Monday, July 28, 2014

Lookie Here! Democrats Divided, Polls Say

Millennial Mark Zuckerberg
Thomas Edsall in the New York Times wrote about an important June Pew survey of more than 10,000 people. Pew has found a cohort of younger voters who are Democrats, but much less focused on economic redistribution than on personal and sexual autonomy.

Pew earlier noted that
huge generation gaps have opened up in our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use, point[ing] toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.
Andrew Kohut, Pew founder, believes
There is a libertarian streak that is apparent among these left-of-center young people. Socially liberal but very wary of government. Why? They came of age in an anti-government era when government doesn’t work. They are very liberal on interpersonal racial dimension, but reject classic liberal notions about ways of achieving social progress for minorities.
The younger folks’ problems with government is surprising, given an earlier Pew survey that found youth less hostile to socialism than their elders.  Still another, non-Pew, study found that “the Millennial generation was less likely to recommend progressive taxation” than older generations.

Also, a Reason Foundation study on the views of younger voters showed that
Social and cultural issues are currently more central to millennials’ political judgments than economic policy. When asked to explain the reasons for their ideological identifications, social and cultural concerns largely defined their labels.
Edsall likes yet another study reporting that while younger Democrats are less committed to traditional economic liberalism, the partisan commitment these voters made to the Democratic Party will endure; that “political events of a voter’s [life] around the age of 18” are “enormously important” in fixing long-term partisan preferences.”  

The Surveys

Pew found major differences among two predominantly white core Democratic constituencies: “solid liberals” of the traditional left, 69% white, average age 46, deeply progressive on both economic and social issues; and younger voters, 68% white, average age 38, the “next generation left.”
  • Can “most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard,” or are “hard work and determination no guarantee of success for most people?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 67%, said hard work is no guarantee of success. 
    • “next generation left”: 77%, said you can get ahead if you work hard. 
  • “Should government do more to solve problems,” or “Is government is trying to do too much?”
    • “solid liberals”: 73-20%, said government should do more. 
    • “next generation left”: 50-44%, said government doing too much. 
  • Are “circumstances” to blame for poverty, or is it more “a lack of effort?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 83-9%, said circumstances. 
    • “next generation left”: only 47-42%, said circumstances. 
  • “Should government do more to help needy Americans, even if it means more debt,” or is it that “government cannot afford to do much more?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 83-12%, said to go into debt.
    • “next generation left”: 56-39%, said cannot afford much more. 
  • “Does Wall Street help the American economy more than it hurts?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 56-36%, said Wall Street hurts. 
    • “next generation left”: 56-36%, said Wall Street helps. 
  • “Is racial discrimination the main reason blacks can’t get ahead” or “are blacks who can’t get ahead mostly responsible for their own condition?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 80-10%, blamed discrimination. 
    • “next generation left”: 68-19%, said blacks shape their own condition. 
  • Does the “U.S. need to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights,” or has “U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 91-6%, said continue making changes. 
    • “next generation left”: 67-28%, said the country has done enough. 
Edsall, understating the obvious, concludes that while younger voters may lean Democratic, they “do not fit into traditional left-right categories.”

The Reason survey found that
while millennials see themselves as closer to Republican [] Chris Christie on economic issues, and closer to [Democrat] Hillary Clinton on social issues, they . . . are voting for Clinton.
Reason also found that every prospective Republican presidential candidate — Christie, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal — received more noes than yeses from millennials, by margins ranging from two noes for every yes to four noes for every yes. And while young voters are more pro-business than anti-business, just 54% believe corporate profits are about right or too low, while 44% say corporate profits are too high.

In some respects, Reason’s millennial voters held orthodox liberal views: they support more spending to help the poor, even if it means higher taxes; government action to guarantee a living wage, enough for everyone to eat and have a place to sleep; and a government guarantee of health insurance.

Otherwise, millennials in the Reason survey sounded like Republicans. By a margin of 70-25%, they chose “competition is primarily good; it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas” over “competition is primarily harmful; it brings out the worst in people.” By 64-25%, they picked “profit is generally good because it encourages businesses to provide valued products to attract customers” over “profit is generally bad because it encourages businesses to take advantage of their customers and employees.” And majorities believe that wealth should be distributed according to achievement, not need; that “people should be allowed to keep what they produce, even if there are others with greater needs.”  

The Reaction

One commenter on the surveys’ results concluded, “The Democrats hold onto us only because of the Republic[an] obsession with religion, sexual repression and environmental denial.”

Similarly, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg believes generational differences within the Democratic Party won’t damage the party’s prospects in the short-to-medium term:
differences within the Democratic Party. . . become irrelevant when confronted by a Republican Party determined to turn elections into cultural conflicts. These differences don’t matter in the context of a Republican party that brings out the commonality of the Democratic Party.”
David Leege, an emeritus professor at Notre Dame, thinks younger Democrats “are products of a totally different environment and culture than their grandparents;” leaving behind “the communitarianism of the elders” for “individualism.”  Leege argues that “the combination of unanchored and individualistic electorates and the post-Citizens United political arena,” i.e., big money, may make elections “perpetually close.”

Leege worries that if Democrats seek to gain strength by shifting from orthodox economic liberalism to an emphasis on protecting personal liberties from conservative moral constraint, they will erode remaining opposition to lower tax rates, help reduce social spending, and facilitate a paring back of commercial and financial regulation.

Edsall concludes that a divided Democratic Party, vulnerable to business elite lobbying pressures, may give Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce increased leverage “despite – or even because of – Democratic political success.”


History now teaches that moral rectitude in traditional, male-run, WASP America was designed to cement the old power structure in place. Rectitude, along with the supportive, GOP-based power elite, is gone. The new, elite university-bred power structure, is non-religious, sexually free, and fixed on an “environmental protection” replacement religion. Increasingly wealthy, it no longer rejects an alliance with its fellow elite institution achievers in the new age business (Google, Amazon, Apple, Verizon, Costco) and financial (Berkshire-Hathaway) world.

Today's America is right-side up, or upside-down, depending upon your politics. Republicans tend to be with the people outside this new power structure, less affluent, more religious, and more concerned about how moral decline has undermined the family that used to underpin the American working class.

No comments: