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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Polls Illuminate White Working Class Concerns

Ron Brownstein has a couple of recent posts tracking white working class political attitudes that should be of interest to presidential campaign strategists. In “Working Class Whites Still Wary of Obamacare,” he explains:

The problem, as on almost all issues relating to government’s role, is centered on whites, particularly those in the working class. According to figures provided by Kaiser, in their latest survey, 35 percent of non-white respondents believe that the law will benefit their family. That compares to just 14 percent who believe they will be worse off (the remaining 39 percent don’t think it will make much difference). Whites offer nearly a mirror image: just 18 percent believe the law will leave their family better off, compared to 38 percent who believe they will be worse off as a result.
The skepticism among whites is most concentrated among whites without a college degree. Just one-in-seven of them believe health care reform will personally benefit them or their family. Among college whites about one-in-four expect to personally benefit from the reform.
Gallup Polling in March 2010 found that while few whites expected to personally benefit from the law, a majority of them believed it would benefit low-income families and those without health insurance. That suggested they viewed health care reform primarily as a welfare program that would help the needy but not their own families. Kaiser didn’t replicate that question in their latest survey, but it may have detected an echo of that sentiment in the finding that twice as many whites believed the law would benefit children than thought it would help their own family.

Ironically, adds Brownstein, “…non-college whites are uninsured at much higher rates than those with degrees; for that reason, the law would personally benefit far more of them than the college-educated whites who are somewhat more open to it.” Yet, “the targets of that effort remain entirely unconvinced that the law will benefit them. Rather than ameliorating their skepticism that government will defend their interests, it appears to have only intensified it.”
Brownstein warns that the skepticism about the ACA is “another brick on the load Obama is carrying with white working class voters, who appear poised in polls to reject him at levels no Democratic presidential nominee has experienced since 1984.”
In another post, “How Diversity Divides White America,” Brownstein addresses white working class attitudes towards immigrants revealed in the just released Pew Research 2012 Values Survey:

Among college-educated whites who identify as Democrats-an increasingly central pillar of the party’s coalition-over four-in-five say that the immigrants do not threaten American values. But nearly two-thirds of Republicans without a college degree-an increasingly central pillar of the GOP coalition-do consider immigrants a threat to American traditions…That overwhelming unease among the blue-collar (and older) white voters central to GOP electoral prospects today represents a huge hurdle for the Republican strategists who want the party to expand its Hispanic outreach.

One conclusion to be drawn from both of Brownstein’s articles is that the Obama campaign should upgrade it’s outreach to white workers as a large constituency which benefits from Obama’s reforms, yet remains unpersuaded — doubt which the Republicans are eagerly prepared to reinforce in their ad campaigns.

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