Generational trends forecast continued gridlock and partisan rancor in the 114th Congress that opens on January 6.
During the past two decades, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) first shaped and eventually dominated both the way Congress operates and its output, or lack thereof. Given their numbers and the traits that characterize many Boomers, the cohort can be expected to continue its Congressional ascendancy for the next decade or more. During that period Congress is likely to behave pretty much as it has during this century.Read more
The most decisive force in national politics today is the millennial generation (born 1982-2003). Millennials re-elected Barack Obama and will represent more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade. Yet, more than six months after the 2012 elections, Congress has moved fitfully, if at all, to address this generation’s political agenda.
The most promising effort in the current session of Congress to address millennials’ concerns was the bipartisan effort in the Senate that secured passage of a comprehensive, if somewhat overblown, immigration reform bill. Forty percent (40%) of millennials are non-white and Mitt Romney’s ostrich-like approach to this issue helped motivate Hispanic and Asian-American millennials to vote overwhelmingly for the president. Still, in spite of this lesson, two-thirds of the Senate Republican caucus voted against the immigration reform bill. The Republican House is even more hostile to the idea, even with their professed bête noire of border security addressed with massive new funding for enforcement in the just passed Senate bill. GOP opposition to the bill is so entrenched that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to not even bring it to a vote.
Millennials are a tolerant bunch and this continuing display of intolerance by congressional Republicans bodes particularly ill for the GOP’s chances of attracting the generation’s votes in the future. Tea Party-inspired efforts to pass a mean spirited, rather than a means tested, approach to food stamps, helped to doom the bi-partisan Senate version of the farm bill in the House as well. That same body did find the time and the votes to pass, for the 37th time, an irrelevant repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though the passage of Obamacare was another key reason why millennials supported its namesake last November.
But probably the vote that was most out of touch with millennial attitudes and beliefs was the vote this month in the House to further limit abortion rights in this country. Perhaps the Republicans who forced that vote upon their colleagues missed Sandra Fluke’s spirited defense of women’s reproductive rights at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that resonated so positively with the Millennial women, two-thirds of whom voted for Barack Obama last year.
The failure of the current crop of older members of Congress to address the concerns of the millennial generation is not limited, however, to Republicans. The Democratic leadership in the Senate didn’t feel sufficient urgency, for instance, to prevent the interest rate on student loans to double before Congress adjourned for the July 4 holiday. Can anyone imagine them taking the same lackadaisical attitude if Social Security benefits were about to be cut? Even had the student loan issue been addressed in a timely manner, it still would not have dealt with the incredible burden of student debt, now over a trillion dollars, that is preventing many millennials from doing the things that young adults traditionally do, like starting a family or buying a house, that would contribute mightily to the nation’s economic recovery. The problem, however, goes ignored by members of both parties in both houses, most of whom were never asked, as millennials have been, to self-finance the education they and the country need to promote economic growth.
Congress is so out of touch with the beliefs and concerns of millennials that even the nine old men and women on the Supreme Court did a better job of addressing the generation’s agenda in their last session when the Justices declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
There have been other times in America’s history when Congress has stubbornly refused to deal with the needs of the nation’s newest generations. In 1868, one-third of a generation very much like today’s Boomers, the Transcendentalists, were booted from their congressional seats in favor of candidates from a younger, more modern generation. It was the largest generational landslide in the nation’s history — until now. If the current Congress continues to ignore Millennials, it risks suffering the very same fate — an outcome for which it will have only itself to blame.
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.
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.
In the countless commentaries focusing on the demographic factors shaping the outcome of the 2012 election, there has been virtually nothing said about the contribution of Asian-Americans to the electorate and to Barack Obama’s reelection. It will be hard to ignore this growing group of voters much longer.
Since at least 2009, the number of Asian immigrants entering the United States has exceeded that of Hispanics, and in 2012 Asian-Americans cast a higher percentage of their ballots for Obama than did Hispanics (73 percent to 71 percent). Members of this very diverse community accounted for about 3 percent of the electorate on Nov. 6. Since Asians continue to migrate to the U.S. in large numbers, and because about 30 percent of Asian-Americans in the country now are not yet citizens but are likely to become so in the future, their share of the electorate should keep growing.
The 113th Congress going into session in January will include a dozen Asian-American members, the largest number ever. Irvine, Calif., in the heart of the formerly solid Republican Orange Country, cast 52 percent of its votes for Obama, principally because Asian-Americans now make up almost 40 percent of the city’s population.
The presence of Asian-Americans in the 2012 election was not limited to candidates or voting; they were even part of its pop culture. Throughout the campaign, videos emerged depicting the presidential candidates dancing in “Gangnam Style,” a Korean version of hip-hop. One, featuring a dancer with a striking resemblance to Obama, came to the president’s attention causing him to remark that he might be able to repeat some of the dancer’s “moves,” but only privately for the First Lady and not at an inaugural ball.
Another was designed to inspire a trip to the polls by young Asian-Americans living in the 626 area code of California’s San Gabriel Valley, heavily populated by Asian-Americans of varied national backgrounds, especially Chinese. A June 2012 Pew Social Trends survey, aptly titled, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” demonstrates the increasing importance of Asian-Americans in U.S. politics, suggesting that they are taking their place in an emerging Democratic coalition that could dominate American politics during the coming four decades.
Some other observations:
Asian-Americans overwhelmingly identify as Democrats. Asian-Americans identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party by an almost 2-to-1 margin (50 percent to 28 percent). Similar to Hispanics, among whom Cuban-Americans traditionally identify with the GOP while those of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent most often see themselves as Democrats, there are nationality variations in party ID among Asian-Americans.
Indian-Americans (65 percent Democrats to 18 percent Republican), Japanese-Americans (54 percent to 29 percent), Chinese-Americans (49 percent to 26 percent) and Korean Americans (48 percent to 32 percent) are solidly in the Democratic camp.
Filipino-Americans (43 percent Democrats to 40 percent Republican) and Vietnamese-Americans (36 percent to 35 percent) are evenly divided in their partisan identification. Like Americans generally, younger Asian-Americans and Asian-American women are slightly more likely to call themselves Democrats than older voters and men.
Asian-Americans tilt liberal. Asian-Americans lean more toward the liberal than the conservative side of the political spectrum. Among all Asian-Americans, 31 percent say they are liberal, 24 percent call themselves conservative, and 37 percent say they are moderate.
By contrast, in a Pew survey of the general public conducted at about the same time as its survey of Asian-Americans, 34 percent identified as conservatives, 24 percent as liberals, and 37 percent as moderates. Younger Asian-Americans are particularly likely to be liberal rather than conservative (39 percent to 17 percent).
Asian-Americans favor activist government. A majority of Asian-Americans prefer a “bigger government that provides more services” rather than a “smaller government that provides fewer services.” In this regard, they are the mirror image of the general public which favors a smaller rather than a bigger government by 52 percent to 39 percent. Asian-American women are far more positive about “big government” than men (61 percent to 49 percent).
Asian-Americans have more liberal views on social issues. The majority of Asian-Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases and that homosexuality should be accepted. On both of these social issues the beliefs of Asian-Americans are virtually identical to those of the general public.
As is the case with Americans overall, young Asian-Americans are substantially more likely to hold “liberal” beliefs on social issues. However, not surprisingly, as among Americans generally, social issue attitudes are shaped to a far greater extent by religion rather than demographics.
Large majorities of non-Christian Asian-Americans (Hindus, Buddhists and those unaffiliated with a faith) support tolerance of gays and relatively open abortion policies. Most Asian-American Christians take the opposite stance.
Asian-Americans approve of President Obama and are more positive about the direction of the U.S than Americans overall. At the time the Pew survey was conducted, 43 percent of Asian-Americans said they were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S., more than twice the percentage of the general public that felt that way (21 percent). As a result, a majority of Asian-Americans (54 percent) approved of the way Obama was handling his job as president. That was 10 points higher than his approval rating among the general public.
Given their majority Democratic identification and liberal leanings on issues, the high level of Asian-American support for Obama in 2012 and 2008 (when 63 percent voted for him) is not surprising. Even more important, those identifications and attitudes suggest that Asian-Americans are likely to be a component of the Democratic coalition long after the president has left office.
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.