How to Talk About the Economy With the Rising American Electorate


As we enter the beginning of the next presidential election, the economy is setting the terms of debate. Recent economic news suggests a slowdown, after a period of some recovery in the job market and rising corporate profits - and the consequences of this slowdown on progressive voters are fully reflected in the latest Democracy Corps/Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund poll. More importantly, while voters’ perceptions of the economy reflect these trends, they also reveal deeper concerns that transcend today’s headlines and will likely live on beyond the so-called recovery from crisis. Voters do not think anyone knows how to or has the will to solve America’s profound and persistent economic problems. Not the Democrats and certainly not the Republicans according to this poll, which shows voters are pulling back sharply from the Republican approach to the economy and the budget, including Medicare.

The slow uneven economic recovery and the failure of either party to tackle or solve our deeply-rooted economic problems clearly shape the attitudes and opinions of the progressive base of the Democratic Party, the group that is the most economically marginal with the highest rates of unemployment. We saw in 2010 that unmarried women, voters of color and younger voters who make up the Rising American Electorate (RAE) and the progressive base turned out at lower rates than in 2008 and they also supported Democratic candidates by smaller margins. Unmarried women, younger voters, African American and Hispanic voters in this survey support Obama with 62 percent of the vote, a significant drop from 69 percent in 2008. Despite the fact that the Republicans passed a budget in the House this past month that would privatize Medicare and gut Medicaid, programs that are critical to many of these voters, their support for Democrats leveled off in 2010 and has not yet returned to 2008 levels. 

This economic debate is not settled - it is contested - and while Democrats have an advantage over the Republicans, they have not offered a compelling narrative to convince RAE voters that they are at the heart of their agenda. 

However, there is a path to improving Democratic standing with RAE voters, but it requires a laser-like focus on an economic future where politicians work together to make sure that the middle class and people who are struggling have opportunities to improve their lot in life. This includes investments in education and innovation, offering help to people in need rather than giving tax breaks and giveaways to the rich or big corporations, and protecting Medicare. 

RAE voters are an indispensible part of the progressive base in this country. Political outcomes are driven both by their electoral choices and their relative participation in this Democracy. The 2010 election cycle saw a significant withdrawal from the Democrats among some members of the RAE, mostly because the economic change they voted for in 2008 was slow in coming and progressive messaging often failed to reflect their economic reality. Progressives’ success depends in large measure on correcting this mistake in 2012.

Read the full memo and frequency questionnaire, and please visit Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps.

Key Findings

  • The RAE continues to struggle financially
  • Obama's standing improves among RAE but still underperforms relative to 2008
  • The path forward: put the middle class at the heart of the progressive agenda

Methodology

This memo is based on a national survey of 1480 likely 2012 voters, including a base sample of 1,000 voters and oversamples of unmarried women (200), youth (200) and people of color (80). It fielded from May 21st to May 25th. The total sample size of RAE voters is 885 respondents and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.29 points.


Sources: Stanley Greenberg, Anna Greenberg, David Walker

Clients: Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps