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National Surveys
A New American Agenda for a New American Majority
Monday, June 29 2015
Attachments:
Download this file (DCOR National 061715 FQ_WVWV.pdf)Toplines[ ]271 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_WV_June poll_short memo_6.29.15.FINALforweb.pdf)Memo[ ]498 Kb

Democrats are well positioned leading into next year’s elections if they give their base, particularly unmarried women, a reason to turn out and vote.  As this research demonstrates, the promise of an agenda that addresses the real economy of everyday Americans and—this is an equally important piece—also provides them with a more responsive and equitable government gives key blocks in the Democratic coalition a greater stake in this election.

A new survey of 950 likely 2016 voters sponsored by Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices, Woman Vote Action Fund shows Hillary Clinton with a stable and impressive lead over prominent Republican contenders (Marco Rubio and Scott Walker). The Democratic margin in a named congressional vote, up significantly from the 2014 election, inches up higher, and has moved 11 points in the Democratic direction since last November.[1]   This Democratic strength reflects the changing demographic reality of the new American electorate.  Unmarried women, people of color, millennials—voters of the Rising American Electorate (RAE)—will make up a majority of voters for the first time in 2016.  This new American majority carries with them a new American agenda.   

The dominant reason for Democratic vigor in this survey is the deep backing that Clinton and the Democrats enjoy among voters in the Rising American Electorate, where Clinton matches Obama’s 2012 vote and exceeds his showing among white unmarried women. These voters sustain Democratic margins.  

The Republicans also face a severe brand problem. They are defined, at least for now, by an increasingly unpopular Republican Congress and a Republican congressional leadership that has become a pariah among voters. Both Boehner and McConnell draw record unfavorable numbers in this survey, and the Speaker draws majority negative reviews. In addition, the Republicans have failed to adapt to the collapse in conservative culture.  As others have highlighted, and as this survey reinforces, the number of voters who describe themselves as conservative has dropped sharply; voters’ reactions to pro-life groups, marriage equality and, to a lesser degree, the NRA, further reveals this ideological shift.  The Republicans grow increasingly out of touch culturally with the country, a process likely accelerated by their nomination process. 

Democrats also face their own challenges.  Their base, specifically RAE voters and unmarried women, betray a huge disparity in interest and enthusiasm for participating in the 2016 elections compared to their more conservative counterparts.  A 67 percent majority of non-RAE voters describe their level of interest in the highest terms (a “ten” on a ten-point scale). Among RAE voters, this number drops to 48 percent.  These voters demonstrate real doubts about the ability of the government to deliver on the change they need.  The disparity in interest among Democratic base groups is a direct threat to their strategy, regardless of the outcome in 2016.

Nonetheless, this survey produces a big jump in Democratic enthusiasm after voters hear an agenda that speaks to their lives and promises a government that serves their interests, particularly among Democratic base groups such as unmarried women and drop-off voters.  

This agenda is big and progressive. It addresses an economy that still does not work for them and does not produce jobs that pay enough to sustain a family.  Changes like equal pay for women, a solution to the problems within Medicare and Social Security, and a serious and bold investment in our infrastructure find traction not just among base groups, but among blue collar voters as well.  But this agenda also confronts government that too often seems indifferent or even hostile to their interests. 

In the focus groups preceding this survey, participants described themselves as entirely disconnected from their leaders, and described a leadership class more focused on lining their pockets than helping people like them. Progressive government reform that promises to rid the system of waste and duplication, simplify the tax code, make government more “user-friendly,” and eliminate subsidies for rich corporate interests, together with serious economic changes, energizes key base groups. 

Read full report here.

 


[1]National survey of 950 likely 2016 voters, 60 percent cell, June 13-17, 2015. This research was a joint project of Democracy Corps, Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, and the Voter Participation Center.  This research is informed by two sets of focus groups conducted in Jacksonville and Orlando Florida on May 19 and June 4, 2015.   The Voter Participation research related to nonpartisan questions regarding policy topics.  Important methodology note: In order to account for ever-changing demographics and accurately sample the full American electorate, for the first time, 60 percent of respondents in this survey were reached by cell phone.

 
 
Opposition to Marriage Equality Verdict Costly for GOP Candidates
Friday, June 26 2015
Attachments:
Download this file (Dcor_HRC_June poll_6.26.15.pdf)Memo[ ]266 Kb

On the occasion of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to legalize gay marriage nationwide, Democracy Corps and the Human Rights Campaign release the results from a new survey of likely 2016 voters.  This survey reinforces a finding that has been true since 2012: a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. 

 

These results also demonstrate the potential risk to national candidates bent on thwarting voters’ will on this issue.  An impressive majority of voters, including key swing voters in the 2016 elections, say they are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes marriage equality and four in ten voters say they are much less likely to support such a candidate. 

 

This memorandum summarizes the results of a national telephone survey of 950 likely 2016 voters. In order to better reflect the changing habits and demography of the country, 60 percent of those interviewed for this survey responded using cell phones.  The survey was conducted June 13-17, 2015 and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.38.

 

Key Findings

 

Ø  A majority of American voters support marriage equality.  This finding has been consistent in national polling since 2012 and some surveys show the majority reaching 60 percent.[1]  In this survey, 57 percent support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 43 percent strongly support these unions.  Support for marriage equality reaches 60 percent among Independent voters, 49 percent among liberal moderate Republicans, 55 percent among women over age 50, 51 percent of non-college voters and 64 percent among Catholic voters.  In the South, more voters support marriage equality (47 percent), than oppose (42 percent).

 

Ø  Voters could also carry this issue into the ballot box.  A 55 percent majority of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry, including 40 percent who strongly oppose.  This majority includes Independents, married women and white millennials.  All of these groups voted Republican in the last congressional election.  Not surprisingly, voters who have an LGBT friend—30 percent of the American electorate—take this issue much more seriously.  Among voters who know a gay or lesbian couple who have had marriage or commitment ceremonies—nearly half (47 percent) of American voters—73 percent are less likely to vote for a candidate for president who opposes marriage equality. 

 

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Conclusion

In February of this year, Republican candidate for President and Senator Ted Cruz introduced legislation protecting states aiming to ban marriage equality. This is not the first time reactionary forces invoked state’s rights to thwart progress on civil rights.  But voters have already settled this issue.  A majority support marriage equality and that majority is growing.  Voters also make plain the political price, particularly among swing voters, of defying their majority on this issue. 

 

 
Evolving Strategy for Progressives
Thursday, February 12 2015
Attachments:
Download this file (2016 National_deck_for web_2.12.2015.pdf)Graphs[ ]1879 Kb
Download this file (Dcorps_WVWV_Combined Report_Long Memo_for web_2.12.2015.pdf)Memo[ ]1235 Kb

This report makes recommendations based on three distinct research projects executed by Democracy Corps for WVWVAF over the last month, including a national survey of 950 likely voters, focus groups with white working class voters in Tidewater, Virginia, and dial testing and on-line focus groups conducted during the 2015 State of the Union Address.  

This multi-pronged wave of research makes very clear that the Democratic presidential majority is back. The Obama coalition arrived intact and Hillary Clinton begins this election cycle with a 6 point lead over Romney - who had not yet withdrawn and was the GOP's strongest candidate - and 12 points over Bush.

However, that presidential majority is not deep or broad enough to break the Republican hold on Congress and key states.  It is not producing wave elections. There are three inter-related reasons for the shortfall:

  • Some parts of the RAE could be giving Democrats bigger margins and turning out in bigger numbers, including unmarried women;
  • Democratic presidential candidates (including Clinton) are only getting about a third of white working class voters;
  • Those who are living with the restructured, new economy are struggling and turned off by elite (and presidential) talk about the great macro economy. 

The goal of progressives now is to get more support and engagement from the RAE, including white unmarried women and Millennials, and to broaden support with struggling white working class voters, both men and women: RAE+.

  1. Understand and identify with the economic challenges that a majority of people are experiencing – even as the elites and perhaps Democratic leaders celebrate  the macro economy.
  2. Target both parts of the Rising American Electorate, especially unmarried women but perhaps also millennials, and parts of the swing electorate, including white working class voters.  We know from this research they share a lot.
  3. The economic agenda must be led by government reform.  Target groups are disgusted with politics and government because of the role of big money, perceptions of waste and special interest spending. A reform agenda opens up these targets.
  4. Champion a middle class economic narrative that seeks rising incomes for all and opportunities  for all that make the effort. That narrative is 20 points stronger than the conservative, small government narrative. 
  5. Champion a middle class economic agenda that starts with protecting Social Security and Medicare, reforming government, long term infrastructure investment that creates jobs, help for working mothers, equal pay for women, and making college affordable
  6. Recognize that white unmarried women and non-college women and men share common feelings about what is happening and what needs to change. They want to protect the existing social safety net of Social Security and Medicare, reform government and help working families. 
  7. Recognize that specific references to helping “working women” or gender-directed issues such as pay equity do not alienate white working class men. 

Read the full memo here.

 
State of the Union 2015: Playing offense, President Obama makes gains on critical issues
Wednesday, January 21 2015
Attachments:
Download this file (DCorps SOTU OvernightMemo v5.pdf)Memo[ ]721 Kb

Online dial testing with 61 white swing voters across the United States and  two follow-up online focus groups – one with white non-college educated men and women and one with unmarried women – show that President Obama’s agenda to bring America closer together as a “tight knit family” scored big.  The President’s speech generated strong, positive reactions to policies ranging from investment in infrastructure and college education to a populist agenda that takes on special interest and the wealthy in order to make sure the middle class gets its fair share.  

alt

 “Let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.”  


His proposals resulted not only in major gains on crucial traits and issues, but bolstered the President’s standing as well.  President Obama’s personal favorability improved from a neutral rating (44 percent warm, 44 percent cool) to a net +33 (66 percent warm, 33 percent cool), the largest post-State of the Union shift seen for the President in recent years.  Tonight’s speech clearly inspired our audience of swing voters.

The President comes away from this address with much to celebrate.  In focus groups, voters note that the President was stronger, more confident, and more relaxed than they have seen him recently, and that they liked his positive vision, with one participant concluding that the president was “almost the guy that was elected 6 years ago, that [was] going to do a lot for the country.”

The President was also successful in crafting an agenda that reached across partisan lines.  Despite a deep partisan divide in the November elections and in various issue debates, there was little polarization between Democrats and Republicans throughout the speech, with the Republican dials near or above 50 for most of the President’s address.

The President successfully communicated a strong sense of advocacy for middle class Americans, reflected in big gains on impressions of him as a leader, someone who is on voters’ side, and someone who understands the challenges facing Americans.  Voters also express greater confidence in the President than in Republicans on key issues Obama highlighted in the speech—including growing American industries, jobs and trade, handling issues facing working women and families, finding new ways to get better jobs that pay more, and having good plans for the economy. 

Importantly, the President also appealed to key voters he and Democrats need to win—particularly unmarried women and working class voters.  However, there is more work to do to convince these swing voters that the President and Congress can come together on issues and actually make progress on this ambitious agenda. 

 
 
The Democrats' Turn: Good News for Hillary & How to Reach the White Working Class
Friday, January 16 2015
Attachments:
Download this file (2016 National_January_v6 011515.pdf)Graphs[ ]1870 Kb
Download this file (Dcor National FQ 011115_for web_docx.pdf)Frequency Questionnaire[ ]344 Kb
Download this file (Dcor_WV_Jan poll_Long Memo_1 16 15 v8.pdf)Memo[ ]853 Kb

The 2014 election was a devastating defeat for the Democratic Party, with consequences that may be felt for many years to come. Even so, we wrote in the aftermath of the 2014 election, “Despite the deep losses of 2014, the partisan predispositions of the Democratic coalition remain very much intact. There just is not any reason to think the compositional changes will not continue their long-term trends – and the Rising American Electorate will be key.” This prediction certainly holds true in this survey, as the Obama coalition asserts itself in dramatic fashion. But it is also shocking how quickly other changes produce a profoundly different America than the one that showed up last November.[1]

On almost all measures, Democratic numbers improve on this survey, beginning with voters’ overall mood. Right direction numbers jump nearly 10 points since the election and are likely to improve further with the growing economy and falling price of gasoline. Numbers also rebound for President and the Democratic Party. Democratic messages and Democratic policies outmuscle Republican messages and Republican policy, suggesting room for further advances. Meanwhile, the honeymoon for Boehner and McConnell barely lasted through the wedding reception as negatives for both, and the Republican Party as a whole, grow sharply. Most striking, the Tea Party Republican is back, defining the Republican brand. 

These changes and the emergence of the Obama presidential year electorate leave the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton comfortably ahead of Mitt Romney (49 to 43 percent) and well ahead of Jeb Bush (52 to 40 percent). Voters’ hostility to George Bush’s brother is one of the more notable outcomes of this survey.

Given her support among white college educated women and strong support among most RAE voters, Clinton can win a national election without competing among white non-college voters; but this outcome would likely leave most of the Republican 2014 gains intact. Obviously, a lot can change over the next 22 months, but questions at this point are whether the Democratic presidential candidate can grow and protect her lead, and whether 2016 can build a big enough win to recover congressional and down-ballot losses from the 2014 cycle. 

The answers to those questions depend in large measure on two overlapping dynamics: Democrats’ ability to build on and consolidate their support among RAE voters and Democrats’ ability to improve on their dismal performance among white working class voters. On the combined measure, Clinton opens strong among RAE voters—unmarried women, people of color, youth--winning 64 percent of RAE voters overall and 62 percent of unmarried women. Obama won 67 percent of unmarried women in 2012, however, and Clinton’s margin among white unmarried women (just 1 percent) is unimpressive. The news here is less edifying for Democrats among white working class voters.  

President Obama won 40 percent of these voters in 2008 and 36 percent in 2012, and Democratic Congressional candidates won only 34 percent of the white working class vote last year. Clinton fares no better, winning just 35 percent of white non-college voters and 37 percent of non-college white women on the combined measure. 

Critically, the goals of maximizing support among unmarried women and minimizing Republican support among white non-college voters overlap. Nearly a quarter of white non-college voters are unmarried women. The key to both groups is about getting the economy right. Overall, Democrats lead the Republicans on every issue tested in this survey, except the economy, which is the most important one. White non-college voters and white unmarried women are much more pessimistic about the direction of the country (76 percent wrong track among white non-college voters); both believe the road to the middle class is blocked for them.  Progressives need to understand what they once understood--rising tides do not lift all boats and gains at the macro-economic level do not necessarily improve the economic prospects of these voters. 

Both unmarried white women and white non-college voters prioritize jobs that pay; both focus on protecting Social Security and Medicare and college affordability. Critically, there is no evidence in this survey that the Democratic focus on the “women’s economic agenda” undermines support among white working class voters or white working class men. In fact, some of the gender-specific messages and proposals—equal pay, paid-sick time, help for working mothers—test as well or better among white working class voters as the non-gender-specific proposal. For both groups, this election needs to be about helping working men and women. 

It also needs to be about reform. These are people who pay a lot in taxes, but do not believe the government works in the interests of middle families. They see special interests dominating government, often at their expense. They also see waste and inefficiency and are convinced they do not get their money’s worth out of Washington. Reform messages do as well for Democrats as broader economic messages and work particularly well among white working class voters.  Reform policies constitute the most popular Republican policy proposal tested, and one of the most popular Democratic policies tested among unmarried women. 

In one of the most important and interesting findings in this survey, a reform message opens votes up to a progressive economic narrative. Voters who heard the reform message before hearing the Democratic economic messages were more than 10-points more likely to describe the Democratic framing as “very convincing” as voters who heard the Democratic framing first (43 percent very convincing and 32 percent very convincing, respectively).  

 

For Democrats, this represents an incredibly optimistic study. The road back may not be as long as many in the Party feared.  But this road requires some improvement among white working class voters and some consolidation among base voters like white unmarried women. This means speaking directly to the economic experience of these voters, not the experience of Wall Street, focusing on the plight of the middle class and forwarding a set of policy options that directly improve the economic lives of these still-struggling families. And this road will likely be made much easier if Democrats make a serious effort on a government and campaign reform agenda.  

Read the Full Memo Here


[1] The survey of 950 likely 2016 voters was conducted from January 7-11, 2015. Voters who voted in the 2012 election or registered since were selected from the national voter file. Likely voters were determined based on stated intention of voting in 2016. Data shown in this deck is among all 2016 likely voters unless otherwise noted. Unless otherwise noted, margin of error for the full sample= +/-3.2 percentage points at 95% confidence. Margin of error will be higher among subgroups. 50 percent of respondents were reached by cell phone, in order to account for ever-changing demographics and trying to accurately sample the full American electorate.

 
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