Friday, November 8, 2019

Nonvoters and the 2020 Election

Mobilizing nonvoters is viewed in many left activist circles as the perfect solution to all political problems. There are huge numbers of nonvoters from Democrat-friendly demographics so if a large proportion of nonvoters vote it should be enough to overcome the GOP, without worrying about the pesky business of persuasion. Plus the way to mobilize Democrat-leaning nonvoters is with the most progressive possible policies, so you can not only win but win and be super-progressive at the same time.
This view can be boiled down to two propositions:
1. High levels of nonvoter mobilization will produce victory for Democrats
2. Nonvoters who can be persuaded to vote Democratic are lefter than normal Democrats
Neither one of these propositions is true. The country and particularly the key battleground states are full of nonvoters that can be mobilized not just by Democrats but also by Republicans. The typical nonvoter in the midwest for example is white noncollege, not a particularly friending demographic for the Democrats. Therefore, while Democrats could certainly benefit from high levels of voting by current nonvoters, there is no guarantee: it may well be a wash or even somewhat favor the other side.
Secondly, nonvoters who are most persuadable for the Democrats are not more left than typical Democrats. On the contrary, in many ways, they are more moderate. So that part of the equation is suspect too.
Nate Cohn in a lengthy New York Times presents recent evidence on these questions. It is well worth reading.
"For Democrats, part of the problem is that the demographics of nonvoters no longer work so clearly in their favor. Nonvoters are less likely to have graduated from a four-year college, and the president excels among the less educated white voters who are overrepresented among nonvoters in the battleground states.
But the Democratic challenge runs beyond demographics. In general, the nonvoters are less ideological and less partisan than demographically similar voters, which weakens the expected Democratic demographic edge.....
[N]onvoting Democrats look about the same as those who vote. But the group looks relatively likely to include voters who have not been animated by the cultural fights of the last half decade, which might be something of a surprise given their relative youth.
Nonvoters are the likeliest group of Democratic leaners to oppose an assault weapons ban or to support reducing legal immigration to the United States. They’re likeliest to agree that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities, even though the group is only 50 percent white. They’re also likeliest to agree that political correctness has gone too far."
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Demographically, they seem like people who’d want to vote out Trump. Yet at least in the battleground states, many favor Republicans.


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