The characteristics of the Democratic elite are best reflected in studies of delegates to the Democratic National Convention. For years, CBS surveyed these delegates but stopped doing so in 2008. Still, even without data from 2012 and 2016, the CBS surveys show a consistent pattern. Delegates are drawn overwhelmingly from the liberal upper middle class. In 2008, 70 percent of the delegates reported earning $75,000 or more per year, compared to 27 percent of Democratic voters at that time.
The Democratic delegates were well to the left of Democratic voters, a trend that continues. Seven out of ten delegates said that abortion should be generally available and 20 percent said abortion should be available under “stricter limits”; 43 percent of Democratic voters supported generally available abortion and 39 percent said under “stricter limits.”
More than 8 out of 10 Democratic delegates in 2008 agreed that “government should do more to solve national problems,” while 54 percent of Democratic voters shared that view, according to American National Election Studies. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic coalition clearly reflected the same priorities.
As the Democratic elite and the Democratic electorate as a whole become increasingly well educated and affluent, the party faces a crucial question. Can it maintain its crucial role as the representative of the least powerful, the marginalized, the most oppressed, many of whom belong to disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority groups — those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder?