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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sargent: Most Blue Collar Whites Like OWS

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom being parroted by conservatives, Greg Sargent has obtained some interesting polling data indicating that most blue collar whites, perhaps the largest swing voter constituency, approve of the Occupy Wall St. protests. As Sargent explains:

It’s become an article of faith among some conservative and even neutral commentators: If Obama and Dems embrace Occupy Wall Street, they risk driving away droves of blue collar white voters in swing states who are crucial to Obama’s reelection. The argument: These voters tend to be culturally alienated by the theatrics of such protests, just as they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and won’t think Occupy Wall Street’s brand of populism is in their own interests — so Obama and Dems align themselves with the movement at their extreme peril.
But I’ve obtained some new polling that seriously complicates this argument: In two new national polls, the cross tabs show that majorities of blue collar whites do, in fact, back the protests.

Sargent asked for and got data from United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, and Time magazine’s poll revealing the views of non-college-educated whites, “a reasonably good category for judging blue collar white sentiment.” The results showed:

In the National Journal poll, 56 percent of non-college-educated whites agree with the protesters; only 31 percent disagree.
In the Time poll, 54 percent of non-college-educated men, and 48 percent of non-college educated women, view the protests favorably. (That’s roughly 51 percent overall.) Meanwhile,only 29 percent of non-college-educated men, and only 19 percent of non-college-educated women, disagree. (That’s roughly 23 percent.)
The sample sizes were reasonable, too: In the National Journal poll, 384 non-college-educated respondents were polled; in the Time poll, 379 were surveyed.

Sargent acknowledges the problems with interpretation: “These may be low information voters. They may be reacting to the target of the protests more than registering agreement with the protesters themselves. Occupy Wall Street doesn’t have a specific agenda, which makes it easier for people to back it, and things could change once it starts making specific demands.”
He notes also that President Obama’s approval rating with this demographic is still very low. But, as Sargent adds, the evidence he insightfully unearthed nonetheless suggests that “the protesters’ message may be resonating among voters who are supposedly certain to be alienated by the protests.”
Conservatives seem to be in denial, longing for the good old days when they could get away with the even then simplistic contention that social protesters and white workers were separated by a vast cultural divide into two very different political tribes. That’s not to say that the poll numbers will hold indefinitely, as Sargent notes. But it doesn’t look like the ‘hardhats vs. hippies’ meme is going to stick this time.

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