Friday, August 30, 2013

The Secret About White Voters

This was something I spotted on Think Progress earlier today:

...McAuliffe’s numbers among black voters are likely to improve as undecideds tune into the campaign, but right now he is not riding a groundswell of African-American enthusiasm. Instead, his relatively strong lead comes from a counter-intuitive Cuccinelli weakness: white voters.
In the simplest possible terms, Cuccinelli has a white voter shortage. Consider Romney’s performance in in the state in 2012 in what was, after all, a losing effort. Romney carried white voters by a very strong 23 points. By comparison, Cuccinelli only leads among whites by 8 in the Quinnipiac poll.
The mystery deepens when you break down the numbers even further. Among white college graduates, Cuccinelli is only breaking even (Romney won this group by 10 points). The difference can perhaps be explained by Cuccinelli’svery public identification with hardline social conservatism, though it’s hard to say for sure.
What’s really baffling is Cuccinelli’s underperformance with white working class voters, who tend to identify with more “traditional” moral values. In the Quinnipiac poll, Cuccinelli has a 16 point lead among these voters. This may sound good, but it is not remotely large enough for a GOP candidate to carry the state even allowing for the relatively favorable turnout patterns of an off-year election. Romney carried Virginia’s white working class by a whopping 44 points, and still wound up losing.
Cuccinelli may have assumed his far right economic and social positions would be catnip for Virginia’s white voters, especially the white working class. So far, that’s looking like a poor assumption...

The blogger Ruy Teixeira is wondering how candidate Cuccinelli - already a national name thanks to his grandstanding on climate change and pogrom against consensual sex acts - could be losing not just young white voters (as Millennials are proving more liberal at their young age than previous generational cycles) but also older more traditional white voters (the Angry White Guy Coalition).

Well, there's a little dirty secret about white voters that people seem to keep forgetting: well, you see white voters are not as monolithic a group of voters as the pollsters, hucksters, media elites and suckers think we are.

By comparison, let's look first at the major ethnic groups.  Blacks, as documented rather well, nowadays tend to vote entirely for Democrats: sure, there are notable exceptions of African-American conservatives, but they're honestly few and far between.  Blacks are by generational development more pro-government (for good reason), pro-voting-rights (for good reason), pro-public-works (which tends to focus on construction and urban development, both solid job markets).  On the political spectrum, a solid number of African-Americans would lean to the Liberal end, which is currently best represented by the Democrats.  But it's not so much that Blacks are whole-heartedly Democratic: it's that the Republican Party in its current form is so anti-government, anti-voting, anti-anything that it's driving away African-Americans (even moderate ones) to a near 93 percent (98 percent in major urban areas) population count.

Hispanics aren't as devout (that chart for Obama's results show 71 percent compared to Blacks' 93 percent), but still vote in large enough numbers for Democrats to make note (7 out of 10 is a very solid majority).  It's partly due to the Republicans' hard-right turn against immigration, but it also has to do with the Republicans' stance against government social services and health care.  Both are key issues to the Hispanic communities: Hispanics don't have the disdain for the public sector that the current Republicans do.  Where Hispanics can be more conservative on an individual basis, as a community they'll vote the community interests (La Raza as a social concept).  And community interests tend to lean more Liberal (shared resources, free or low-cost public education, health care, public works) than Conservative.  Which is one reason why the Republicans' failure to pass any immigration reform - which hurts the Hispanic community as a whole - is proving foolhardy...

Asians as a smaller percentage of the national population still vote much the way the Hispanic population does, voting for Obama in roughly the same 7 out of 10 percentage.  It doesn't help the GOP that Asians are also greatly affected by the failure of immigration reform.

Into all of this is the White voter bloc.  Other major ethnic groups - Blacks (9 out of 10), Hispanics (7 of 10), and Asians (7 of 10) - have definable voting blocs.  Whites?  While they're the only group to lean Republican,  it's a 59 percent to 39 percent split.  More like a 6 out of 10 vote, the weakest voting bloc by percentage out of the ethnic groups.

While White Americans share the largest overall numbers of the population, White voters overall don't follow clear voting habits: of the major ethnic groups, Whites have clear distinctions between Right, Moderate, and Left voting groups.  Part of it has to do with how little the White voters have at stake on certain issues, especially on immigration (Hispanics, Asians) and on voting rights and civil liberty issues (Blacks overcoming decades of Jim Crow and segregation).  Those issues can galvanize those ethnic groups like no other. Whites would get more worked up on issues like taxes and business regulation, which are more polarizing than galvanizing.  On issues shared between all ethnic groups - education and health care - again these are more polarizing due to their complexity, and while White voters may lean Conservative on those two issues they are not unilaterally inclined to do so.  There may be one issue where whites are more Conservative than others - gun ownership - but even then it's not as absolute a vote-getter as it's polarizing as any other issue.

There's another aspect of the dirty little secret about White voters: we're not as a group keyed to the idea about race conflict the way the GOP is preaching it.  Yes, there are a good number of Whites who take serious the "reverse racism" argument, but not a majority of whites do.  Left-leaning Whites clearly don't, and there are signs the Moderate White voting bloc won't as well:

...But if the GOP determines that its future lies with an all-out pursuit of whites, it might find an unwanted surprise. Some white voters, particularly young ones, won’t align themselves with a party that can’t attract support from Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians. To attract more white voters, the GOP, ironically, might first need to attract more minorities.
That’s the central dilemma of any plan to win with a nearly all-white coalition. As the minority share grows with each presidential election, Republicans would need to win a greater and greater percentage of the white vote to prevail. That challenge proved insurmountable last year, when Mitt Romney won nearly 60 percent of white voters and still lost... 
...Seventy-six percent of likely millennial voters, for instance, say immigrants make the country a stronger place, according to a July poll from the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Just 61 percent (Note: that's still a huge positive for immigration reform that the GOP is pissing off) of all likely voters agreed with that. “On a number of key issues, if the party appears to be intolerant of gays, minorities, or immigrants, it’s going to have trouble competing with this group,” says Michael Hais, a Democrat and a coauthor of the book Millennial Makeover...
...College-educated women and suburban moderates hold similar views. Both groups are more accepting of diversity, and they recoil at the notion of backing a party that doesn't encourage it. It’s a story that has played out in the GOP’s past, says Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster and immigration-reform advocate. The Republican Party’s perceived intolerance turned off voters who otherwise might have been drawn to the GOP on issues such as the economy and foreign policy. “It’s just like the white suburban women who were uncomfortable with politicians who used quasi-racist language,” he says. “They just don’t want to be associated with them.”

For all the crowing in the nation's media elites about America being a "center-right nation" or the counter-claim of it really being a "center-left nation", the ones making those distinctions keep focusing on the "right" and "left" and forgetting the "center" part.  The thing about the voters in the "center" (aka the Moderates): we tend to be open-minded, kinda the whole point of being moderate.  Moderates tend to be open-minded about voting rights and immigration reform, which as the GOP turns further to the Right on those issues will drive those Moderates away.  (Moderates also tend to vote for competency, a skill set the modern Republican lineup is failing at, but that's a divergent issue.  Just related, that's all).

To get back to the issue with Cuccinelli's failings in Virginia, I need to point out that while Virginia has a solid conservative voting base it's not a dominant one: the state isn't fully a Red State (Republican), it's voted Blue (Democratic) the last two elections for President and has voted for Democratic governors (2001, 2005) in its recent history during Republicans' national dominance (both governors now serve as U.S. Senators): Virginia tends to be considered a Purple state (in flux between two parties) far more than other states.

Cuccinelli is currently losing Virginia by about 6 percentage points behind a Democratic challenger - McAuliffe - who really isn't considered even by fellow Democrats to be the best possible choice for the Governor's seat.  That 6 percent difference is similar to the victory difference current Senator Tim Kaine won over his Republican challenger last fall.  And at this point in the election cycle (the governor vote is this November), it's not like Cuccinelli can rally even more Far Right voters who are already rallied for him to make up for that 6 percent difference: this is the point in the general election where the candidates have to appeal to the moderate/undecided voters.  But Cuccinelli's failures to lean more moderate on immigration (he noted he doesn't support amnesty, a key reform issue) doesn't help.

If Cuccinelli does fail in the Virginia election, it will be a big signal to the national Republican Party how their stance is failing with the moderate/centrist voters that are always key to any statewide/nationwide election (in gerrymandered congressional districts, independent votes tend to get wasted).  The Republican leaders - Limbaugh, Fox Not-News, and other non-elected types - always argue that they've lost the last big elections - 2008, 2012 - because the candidates were too moderate.  They won't be able to argue that with Cuccinelli: he's not moderate on anything, there's no way to disguise that.  And while this is a state-level election, the national interest in the campaign during a key mid-term period - especially as it's drawing in fund-raisers across the nation - will draw a lot of dissection and truth-seeking.

That Cuccinelli is "losing" the White Vote - he's actually losing a sizable bloc of it - isn't the reason I took notice of that Think Progress article.  It's that the Republican Party is losing that voting bloc.  I'm starting to feel a little hopeful about 2014...

No comments: