AP poll shows working-class white voters swinging back to GOP; Update: Adults?

Two pollsters bring more bad news to Democrats. A new AP poll shows that the constituency that lifted Democrats to victories in 2006 and 2008 has all but abandoned them in 2010.  Working class white voters now favor Republicans by 22 points, a 11-point swing in two years:


Desperate for jobs and cool toward President Barack Obama, working-class whites are flocking to Republicans, turning a group long wary of Democrats into an even bigger impediment to the party’s drive to keep control of Congress.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows whites without four-year college degrees preferring GOP candidates by twice the margin of the last two elections, when Democrats made significant gains in the House and Senate. The poll, conducted last month, found this group favoring GOP hopefuls 58 percent to 36 percent — a whopping 22 percentage-point gap.

In 2008, when Obama won the presidency, they favored GOP congressional candidates by 11 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters. When Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006, the Republican edge was 9 percentage points. …

Though accustomed to trailing among working-class whites, Democrats can hardly afford further erosion from a group that accounts for about 4 in 10 voters nationally. Their GOP preference is in contrast to whites with college degrees, who the AP-GfK Poll shows are split evenly between the two parties’ candidates, and to minorities, who decisively back Democrats.

Even that last assertion may need a little qualification.  Hispanic voters, which are a less homogeneous voting block than African-Americans, still strongly favor Democrats in general.  However, a new Pew poll says that loyalty isn’t firm when looking at specific races, the Washington Post reports:


There is good news and bad news for Democrats in a new poll ahead of the 2010 elections – Latinos support the party, but about half of those questioned say they might not show up at the polls on Nov. 2.

The gap between support and motivation provides an opening for Republicans, who have had an up-and-down relationship with Latinos over the last few years:George W. Bush made inroads, but John McCain then lost ground to Barack Obama. Recently, the GOP has done little to court these voters on issues such as education, immigration and health-care legislation.

But Republicans hold one big advantage over Democrats in key races this cycle that could matter more than any one issue – they have more high-profile Latino candidates running for statewide offices.

So even though Latinos break heavily for congressional Democrats over Republicans, in general – 65 percent to 22 percent, according to a Pew Hispanic Center poll released Tuesday – the GOP has a clear shot at attracting these voters in individual races.

The enthusiasm gap is a big problem.  Forty-four percent of Hispanic Republicans have given the election “a lot of thought,” sixteen points higher than their Democratic counterparts.  In more bad news for Democrats, Latino voters are less motivated than those in the general population, Pew reports, with only 32% giving a lot of thought to the midterms as opposed to 50% overall.  Only 51% say they will be certain to vote, as opposed to 70% of overall registered voters.


Last week, Gallup reported on the same phenomenon, and assumed that the problem between Hispanic voters and Democrats was immigration.  Pew also suggests this, but their own data shows immigration only fourth on a list of priorities for Latino voters.  First, interestingly, is education, followed by jobs, health care, and the federal budget deficit.

If this change is driven by anything, it’s the economy, just as it is with the working-class white voters who share those economic pressures with many Hispanic voters.  In fact, this could be a “post-ethnicity” election cycle, where the economy and national debt transcend all other considerations.

Update: I missed this earlier, but an e-mailer pointed out that the AP survey was a poll of adults, not registered or likely voters.  That makes it even worse for Democrats.  When exactly will the AP start applying likely-voter screens to its surveys — on November 3rd?  Thanks to Erik S for the heads-up.

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