A new white paper argues that conservatism is on its decline, while minorities, young voters, and professionals share of the electorate increases. Despite demographics favoring Democrats, Ruy Teixeira, writes in Demographic Change and the Future of the Parties, published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, “if the Democrats fail to produce—whether through ineffective programs, fiscal meltdown, or both—even an unreformed GOP will remain very competitive despite the many demographic changes that are disadvantaging the party.”
The area to watch, of course, is young working-class voters. There is no great polling devoted just to this group, nor really a great definition, but piecing together the various polling reveals the significant opportunity for Democrats. Obama was able to win white 25-29 year olds by 12 points, while Kerry lost this same group by 28 points. The union advantage especially matters here. According to a post-election analysis for the AFL-CIO by Peter Hart, while Obama lost white non-college voters by 18 points, those who belonged to a union favored Obama by 23 points. Democrats have been winning among the millennial generation for several cycles now, and according to a recent poll commissioned by NDN’s 21st Century American Project and analyzed by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, authors of Millennial Makeover, young voters are not going anywhere. More importantly in terms of long-term trends, minority young voters overwhelmingly supported Obama: young Hispanics favored Obama 76 to 19%, and young blacks favored Obama 95 to 4%.
However the Democrats are running the risk of alienating these groups by allowing the Tea Party to drive the debate and not fighting for their priorities. According to the NDN poll, the economy is the number one issue – not surprisingly – but the national deficit is not viewed as an immediate critical issue for these groups. Only38% of Millennials ranked this as a critical issue, along with 41% of blacks, and 45% of Hispanics. Additionally, young working-class voters are worried that the financial reform legislation won’t go far enough (African Americans 49%, Hispanics 47% and Millennials 43%. The poll reveals similar results for education, health care, and energy reform, which less important for older voters but very important for young working-class folks. Winograd and Hais summarize: “Components of the electorate that identify most strongly with the Democratic Party are much more likely to want to see [activist government focused on promoting economic equality] reflected in legislation on such issues as health care, education, and off shore drilling.”
These results show that young working-class voters are Democrats for the losing. Healthcare reform, the stimulus, Lilly Ledbetter Act, Craig Becker to the NLRB, all were great for working-class voters. As is the continued fight for immigration reform, energy reform, and Wall Street reform. With unemployment compensation and the jobs bill, conservative Democrats need to stop playing to the Republican base and begin fighting for the voters that got them there. If Democrats ignore the needs of young working-class voters they deserve to lose.