Friday, October 1, 2021

Biden Support Declines Everywhere Except...

Nate Cohn had an interesting piece today on Biden's declining approval rating across different demographic groups. The basic take:
"President Biden’s approval rating among key Democratic constituencies has declined considerably in recent months, eroding or even reversing decades-long patterns in public opinion....A large number of voters — women, young people and those who are Black or Latino — have all soured on Mr. Biden’s performance, according to polls conducted since the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan...
[T]here is real, if inconclusive, evidence of a larger decline in his standing, especially among African Americans.... [P]olls show Mr. Biden’s ratings among Latino voters slipping close to or beneath 50 percent. A new Quinnipiac poll in Texas even showed Mr. Biden’s ratings in the 30s among Latino voters in the state. It’s not what Democrats want to see after Mr. Biden’s disappointing performance among the group last November.
While most major demographic divides have eroded recently, one has continued to widen: the education gap among white voters.
Mr. Biden’s support has held up among white college graduates, according to the recent polls, while his standing among white voters without a degree has dropped to 30 percent, down from 37 percent in polls taken in June and July.
Even if Mr. Biden could rejuvenate his support among traditional Democratic constituencies, weakness among white voters without a degree would still be a serious challenge for Democrats heading into the midterm election next year, when the president’s party usually suffers a drubbing."
This is of course quite consistent with what I published yesterday on the dangers of Democrats' increased reliance on college-educated, particularly white college-educated, voters. Cohn had some thoughts on the origins of this problem, some of which I reproduce here by extracting from his twitter feed.
"After the 2012 election, the conventional wisdom held that Obama's victories reflected the power of a new coalition of the ascendent, or even an emerging democratic majority, powered by sweeping generational and demographic shifts. A lot of this flowed from the 2012 exit polls, which showed Obama winning just 39% of white voters--lower than any Democrat since Dukakis. But he nonetheless won easily, as Latinos surged to 10% of the electorate and whites fell to just 72%.
This was interpreted to mean that the Republicans had essentially maximized its support among white voters, and the party lost because it lost ground among growing Latino votes. Therefore the RNC autopsy focused on cultural moderation and immigration. It's difficult to overstate the power of this interpretation at the time.

Before FL/exits, the story of the election was Bain, the autobailout, and the Midwestern Firewall. After FL/exits, even Sean Hannity felt he had to embrace immigration reform!
For Dems, the implication was that they didn't need to think about white voters and especially white working class votes anymore. They could more-or-less win without them--or at least without trying to win them. The assumption, again, was that Obama was the worst case. He was at a multi-decadal low among white voters, and it was obvious why: he was black, elite, liberal....If so, then the thing Democrats needed to focus on was mobilizing the so-called Obama coalition: young, Black, Latino voters. That was the part that was plausibly unique to Obama, that was the part...that distinguished Obama from Kerry...
[But] huge swaths of [this] interpretation...were wrong--even completely wrong. The data it was based on was wrong, as well.
Obama's decisive strength was among white, working class northerners. As a result, major strategic choices flowed from this erroneous interpretation of the American electorate. Obama pushed gun control and esp immigration, rewarding the group for seemingly deciding the election in his favor.
Big swaths of the GOP establishment embraced it too. In doing so, a lot of the conditions for Trump's victory fell into place. The GOP establishment, including all its top candidates like Rubio and Bush, seemed to sell out its base by embracing immigration reform and arguing for moderation.
Democrats, meanwhile, leaned into a strategy that basically omitted the white working class entirely. A huge white education gap had emerged in Obama's ratings by fall of 13 (maybe 14, forget). At the same time, a triumphant youth liberalism became dissatisfied with limited progress and moved toward the left, exemplified by Bernie, BLM, etc. This created added pressure on Democrats, esp in the '16 primary, to move left to hold the 'Obama coalition'.
You know how the story ends: the real Obama coalition--an alliance of northern white working class voters and high Black turnout--evaporated.
One interesting thing, though, is that the traditional narrative of the Obama coalition was so powerful that it persisted way after the article in the original post. Many people were deeply reluctant to believe that Clinton lost because of mass defections among northern wwc....
Since then, Democrats have charted a fairly different path to victory--certainly a more novel one than the Obama coalition: run up the score among white college graduates, a group that didn't even vote for Obama in '12, while losing ground among virtually every other demographic...
This probably slightly paid off in the national vote...But college grads are underrepresented in the Midwestern states, so Dems are at an E.C. disadvantage now."
In another twitter thread, Cohn notes:
The traditional Democratic message to the white working class on economics--especially the kind of industrial-era messaging of the Democratic Party, which is the source of their strength in the Midwest--basically evaporated.
Obama ran on the autobailout. He attacked Romeny as a rapacious plutocrat who would outsource jobs and help corporations. Bain Capital...It's hard to remember now, but for 40 years Dems ran on outsourcing in the Midwest.hat aspect of the Democratic Party--in many ways the foundation of the late twentieth century Democratic Party in the northern US--simply disappears, and that's before talking about TPP.
It creates an opening for Trump, who gets to run on all of those issues. He runs against trade, runs against China, etc.
Clinton has nothing, and basically just has the fundamentally liberal 'stronger together' take."
Cohn thinks there are no easy solutions today to rectify these strategic errors. But he obviously believes it's worth pointing out these do I.

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