As demonstrated in the presidential exit polls and rehashed in countless articles and blogs since the election, Barack Obama’s decisive reelection victory over Mitt Romney was a triumph for a still-emerging, majority Democratic Obama coalition, which we said in a pair of preelection Next America articles would define a new civic ethos, or consensus on the role of government, for the nation.
The president even more forcefully reiterated his civic ethos vision–that America and its individual citizens advance only when “We, the People” work “together”–in his Inaugural Address. Now, a recent Pew Research survey indicates that in doing so the president is speaking clearly to the policy preferences of his side of America’s two new 21st-century political party coalitions.
The Democratic coalition is centered on the millennial generation (young voters 18 to 30), women (especially single women), minorities, and the highly educated, and is geographically focused in the Northeast and West.
All of these groups gave at least 55 percent of their 2012 presidential votes to the president. In fact, without the support of 60 percent of millennials, Obama would have lost the election. For some parts of the coalition, support for the president’s reelection verged on unanimity.
More than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for him, as did about seven in 10 Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and single women.
On the other side, the groups in the Republican coalition were equally loyal to Mitt Romney. Solid majorities of men, whites, seniors–especially those living in the South and Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states–voted for the GOP candidate.
But the first policy area–gun control–on which these coalitions have clearly reemerged to reshape the political landscape, is one that wasn’t even discussed during the campaign. Social Security and Medicare have long been considered “third rail” issues in U.S. politics–matters so contentious and controversial as to be untouchable by any rational officeholder or candidate.
Over the past two decades, gun control has been such an issue for Democrats. Obama studiously avoided the topic during his first term. In 1994, Bill Clinton saw his party lose control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years after passing a ban on assault weapons. He recently warned his fellow Democrats to be very careful in their approach to this subject.
But the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., made it impossible for the president to ignore the issue, even if he was so inclined, and earlier this year Obama proposed several congressional actions, including expanded background checks for arms purchasers, a resumption of the federal assault-weapons ban, and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, as well as 23 executive orders to deal with firearm usage.
The president enters the fray this time with the full support of his coalition on this issue and, as suggested by his Inaugural Address’s reference to the safety of our children, is willing to mobilize and use that coalition on behalf of his proposals.
Pew’s basic gun-control question asks respondents if it’s more important “to protect the right of Americans to own guns or to control gun ownership.” In a mid-January 2013 survey—fielded a month after the Newtown shootings—a 51 percent to 45 percent majority favored emphasizing control on gun ownership rather than protecting the right to own guns.
Two years earlier, a 49 percent to 46 percent plurality took exactly the opposite positions. It is the rise of the Obama Democratic coalition that underpins this new majority support for gun control.
The majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics, and college graduates, as well as those who lived in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast and West, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners’ rights.
As in the 2012 election, the Obama coalition is opposed by a coalition of males, whites, those with incomplete college education, and rural residents, the majorities of whom prefer to protect gun owners’ rights.
It is uncertain how many of Obama’s proposed gun-control measures will ultimately be enacted by Congress and what form they will take in the legislative process.
The Pew survey indicates that gun-ownership-rights supporters are more politically active; 42 percent of them, as compared with 25 percent of gun-control advocates, have contributed money to an organization, contacted a public official, expressed an opinion on a social network, and/or signed a petition about gun policy.
However, one of the most often repeated, but inaccurate, memes of the 2012 campaign was that Obama’s reelection chances suffered from an “enthusiasm gap” that would retard participation by the president’s supporters. By Election Day that gap had fully closed.
Gun control is only one of the legislative initiatives promised by Obama for his second term. In his Inaugural Address, he briefly referred to immigration reform, climate change, protecting the middle class in entitlement adjustments, infrastructure development, education, and revamping both voting processes and the federal tax code.
The president seems intent on mobilizing his coalition to enact his policy agenda. If he is successful, the nation will see the enactment of an array of domestic policies as sweeping in its scope as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but aligned this time with the ideas and beliefs of another president and his winning 21st-century coalition.
California’s demographic trends provide a first glimpse of what all of America will look like in the future, including the country's new attitude toward finding the revenue to pay for a more activist government. The passage of several ballot propositions last November, coupled with the increases in income tax rates just passed in Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff, ” suggest that the anti-tax revolt, which was born in California, is now coming to an end to be replaced by a more civic-oriented attitude on the part of voters.
In 1978, Proposition 13 was passed by the voters of California who were fed up with inflation-driven, double digit, increases in property taxes, sparking a nation-wide tax revolt that Ronald Reagan rode all the way to the White House. At that time, Jerry Brown was in his first incarnation as governor of California and the Democrats controlled a two-thirds majority in the State Assembly. Proposition 13 was not only designed to limit future property tax increases for existing home owners but to limit the ability of Democratic legislators to continue to raise taxes. It did so by imposing a new constitutional requirement that a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature would be needed for lawmakers to pass any type of tax increase in the future.
Now, fast forward to November 6, 2012 when Democratic Governor Jerry Brown bet the fate of his return engagement as California’s governor on the passage of a ballot proposition designed to balance the state’s chronic budget shortfall by raising an additional $6 billion through temporary increases in the state sales tax (by one-quarter of a percent) and the state income taxes on high income earners. The measure, Proposition 30, passed easily, (by a 54% to 46% margin).
A ballot proposal to raise a billion dollars by closing a loophole in the way the tax liabilities of out-of-state corporations were calculated passed by an even wider, twenty point, margin. And over 80% of the 140 local school bond proposals on ballots across the state that day also were approved by voters. Not only that, but when all the votes in California were finally counted, the Democrats had won two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, not just in the Assembly, but, for the first time since 1883, in the State Senate as well.
As Tony Quinn, a California Republican political analyst put it, “the anti-tax zealots who for years have been tail-wagging the old flea-bitten Republican dog. Well, now, there is no dog. Only fleas.” By the time of the 2012 election, Republican registration in California had slipped to less than 30%, from 35% just eight years ago. The state adopted an online registration system this year, adding over one million new people to the voter rolls. Only 20% of those registered as Republicans, reflecting the high proportion of young people who not only availed themselves of the opportunity to register to vote easily, but also rejected the GOP.
According to CNN exit polls, 27% of California voters this year were under thirty, up from 20% in the Obama-mania year of 2008. They voted for Proposition 30 by a 2:1 margin.
Latinos made up 23% of this year’s California voters, compared to only 18% in 2008. The Republican Party and its positions have continued to lose support among this rapidly growing segment of the electorate ever since Governor Pete Wilson used his support of Proposition 187, which was designed to deny all public services for undocumented immigrants, to ride to re-election in 1994. Fifty-eight percent of Latinos voted in favor of Proposition 30.
Right now, the state’s demographic makeup is more diverse than the rest of the country. Only 55% of the California electorate in 2012 was white compared to 72% nationally. But with the country becoming less and less white each year, it is likely that the anti-tax revolt that started in California will begin to die out across the rest of the country as these demographic trends accelerate almost everywhere in America.
The state’s election results signal the arrival of a new demographic alignment, one whose civic ethos will call for a stronger role for government and for the taxes to pay for it. If California lives up to its reputation as a national trend setter, this will soon become the majority viewpoint in the entire United States, not just in its most populous state.
In an effort to help the Republican ticket cut into President Obama’s massive advantage with millennial-generation voters, Paul Ryan delivered what may have been his best line of the 2012 campaign in his speech accepting the GOP vice presidential nomination: “College grads shouldn’t have to live out their 20s in childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”
One reason why Ryan’s appeal to millennials ultimately failed to have as much impact with them as he anticipated is that it painted an increasingly out-of-date and inaccurate picture of the current status of many millennials who, in growing numbers, are finding work and leaving their parental homes. This may be the first sign that a generation described or even accused of “failing to launch” is now on its way to shaping its own distinctive destiny and that of America in areas such as marriage, family formation, and child-rearing.
On Election Day, millennials—those born between 1982 and 2003—comprised a greater proportion of the electorate than they did in the Obama-mania election of 2008. Those members of the generation old enough to vote gave Obama a 60 percent to 37 percent margin over Mitt Romney, and allowed the president to capture the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and thereby win reelection.
Still, there is a reason Paul Ryan’s comment may have struck home to at least some who listened to his speech. Millennials, to date, have been less likely to strike out on their own than the generations that immediately preceded them. A December 2011 Pew survey showed that, partially prompted by the impact of the Great Recession, nearly one in three young adults 25-34 still lived with their parents, three times the percentage of those that age who did so in 1980.
For a generation with close and mutually supportive relationships with its parents that millennials enjoy, this arrangement was not quite the disaster that pundits and politicians said it was and it now seems to be coming to an end.
This year, the jobless rate of those between 25 and 34 has dropped a little more sharply than it has for the overall population. It fell to 7.9 percent in November from 9 percent in January, compared with a decline to 7.7 percent from 8.3 percent for all workers. As a result of the improved employment picture and continued low home-mortgage rates, twentysomethings and those in their early 30s are moving into their own apartments and buying homes in increasingly greater numbers.
Interstate migration of young people is occurring at the highest rate in more than a decade as well. According to the Census Bureau, the nation has added more than 2 million households in the past year, many of them comprised of young adults. This was triple the annual average for the previous four years.
Now that more millennials are leaving their parents’ home and establishing their own households, one might anticipate that more of them will marry. So far, however, this hasn’t happened. If anything, American marriage rates are continuing to decline. According to a Pew analysis of census data, in 2010 barely half—51 percent—of Americans 18 and older were married in comparison with 72 percent in 1960. Over the same span, the median age for a first marriage had risen from 22.8 to 28.7 for men and from 20.3 to 26.5 for women. As a result, the share of 18- to 24-year-olds currently married dropped from 45 percent in 1960 to only 9 percent 50 years later. Among 25- to 34-year-olds the corresponding decline was from 82 percent to 44 percent. Perhaps most disconcerting, 39 percent of all American adults and 44 percent of millennials agree that “marriage is becoming obsolete.”
Not surprisingly, given the decline in marriage rates, birth rates have also declined and the average age of first-time parents has risen during the past several decades. From a peak of about 4.3 million before the Great Recession, annual births fell to 3.9 million in 2011. Between 1970 and 2010, the average age of first-time mothers rose by nearly four years (from 21.5 to 25.4). The average is closer to 30 on both coasts and among college graduates.
Still, these initial trends may not end up being the final words on the subject. Generational theorists indicate that the millennial generation is a “civic” generation. The last previous American civic generation was the G.I. or 'greatest generation." Like today’s millennials, that generation was forced by events—the Great Depression and World War II—to live with their parents and postpone marriage and family formation for a decade or more before eventually marrying in large numbers and parenting the baby boom generation, the largest cohort prior to the millennials. Nowhere were the hopes of this generation better stated than in the words of a demobilized G.I. in the 1947 Academy Award-winning film, The Best Years of Our Lives: “a good job, a mild future, and a little house big enough for me and my wife.”
In this, as in other aspects of life, millennials may turn out to be a lot like their G.I. generation great-grandparents. The Pew survey indicating that many millennials perceived marriage to be an institution of the past also found that 61 percent of all unmarried adults and nearly half of those believing marriage to be obsolete said they would like to wed.
Another Pew survey found that the three most important life priorities for millennials were being a good parent (52 percent), owing their own home (30 percent), and having a successful marriage (20 percent)—numbers almost identical to those of older generations.
This is not to say that, once they are formed, millennial families will be exactly like those of earlier generations. Millennials have the most gender-neutral attitudes of any generation. They are, perhaps, even the first female-driven cohort in U.S. history. Within millennial households, sex roles, financial contributions, and responsibility for household chores are likely to be more blurred than ever before.
But, as Paul Ryan should have learned, it is far too early to give up on the millennial generation and its chances of living the American Dream. History and the optimistic beliefs of millennials themselves tell a different story.
at Los Angeles Times
If we want to 'fix' voting in America, the Golden State could be the model.
The lessons of the 2012 election are still being learned, but here's one we already know: We need to do more to increase voter participation.
In many battleground states, the intense and highly partisan presidential campaign bumped up turnout percentages from 2008. But in most states, where the outcome of the presidential contest was predictable, voter participation fell from the historically high levels of four years ago.
On top of that, there were embarrassingly long lines at the polls in many locations, something that hardly reflected positively on the nation's commitment to democracy. Several states with Republican-controlled governments engaged in questionable practices to limit voting hours and impose other burdensome restrictions on people's ability to register and vote that led to inhumanly long lines, most notably in Ohio and Florida.
Whether by design or campaign neglect, it is time, as President Obama said in his victory speech, "to fix that" and other participation problems. A starting point could be found in California. Once the election results are certified here, in mid-December, the total number of voters will come close to 2008's high, although the turnout percentage will be lower.
That's because California added to its voter rolls, which is the first "fix that" step. This year, California made it easier to join the electorate, passing a law permitting online voter registration. More than 1 million people took advantage of the new system, 61% of whom were under 35. This expansion of the eligible electorate in California was accomplished with minimal administrative cost and helped get millions of new voters to the polls.
Of course, without a corresponding plan to make voting easy, such a large expansion in the number of those registered to vote could have been chaotic. But California requires local election officials to provide a mail-in ballot to anyone who requests one. More than 9.2 million such ballots were sent out for the Nov. 6 election, and in the June primary election, 65% of the votes cast came from people who skipped the lines and hassle of going to the polls and used the mail instead. (California also offered in-person "early voting," but it wasn't as convenient as mailing a ballot: In Los Angeles County this year, you had to go to Norwalk.)
And plenty of Californians did vote this year — more than 12 million and counting.
Remarkably, the demographic group known as Millennials (voters 18 to 30 years old), who are often incorrectly accused of voting at far lower rates than older generations, participated in California at rates greater than their presence in the population. Millennials make up 24% of the adult population of California, but according to exit polling data, they made up 27% of those who voted. By contrast, nationally, Millennials were about 19% of the electorate.
One of the incentives for these young voters was the presence on the ballot of Proposition 30, which was designed, in part, to halt or at least postpone tuition increases at all three levels of the state's higher-education system. There were a series of on-campus registration drives and a blizzard of campaign appearances on campuses across the state by Gov. Jerry Brown, and polling data show that awareness of what was at stake was very high among Millennials, two-thirds of whom helped pass the governor's initiative.
In California, the triple combination of a simple, online registration process, the convenience of voting by mail and the presence on the ballot of issues that directly related to the self-interest of a significant sector of voters brought newcomers to the polls, kept the state's turnout at a high level (even when California's electoral vote result was a foregone conclusion) and resulted in no reports of major problems at the polls.
If we want to "fix" voting in America, California could be the model.
at Huffington Post
In an election as close as this year's presidential contest, any group can make a credible claim for having made the critical difference in the outcome. But there is certainly no denying the impact the Millennial Generation (young voters 18-30 years old) had on the outcome of the 2012 election. Because it was so surprising to so many (but not us) there was as much commentary among the chattering classes on the day after the election about the impact on American politics of the Millennial Generation as the more conventional conversation about the continuing rise in the influence of Hispanic-Americans. It is possible that this sudden discovery of the power of the Millennial Generation will last beyond this week's instant analysis but whether it does or not, the size and unity of belief of the Millennial Generation will continue to be felt for the rest of this decade and well beyond.
Millennials made up 19 percent of the electorate in 2012, a point or two more than their share of the 2008 electorate. Unlike four years ago when the Millennials' share was equivalent to that of senior citizens, this time they outpaced the senior share, which fell to only 16 percent of the electorate. Although final turnout numbers are difficult to calculate until all the votes are counted, CIRCLE research data suggests that the Millennial turnout rate approached the celebrated performance of their generation in 2008. In both years , the number was about 50 percent of those eligible, with much higher rates of turnout in the critical battleground states.
For that reason, Millennial organizations can stake a legitimate claim to having made the difference for President Obama in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Even as Hispanic voters reached an historically high level of participation, Millennials, about a quarter of whom are Hispanic, became a powerful 23 million strong segment of the electorate, a number that will only grow larger over the rest of this decade.
So far, just about 60 percent of Millennials have turned eighteen. Over the next eight years, all Millennials will become eligible to vote, representing a 95 million voter opportunity for whichever party is willing and able to successfully recruit them. If Millennials continue to participate at around the 50 percent mark that they have in the past two presidential elections, they will eventually represent about a 47 million member constituency, twice the numbers that they were in 2012.
But it's not just the size of the generation that makes Millennials such a powerful political force. The previously largest American generation, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have been hopelessly split in their political opinions and preferences ever since they ignited the cultural wars of the 1960s. This makes Boomers less of a political opportunity as an entire cohort and of more interest to politicians when they are segmented along other lines, such as the infamous and well-known gender gap that they created starting in the 1980s.
Millennials, by contrast, have consistently voted in a highly unified manner. Two-thirds of them voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 60 percent of them voted for his reelection this year. Even though there are significant ethnic differences within a generation that is 40 percent non-white, Millennial voting behavior continues to show the powerful pull of their generation's consensus-oriented approach to decision-making.
Millennials are now a key part of a 21st century Democratic coalition that includes minorities and women, especially college-educated and single women of all ethnicities, which together now represents a majority of American voters. As the number of Millennial voters continues to grow throughout this decade and the generation preserves its unity of belief, something which political science research suggests will happen, Millennials will have the pleasure of experiencing many more electoral triumphs in the years ahead.
One of the more curious developments in American politics over the last two decades is the political malpractice of Republicans in dealing with Hispanic-Americans. Indeed, it now appears that the 2012 election may well be determined by the share of the Latino vote that Governor Mitt Romney is able to keep from falling into President Barack Obama’s column.
According to the Investor’s Business Daily tracking poll, Hispanics prefer Barack Obama by a greater than 2:1 margin (61% to 29% on October 25). Hispanic-Americans have tilted toward the Democrats for decades, so it is hard to blame the Republican Party’s current predicament on just the political tactics of this year’s campaign.
But unlike the African-American vote since the 1960s, which has remained rock solid Democratic, history indicates that on occasion the GOP has competed for and won a significant share of the Latino vote. Hispanics tend to be family oriented and somewhat entrepreneurial, which should make them potential Republicans.
But deliberate, conscious decisions by Republican leaders focused on the short run gains from immigrant bashing have done severe damage to the long term health of their party. Attacks on immigrants have caused Hispanics to desert the GOP in droves, particularly in the two most recent presidential elections. And, because the Latino population is relatively youthful, if this concern is not dealt with, it may become even more acute for the Republican Party in the years ahead. Among Millennials, America’s youngest adult generation, about one in five is Latino as compared with about one in ten among Baby Boomers and one in twenty among seniors. Among the even younger Pluralist generation (children 10 years old and younger) between a quarter and 30% are Hispanic. Between these two up-and-coming generations, it’s likely that Hispanics will represent nearly 30% of the nation’s population within the next few decades. This suggests that the Republican Party has little hope of winning national elections in the future unless it reverses its current policies to bring them more in alignment with the attitudes and beliefs of this key voter group.
Some have estimated that Ronald Reagan won 37% of the Hispanic vote in his successful 1984 re-election campaign. Since then the presence of Hispanic voters in the electorate has grown by 400%, but the Republican share of their votes has risen above the level at which Latinos supported Reagan only once. That occurred in 2004 when Karl Rove’s strategic focus on Latinos enabled President George W. Bush’s re-election effort to win upwards of 40% of the Hispanic vote. In every other presidential election since 1984, Republicans have struggled to win the votes of even one out of three Hispanics.
Recent data from Pew Research demonstrates that the Hispanic rejection of the GOP was not pre-ordained. Their recent survey showed 70% of Hispanics now identify themselves as Democrats, but that this percentage falls to just 52% among Evangelical Hispanics, a fast growing group whose cultural attitudes are more conservative than those of the overall Hispanic population. In 2004, President Bush actually won a majority of the Hispanic Protestant vote even as his support among Catholic Hispanics failed to improve from his showing in 2000.
Catholic Hispanics, who comprise about 60% of all Latinos, are more likely to vote based on perceived loyalties to their social-economic class than their attitudes on social issues. Bertha Gallegos, who is Catholic, pro-life and the Vice President of the Colorado Society of Hispanic Genealogy, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that researches the state’s Latino history, typifies the attitude among members of her faith toward the Republican Party. “I still don’t get how Hispanics can be Republicans. The only time they’re nice to us is when they want our vote. Republicans work to make the rich richer. They don’t care about the poor.”
Since the virulently anti-immigrant campaign in favor of Proposition 187 in California that attempted to bar immigrant access to basic social services the Republicans have continued to play exactly the wrong tune for Hispanics. In this year’s Republican primary, there was much emphasis on removing undocumented immigrants from American soil through self-deportation or other more draconian means, Republicans have allowed economic resentment and cultural fears to get in the way of positive voter outreach to America’s fastest growing minority population. After all, many Latino legal residents and citizens also have relatives and friends who are undocumented.
Yet studies as far back as the 2000 presidential election have shown that when properly engaged, Hispanics have an open mind on which party deserves their support. Latinos in that election were statistically more likely to support Bush over Gore if they were contacted by Latino rather than Anglo Republicans. Clearly the election in 2010 of Latino Republican governors, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, suggests that the community remains open to such appeals in the future.
Before such efforts can be successful however, Republicans will have to reverse course on their attitudes toward comprehensive immigration reform, a cause which traces its historical lineage to Ronald Reagan and which was a key part of Karl Rove’s re-election strategy for George W. Bush. Only when the Republican Party’s message changes will their messengers deserve and be able to gain a respectful hearing from America’s Hispanics.
On one level, the 2012 presidential election is a battle between two distinct party coalitions: a Republican coalition heavily centered on males, people over 50—especially seniors—and whites; and a Democratic coalition built around women, younger voters—especially Millennials—and minorities. But it is also a dispute over policy and program, because the party that develops a winning majority coalition will also determine America’s new civic ethos and answer the fundamental question of U.S. politics: What should be the size and scope of the nation’s government?
An August national survey of nearly 3,300 Americans ages 18-85, conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, suggests that President Obama’s reelection prospects are underpinned by a distinctive demographic voter coalition, whose beliefs will also shape America’s next civic ethos in the years ahead.
According to Magid, a clear majority of Americans favor “a government that actively tries to solve the problems facing society and the economy,” while only 31 percent prefer “a government that stays out of society and the economy to the greatest extent possible.”
Since the New Deal, the belief in an activist government has become so ingrained in the American political psyche that a majority of most major demographics now support this concept. Still, not surprisingly, support for governmental activism is greatest among key demographics that also make up the core of the Democratic Party’s 21st century coalition: women (55 percent), minorities (59 percent), and Millennials (55 percent).
It is a bit lower within groups that comprise a disproportionate share of the GOP coalition: men (50 percent), whites (50 percent), and seniors (48 percent).
Together, these demographic building blocks result in 70 percent of Democratic identifiers and 35 percent of Republicans favoring governmental activism (although 53 percent of Republicans do prefer a hands-off approach).
The Magid survey indicates that a clear plurality, 47 percent, believes that “the best way to protect America’s national security is through building strong alliances with other nations” rather than by “relying primarily on its military strength” (37 percent).
Once again, the demographics that comprise the core of the emerging Democratic Party coalition also favor the position with the greatest support among voters. Majorities of women, Millennials, and minorities all agree that U.S. foreign policy should rely on alliance building.
By contrast, groups that tend toward the Republican coalition more strongly favor relying on U.S. military strength as the basis of the country’s foreign policy: men (41 percent), seniors (43 percent), and whites (39 percent).
As a result, a majority of Democratic identifiers favor an approach focused on alliance building, while most Republican identifiers prefer a foreign policy centered on U.S. military strength.
An Economic Safety Net
The Magid survey indicates that close to half of the electorate believes that “the best policy is to ensure that all Americans have at least a basic standard of living and level of income, even if that increases government spending,” while about one-third say that “the best policy is to let each person get along economically on his or her own, even if that means some people have a lot more than others.”
Majorities within left-leaning groups such as women, Millennials, and minorities believe that government should guarantee at least a minimal level of economic well-being. Less than half of groups inclined toward the GOP such as men, seniors, and whites concur.
As a result, perhaps more than any other, this issue separates those who identify with each of the parties: two-thirds of Democrats believe that government should provide a basic standard of living to all Americans, while 59 percent of Republicans are in favor, instead, of allowing each person to get along on his own.
On Nov. 6, voters will not only elect a president and decide which party controls Congress. They will also determine anew just how and to whose benefit government will intervene in the economy and how the country will interact with the rest of the world. While it is too early to know the details of the nation’s new civic ethos, recent survey research suggests that these policy issues will be decided based the beliefs of an emerging new majority coalition in American politics centered on women, minorities, and Millennials.
at National Journal
An August national survey of nearly 3,300 Americans between the ages 18 and 85, conducted by research company Frank N. Magid Associates, details the current composition of the two major political party coalitions that are more distinct from one another than at any other time in the past 50 years--perhaps even since the Great Depression.
In many democracies, political parties represent particular interests: labor or business, specific religions, ethnicities, or regions. In the United States, with its continental dimensions, varied population, and a constitutional system designed to disperse governing power, political parties are historically, and still remain, coalitions of various social groups. No party monopolizes the members of any one demographic, and each party contains at least some representation from all segments of the population.
Once formed, the party coalitions have staying power. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt assembled the New Deal coalition comprised of Southern whites; the "Greatest Generation" children of Eastern and Southern European immigrants; white workers; and urban blacks. This coalition dominated U.S. electoral politics for four decades and restructured public policy domestically, transforming public economic policy from laissez faire to governmental activism; and internationally, moving the nation’s foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism.
But as new generations with new concerns emerged in the midst of the racial and lifestyle changes of the 1960s, the New Deal coalition fell apart. It was supplanted by a Republican coalition that increasingly added two former components of the Democratic coalition—the white South and working-class whites—to the upper-income white residents of suburbs and small towns outside of the South that had been the core of the GOP in the previous era. The new Republican coalition dominated national elections almost as long and shaped public policy almost as profoundly as had the New Deal coalition that it superseded.
But these party coalitions are formed in a nation with a constantly changing economy, political process, and demographic makeup and, consequently, are not permanent. The Magid display very clearly the sharp differences between today’s party coalitions.
The majority of voters who identify with or lean to the Republican Party are males and members of America’s two oldest generations—baby boomers, those in their 50s to mid-60s; and silents or seniors--who together make up 53 percent of Republicans.
The GOP coalition is almost entirely white (81 percent). It is disproportionately southern (38 percent of all Republicans and 41 percent of strong Republican identifiers) and 40 percent reside in small towns and rural areas. Two-thirds of Republicans are married, and three-quarters are Christian; only 7 percent are unaffiliated with any faith. A third of all GOP identifiers and 42 percent of strong Republicans attend religious services at least weekly. And, not surprisingly, 56 percent of all Republicans and 68 percent of strong Republican identifiers are self-professed conservatives.
The Democratic coalition is far different. A majority of Democratic identifiers are women and from the country’s two youngest generations—Millennials, voters in their 20s; and Generation X, people in their 30s and 40s, who in total make up 57 percent of Democrats. Forty-one percent of all Democrats and 45 percent of strong Democrats are nonwhite with about equal numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics.
Nearly half of Democrats live in the Northeast and West, and a disproportionately large number—70 percent—live in big cities or suburbs. Just half are married. Only 57 percent are Christian, and about one in five are either of non-Christian denominations or unaffiliated with any faith. Just 21 percent of Democrats attend a religious service weekly. Slightly more, 24 percent, never do.
The Democratic coalition is, however, more diverse ideologically than the Republican: While a plurality, 42 percent, are either self-identified liberals or progressives, nearly as many, 35 percent, say they are politically moderate.
The United States is undergoing major demographic, economic, and societal changes that have led to this new alignment and will continue to shape the two parties' coalitions. Some of the change—the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic downturn since the 1930s—was severe and occurred almost overnight.
Other changes, among them the transformation of the nation from a white to nonwhite majority, the emergence of America’s largest and most diverse generation, the Millennials, and a makeover of the U.S. economy, are taking place more slowly, but equally profoundly.
To hold together and expand their coalitions, both parties will need to formulate a new “civic ethos” that addresses the fundamental question of what the size and scope of government should be in this new era.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney recognize this and have used their respective party’s conventions to articulate distinctly different visions and values that they believe should shape and guide America’s politics and government in the coming years.
The party that enunciates this new civic ethos in a way that enables it to build a majority electoral and governing coalition is likely to dominate U.S. politics for the next four or five decades.
First, Cook shows his readers the target card by correctly pointing out how important the Millennial Generation’s vote will be to President Barack Obama this year. In November 2008, voters between the ages of 18 and 26 comprised about 17% of the electorate and voted by a greater than a 2:1 margin for Barack Obama (66% for Obama and 32% for John McCain). With older generations dividing their votes almost evenly between the two candidates, Millennials accounted for about 80% of Obama’s national popular vote margin over McCain, turning what would have been a narrow win into a decisive seven-point victory.
This year, members of the Millennial Generation, representing all voters 30 and under, will make up an even larger share of the eligible voter population, about 24%. But, Cook says, as he moves the cards around on the table, they aren’t likely to vote for Obama by the same margin. He bases this prediction on the conventional wisdom, that “When an incumbent is running, the election is usually a referendum on that person rather than a choice between two people.” He hopes you won’t pay attention to the word “usually” in that sentence, However, as we point out in our book, Millennial Momentum, 2012 is more likely to be one in which the country makes a choice between two radically different visions of its future that will be offered by the two candidates. In decisive elections of this type, which occur about every eighty years, the normal “rules” are not likely to apply.
Having enticed his readers into thinking about the 2012 election as a referendum on the president, Cook conveniently cites approval ratings for Obama among Millennials that are months out of date. The March 18, 2012 survey from Gallup, the firm Cook usually relies upon, showed that 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds approved of Obama’s performance as president, up from 44 percent in early December. While not a 2:1 margin, these numbers are hardly a signal of a close election among Millennial voters.
Cook also fails to mention another set of data that shows Obama beating all of his potential GOP rivals by the same 2:1 margin that Millennials gave him in 2008. In a November, 2011 Pew survey, for example, voters under thirty preferred Obama over Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, by a 61% to 37% margin. Given that there will be 16 million more Millennials eligible to vote in 2012 compared to 2008, and Millennials’ continued partisan unity, America’s largest generation could give Obama an even larger number of votes over his rival in this year’s election, even if the president’s margin of victory among these voters is slightly less than it was in 2008.
But Cook wants those looking at his constantly shifting cards to focus on a completely different, much less representative piece of prognostication. He cites the outcome of two focus groups in Ohio and North Carolina conducted by Resurgent Republic, a polling firm “headed by veteran Republican strategist Ed Gillespie and longtime pollster Whit Ayres.” Resurgent Republic talked to a group of Millennial voters in each of those two states whose independent status was determined by each participant being “undecided on the generic presidential ballot test.”
Continuing his efforts at political sleight of hand, Cook conveniently fails to mention that such voters are least likely to vote or to be aware of current political candidates and issues. Instead, he tries to entice his readers to lose track of the target card (usually the Queen of Hearts), by suggesting they pay attention to this quote from Gillespie, “If these groups are representative of this demographic at large, it will be a tall task to counter their disillusionment.” The word “if” is Cook’s final attempt at misleading his mark. The participants in the focus groups were deliberately selected on a characteristic that makes them very unrepresentative of Millennials overall, among whom no more than 5 percent were completely undecided in the presidential race according to the most recent Pew survey.
Cook also introduces some side chatter around the game by talking about his own anecdotal impressions of the lack of enthusiasm and interest in politics on the campuses he has visited. Never once does he mention that this phenomenon may be more due to the nature of the GOP primary than any lack of support for President Obama. According to CIRCLE’s analysis of young voters, through Super Tuesday, the vote totals for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul combined was less than half the Millennial votes Barack Obama had received at this point in the primary campaign of 2008.
Cook concludes his completely misleading piece with one nod to the Obama campaign’s policeman standing on the corner about to break up the game. “It’s safe to assume that the president, the White House, and his campaign are looking for ways to deal with this problem [of Millennial voters].” Obama is sure to engage Millennials by talking about the help his administration has provided them with the cost of attending college, his increased funding of more national service opportunities, and the more than two and a half million Millennials who now have health insurance through their parent’s policy thanks to ObamaCare. Already the campaign is gearing up online and offline organizational efforts to bring Millennials to the polls in November that exceed the technological sophistication of its very successful efforts in 2008.
Other than the state of the economy, the most pivotal factor in determining the outcome of the 2012 general election is likely to be the extent to which America’s youngest voters repeat their 2008 electoral performance in 2012. If Millennials vote in numbers proportionate to their presence among eligible voters, their continued support of the president should allow him to overcome any attrition he might suffer among older voters. But if large numbers of Millennials do not vote, the president’s reelection chances will be sharply reduced. That’s one fact that no one should think the Obama campaign will lose sight of despite Cook’s attempts at prestigious feats of political prestidigitation designed to distract the unwitting reader.
Millennials (born 1982-2003) were crucial to Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Other than the state of the economy, the most pivotal factor in determining the outcome of the 2012 general election is likely to be whether or not America’s youngest voters repeat their 2008 electoral performance in 2012.
In November 2008, Millennials comprised about 17% of the electorate and voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama over John McCain (66% to 32%). With older generations dividing their votes almost evenly between the two candidates, Millennials accounted for about 80% of Obama’s national popular vote margin over McCain, turning what would have been a narrow win into a decisive seven-point victory.
So far, the data suggests Millennials are poised to support Barack Obama at the same level this year that they did four years ago. In a recent Pew survey, Millennials preferred Obama over Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, by a 62% to 36% margin. But this year, Millennials make up 24% of those eligible to vote. Coupled with its partisan unity in comparison with older voters, the sheer size of the Millennial generation, America’s largest ever, could make its impact even more decisive in 2012 than in 2008.
Whether Millennials have that kind of impact depends on what the two parties do to attract their votes. For Republicans, the best approach is to connect with Millennials before they are solidly in the Democratic camp for the next three or four decades. A few Millennial Republicans such as John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, and Kristen Soltis, a GOP pollster, have argued that their party should moderate its stance on social issues and immigration in order to have greater appeal to their highly tolerant and diverse generation. So far, however, the GOP presidential field has attracted relatively little Millennial support; through Super Tuesday, the Republican frontrunners (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul) combined had received less than half the Millennial votes that Barack Obama did in 2008. Perhaps the lack of Millennial interest in the GOP candidates explains why Republicans in at least half of the states are more focused on limiting Millennial voting turnout than in actively courting the generation’s support.
For Democrats, the concern is not so much the partisanship of Millennials, but their engagement. One way to reinforce Millennials’ Democratic leanings is to remind them of their stake in the election by emphasizing the Millennial-friendly policies the Obama administration has pursued. Help with the cost of attending college, funding more national service opportunities, and permitting young people to remain on their parent’s health insurance until age 26 are all initiatives the Obama team could raise with Millennials. Already that campaign is gearing up online and offline organizational efforts to bring Millennials to the polls in November that exceed the technological sophistication of its very successful efforts in 2008.
If Millennials vote in numbers proportionate to their presence among eligible voters, their continued support of the president should allow him to overcome any attrition he suffers among older voters. But if large numbers of Millennials do not vote, the president’s reelection chances will be sharply reduced. Whichever alternative occurs will very likely determine whether Barack Obama or his eventual Republican opponent is inaugurated as president on January 20, 2013.
Q&A on this blog were captured by Policymic here