While it is still fashionable for politicians in both China and the United States to prove their domestic leadership credentials by taking tough stances against their nation’s chief economic rival, the results of recent Pew surveys conducted in the two countries suggest that this type of rhetoric is a holdover from an earlier era. An examination of the beliefs among the youngest generational cohorts in each country shows a distinct lack of the ideological vitriol so common in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, we might see a far more congenial relationship between the world’s two great powers --- at least once the older generations fade away.
Let’s hope so, because older generations sometimes seem more committed to discord than accord. During the 2012 US presidential campaign both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney took full advantage of opportunities to criticize their opponent for the softness of his approach to China. Xi Jinping, who was named the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party about a week after Obama was reelected and will become China’s Premier early next year, has been no less willing to rhetorically censure the United States.
Yet the Pew research indicates that the youngest generational cohort in both the US and China holds positive attitudes toward and favors contact with the other country. In the United States that youthful cohort is the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003), America’s largest and most ethnically diverse and tolerant generation to date. Of the 95 million US Millennials, about four in ten are nonwhite and one in twenty is of Asian descent, with Chinese-Americans comprising the largest portion of that segment. By contrast, among U.S. seniors and Boomers, only about one in five is nonwhite and about two-percent of Asian heritage.
Generational theorists have not definitively named the Millennials’ Chinese counterparts. Some observers, however, have called at least their urban segment “Little Emperors.” Similar to American Millennials, this generation was often reared by their own hovering “helicopter parents” in a highly protected, hyper-attentive manner that reflected the importance of these special children—the product of China’s “one child” policy—and the great expectations their parents had and continue to have for their offspring. The result of this upbringing are cohorts of civic-minded, pressured, conventional, patriotic American and Chinese young people who revere their parents, are optimistic about their nation’s future, and open to the world.
In China, the Pew research, conducted in March and April, 2012, contained a battery of questions probing attitudes toward the United States, its interactions with China, and its influence on Chinese society. Across all of these questions, the youngest cohort (18-29 year olds) held significantly more favorable opinions about America than older Chinese. Given that Chinese who are 50 or older include generations that established the Communist regime in 1949, fought American troops in Korea, and were part of the ideological Red Guards of the 1960s, this is not altogether surprising.
Overall, a majority (51%) of China’s youthful cohort held a positive view of the U.S. as compared with only 38% of older Chinese. More specifically, majorities of 18-29 year olds said they admired American technological and scientific advances (77%), American ideas about democracy (59%), U.S. music, movies, and television (56%), and agree that it is good that American ideas and customs are spreading to China (50%). Across all of these dimensions favorable attitudes toward the United States and its influence were at least 15 percentage points higher among the youngest Chinese cohort than the oldest. In only one area, the American way of doing business, did less than a majority of 18-29 year old Chinese (48%) indicate admiration of the United States; even on this dimension there was a 12-point gap between the positive opinions of younger and older Chinese respondents.
Pew did not ask the same questions in its American surveys that it did in the Chinese study. However, it did examine many of the same dimensions permitting valid comparison of survey results in the two countries. In a November 2011 survey examining the large generation gap in U.S. politics Pew asked if it was better for the United States to build a stronger economic relationship with China or to get tough with China on economic issues. American Millennials, a generation corresponding to Chinese 18-29 year olds, overwhelmingly favored a policy focusing on building stronger trade relations with China rather than one based on toughness (69% to 24%). By contrast, a plurality of the two oldest American generations—Boomers and seniors—believed that a tougher approach instead of closer economic ties with China was best (48% to 45%). These results reflect the far greater support of Millennials than older generations for free trade agreements overall (63% to 42%).
In its April 2012 Values survey, Pew examined the openness of Americans to “foreign,” if not specifically Chinese, influences. In one question, respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: “It bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English.” Only 32% of American Millennials compared to 44% of all older generations agreed. In another item Pew asked for agreement or disagreement with this statement: “the growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values.” Only four in ten Millennials (41%) as compared with a majority (53%) of Boomers and seniors agreed.
American Millennials are a generation that seeks to resolve disputes and conflicts by searching for win-win solutions rather than absolute victories over their opponents. Recent research suggests that their Chinese counterparts share many of the same attitudes. This bodes well for relations between their two countries in coming decades. The big question for the more immediate future is whether older generations in America and China will be able and willing to set aside the attitudes based on the ideologies and policies of the past long enough for Millennials on both sides of the Pacific to forge a new, less contentious relationship.
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.
In the mid-1950s, the McGuire Sisters’ version of Johnny Mercer’s song about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object made it to number five on the record charts. Their prediction, that “Something’s Gotta Give,” provides an apt description of the outcome of today’s battle between the parents of Millennials who want more say in their children’s education and the teacher unions and school district administrators who refuse to give up a smidgeon of control over the public schools they run.
One of the hottest battle fronts in the war between these two forces has been debates over whether to adopt “Parent Trigger” laws, similar to those passed in California in 2010. Such legislation empowers the majority of parents in any school district deemed to be “failing,” according to the federal No Child Left Behind standards, to essentially reconstitute the school according to parents’ desires either by turning it into a charter school or removing and replacing all current teachers and administrators.
Since 2010, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have passed similar legislation and it is up for debate in major industrial states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. In Florida, the idea came within one vote of passage in the State Senate thanks to the enthusiastic support of former Florida Republican Governor, Jeb Bush. At the same time, such Democratic stalwarts as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and liberal Congressman George Miller (D-CA) have expressed their strong support for the concept.
Most recently, the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution in support of Parent Trigger laws. Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, chairman of both the Mayor’s Conference and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, led the charge for the resolution’s passage, aided by strong support from Democratic Mayors such as Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.
None of this has softened the resistance from teacher unions, historically a bulkwark of Democratic support. Often led by unreconstructed Boomer liberals from the 1960s, they see the law’s emphasis on parental prerogatives as the ultimate threat to their control of the classroom and educational budgets. In the most recent battle, unions were able to pressure Change.org, a for profit, grass roots website “staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country,” to bar StudentsFirst, an advocacy group run by Democrat Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. School Superintendent, that supports giving parents more control over the schools their children attend, from using its website.
And when the chief press person for Parent Revolution, the non-profit that is the primary driver behind the adoption of Parent Trigger laws, was announced as the new education media spokesperson by Obama’s re-election campaign, teachers' unions threatened to withhold their support of the president.
In the long run, the implacable objections of the unions to parents having more say over the type of education their own children will fail. They will prove no match for the irresistible force of generational change that is already sweeping away existing institutional power structures in schools across the country.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Millennials, born 1982-2003, is the intense interest their parents take in every aspect of their children’s lives. This desire to constantly hover over their offspring earned parents of older Millennials (those now in their twenties) the sobriquet, “helicopter parents.” The younger half of the Millennial Generation, which accounts for most elementary and all secondary school students today is primarily parented by members of the more entrepreneurial Generation X (born 1965-1981). These parents replaced their Boomer predecessors’ tendency to hover and talk with a desire to take action and change bottom-line results.
Millennials are the largest, most diverse generation in American history, and many of them are now starting to have children of their own. When those children begin arriving in the nation’s schools, Millennial Generation parents will bring the same dedication that their own parents exhibited to making sure each school serves their child’s interests first. As a result, it won’t be long before the same rights California, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana parents now have are given to every parent in the country. As Ben Austin, the founder of the Parent Revolution points out, “the old coalitions don’t apply here; it’s a cause that unites parents from upper-middle-class and working-class backgrounds—white, black, and Latino alike.”
The type of generational change America will experience over the next few decades will drive the transformation of America’s educational institutions and overwhelm those who attempt to keep parents from deciding what kind of school their kids go to. When push comes to shove, something’s gotta give. And, in the end, that means that those who stand for the status quo in our nation’s schools will have to give up their traditional prerogatives and let parents choose the educational experience they think is best for their own children.
at Politico/The Arena
In this week’s Newsweek, Paul Begala suggests that the 2012 presidential election will be decided by “swing voters” in six battleground states — Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado. But his definition of such voters is so out of synch with reputable polling data that the wiliest of Democratic political operatives must have been trying to fake out Republican readers of this piece rather than reveal the real Obama campaign strategy to Newsweek’s readers.
Begala identifies 916,643 “swing voters” as the 2% of the electorate in each of the six states who have not yet decided how to vote. He makes it clear that his pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, will spend $2,181.87 to reach and presumably persuade each of the decisive voters, which is undoubtedly true. But then he gives a head fake to anyone trying to divine the super PAC’s real intentions by saying these undecided voters are disproportionately women, young voters, and Latino. Although it is true that these demographic groups are usually considered to be the most open to commercial advertising, there is little evidence in recent survey data that the relatively few “swing voters” within the electorate come primarily from these demographic groups.
For instance, the most recent Pew Research Center national survey provides analysts with an operational definition that Begala could have used. Using their data, “swing voters” would be comprised of either those who prefer a candidate other than Barack Obama or Mitt Romney; or those who say they are now undecided in the presidential election; or those who refused to answer the vote intention question. By this definition, “swing voters” comprise 6% of the total electorate in the Pew data. Contrary to Begala’s description, men (7%) and women (6%) are equally likely to be in this category. Older people are far more often “swing voters” than are younger members of the electorate. Among Baby Boomers (those 50-64), 9% are “swing voters,” while within the “Silent Generation” (those 65 years old and over), 7% meet this definition. By contrast, among Millennials (those 18-29), just 1% would be considered a “swing voter.” According to Pew’s results, older white folks of either sex (but especially older white women) are most likely to be “swing voters,” rather than young minorities. In fact, in the Pew survey, Millennials preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a 1.65:1 margin (61% to 37%) — by far the biggest spread between the two candidates within any age cohort.
One can only assume Begala described swing voters in the way that he did to trick Republicans into wasting their money on ads designed to persuade the least likely to be persuaded demographic groups. If Republicans fall for his head fake, the Obama campaign will run right past them and stuff the ball into the basket for a clear victory in November.