, Democrats have a 21 point lead in the generic Congressional ballot among these voters. Shockingly, white college Democratic support in this poll is actually higher than support among all nonwhite voters. This is remarkable and has much to do with anemic Hispanic support for Democrats, who favor Democrats over Republicans by a scant 3 points.
More broadly, the lack of Democratic support among working class (noncollege) voters is striking. Democrats lose among all working class voters by 11 points, but carry the college-educated by 23 points. This is less a class gap than a yawning chasm.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Democrats’ emphasis on social and democracy issues, while catnip to some socially liberal, educated voters, leaves many working class and Hispanic voters cold. Their concerns are more mundane and economically-driven. This is despite the fact that many of these voters are in favor of moderate abortion rights and gun control and disapprove of the January 6th events. But these issues are just not salient for them in the way they are for the Democrats’ educated and most fervent supporters.
Recent data from Echelon Insights provide an interesting window on this contrast. Their analysis breaks down the electorate into four quadrants (conservative, populist, libertarian and liberal) and further breaks out a “strong progressive” subset of the liberals who are highly liberal on most issues and also happen to be very highly-educated (and more likely to be white). They are about 10 percent of voters and bear some similarity in size, demographics and inclinations to the “progressive activists” group broken out in the More in Common study—a group with tremendous weight in current Democratic party politics who are described as "deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America's direction today. They tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media"
The crosstabs provided by Echelon allow for a comparison of strong progressives’ basic political views with those of Hispanic and working class voters. Here are some examples:
1. America is not the greatest country in the world vs. America is the greatest country in the world. By 66 percent to 28 percent, strong progressives say America is not the greatest country in the world. By 70-23, Hispanics say the reverse and working class voters as a whole concur by 69-23.
2. Racism is built into our society, including into its policies and institutions vs. Racism comes from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions. Strong progressives are very, very sure of America’s systemic racism, endorsing the first statement by an amazing 94-6 margin. But Hispanics disagree, endorsing the second statement that racism comes from individuals by 58-36, as do working class voters by 57-33.
3. The government should deal with illegal immigration by making it easier to immigrate to the US legally vs. The government should deal with illegal immigration by increasing border security and enforcement. Strong progressives have no doubts on this one, favoring easier immigration by 97-2. Hispanics, however, are split down the middle with 44 percent favoring increased border security and enforcement and 47 percent opting for easier immigration. Working class voters go farther, endorsing more border security and enforcement by 58-32.
4. Transgender athletes should be able to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity vs. Transgender athletes should only be allowed to play on sports teams that match their birth gender. Strong progressives overwhelmingly endorse allowing athletes to play on the sports team that matches their gender identity by 66-19. But Hispanic voters by 64-22 say athletes should only play on teams that match their birth gender; working class voters are almost identical at 63-22.
5. We need to reallocate funding from police departments to social services vs. We need to fully fund the budget for police departments. Strong progressives want to reallocate police funding by 87-12. In contrast, Hispanic voters want full funding of the police by 50-41 and working class voters are even stronger on full funding by 59-31.
6. Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people vs. Most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard. Strong progressives don’t evidence much faith in upper mobility, endorsing the first statement on the questionable efficacy of hard work by 88-12. Hispanic voters, on the other hand, embrace the view that hard-working people are likely to get ahead by 55-39, as do working class voters by 55-40.
Strong progressives clearly live in a different world than Hispanic and working class voters. In strong progressive world, views on abortion, gun control and January 6th fit neatly into an overarching set of sociocultural beliefs that are highly salient to them and increasingly drive the Democratic party’s priorities and rhetoric. Hispanic and working class voters lack this overarching set of beliefs—in fact, don’t share many of them—and are much more concerned with the basics of their material lives. It should thus be no surprise that these voters are increasingly losing interest in the party of abortion, gun control and January 6th. As Josh Kraushaar notes:
Democrats are becoming the party of upscale voters concerned more about issues like gun control and abortion rights.
Republicans are quietly building a multiracial coalition of working-class voters, with inflation as an accelerant.
Exaggerated? Maybe. But consider this: between the 2012 and 2020 elections—which Democrats won by similar popular vote margins—Democrats’ advantage among nonwhite working class voters decreased by 19 margin points (Catalist data). Over the same period, Democrats’ performance among white college-educated voters improved by 16 margin points. So perhaps we’re just on trend.