Michael McKenna on October 30, 2022
Before we head into the final days of this campaign (mercifully), it is worth thinking about the continuing erosion of working-class support for the Democrats and what that might mean for this election and the ones to follow.
There is plenty of survey research on this topic, but let’s focus on the recent New York Times survey in which Democrats are 15 points underwater among working class voters, while sporting a 14-point advantage among college-educated voters.
The same survey also asked respondents who they would pick between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in 2024. Guess what? Working-class voters selected Trump by a 16-point margin; college-educated respondents favored Biden by 20 points.
This is material, of course, because working-class voters are a much larger percentage of the voting age population as are college-educated voters. Moreover, college enrollment seems to have peaked and is now falling.
That suggests that if you’re a political party, you might want to exit your positions that rely on college-educated voters and alienate working-class voters.
Moreover, as Ruy Teixeira has pointed out, it is multi-racial problem, as both white and nonwhite working class have migrated away from Democrats over the decade.
Because of demographics and decreasing college enrollment, increases in turnout over the next few cycles, including this one, are likely to be driven by members of the working class, especially the nonwhite working class, and older voters (especially those over the age of 65). How is that likely to work out for the Democrats? Not to ruin the surprise, but such an electorate is likely to complicate and retard their ability to compete in the Midwest (think places like Wisconsin and Michigan) and the Southwest (think Nevada and Arizona) in the next generation, much as they now have difficulty competing in the South.
In short, it looks very much like to coalition and the map with which President Trump won in 2016 might be the template for Republican success in the future.
Left unasked during most of this discussion is why working-class voters are wandering away from the Democrats. That’s simple. Almost every survey done during this campaign indicates that for about 70% of the population, the three most important issues in this campaign are inflation, crime, and border security.
Each of these directly and severely damage working people.
What about the other 30%, the college-educated? They tell opinion researchers that they care about abortion, guns, and threats to democracy. Consequently, the Democrats have spent the entire campaign talking about abortion and President Trump; for them, that’s where the votes are.
There are two problems with this approach. First, there is about 25 years’ worth of survey data that indicates that when most voters think about threats to democracy, they usually mean the sort of garden-variety governmental corruption we all have embedded in our subconscious – that governments and government actions, even in a democracy, are sometimes compromised by the flow of cash from those who want a particular policy to those who vote for a particular policy.
Second, talking about things that are increasingly more important to an ever-smaller number of people is a recipe for a political death-spiral. Eventually, the only people to whom you respond are members of your own echo chamber.
For Democrats, relying on a shrinking base of voters locked on the coasts whose durable priorities are, in many respects, contrary to the majority, is not yet fatal. But it is not a sign of health and vigor either.
Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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