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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Battleground Poll: Democrats Competitive in 2014

Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, and Alex Dunn have completed a strategic analysis of a new George Washington University Battleground poll of likely voters. Among their conclusions:

With the 2014 elections just over six months away, the midterms remain very tightly matched. In this most recent Battleground poll, Democrats have closed January’s 2 ‐ point deficit on the generic congressional ballot, and are now running neck and neck with Republican candidates nationally (43% Republican, 43% Democrat, 14% undecided). This dynamic, among other factors, substantiates the argument that the Democrats are competitively positioned for 2014, despite the gloomy conventional wisdom about the Party’s chances. The Democrats enjoy double ‐ digit advantages on key issues, including standing up for the middle class, representing middle class values, Social Security, and Medicare. Voters also see the Democrats as better when it comes to solving problems and the Party remains competitive on jobs, the economy, and even taxes. The data also reinforce the notion that congressional Democrats are making progress shifting out of a defensive posture on health care, both as the White House goes on an aggressive–and so far successful–full court press to encourage new sign ‐ ups, and as Americans increasingly come to see through the Obamacare spin and understand the benefits of the new law. Moreover, we see in this study evidence that Democrats’ efforts to define the elections around populist economic issues–raising the minimum wage, ensuring equal pay for working women, and strengthening the safety net of Social Security and Medicare–are finding traction among the 2014 electorate.

But the authors note that Dems face a formidable challenge:

…Turnout will be a major test for the Democrats. Fully 64% of Republicans are extremely likely to vote compared to 57% of Democrats, and that number falls to 36% among 18 ‐ 29 year olds and 38% among single women.

The authors cite “serious divisions within their ranks” among Republicans. Further, “while “68% of Democrats are happy with the direction of their Party, just 33% of Republicans are happy with the direction of their Party.” Lake, Gotoff and Dunn add that “Even stronger are perceptions that this country’s economic rules favor the rich (64% agree, 34% disagree), and a resounding majority believes the middle class has it the toughest in America (72% agree, 25% disagree)…This basic economic framework…has taken hold as the central narrative for understanding our economy by every major and minor subgroup in the data, with the exception of Republicans (though even 41% of GOPers believe that economic rules favor the rich).” In addition:

“The Battleground data reveal a compelling desire for the government to act in order to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else (59% agree, 41% strongly ; 38% disagree), a direct rebuttal to Republican claims that the American people are not looking for solutions that create a different kind of economy. This call to action is voiced by 59% of independents, 84% of Democrats, and even 32% of Republicans. In fact, we find striking consensus around the desire–the need–for government to intervene on grounds of economic fairness. Women (+31 agree) and men (+9 agree) want intervention. Every age cohort in this data wants intervention, ranging from voters under 30 (+25) to seniors (+5). The same is true for whites (+11), moderates (+53), independents (+23), and by a whopping 26 ‐ point margin those voters who are undecided in the congressional contests. To say this is not a consensus position would be to ignore bold data to the contrary. …Not only do voters believe that Democrats are the Party more likely to stand up for the middle class (54% Democrats, 36% Republicans), but by similar margins that Democrats more closely represent middle class values (52% Democrats, 39% Republicans). This is no coincidence, of course–we have long found a Democratic advantage on the middle class. But neither are these casual advantages, and they may represent an intensifying effect as congressional Democrats (and the President) make the case for policies that would reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else: raising the minimum wage, investing in basic infrastructure projects designed to put Americans back to work, making college and job training more affordable for America’s youth, putting an end to corporate welfare, and requiring the very wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.

“The Democrats must pivot from rebutting attacks on the Affordable Care Act to an agenda of bold economic action,” say the authors. “The Congressional Trial Heat and Views of the Parties The last two months have ushered in a number of encouraging signs for Democrats, and

The modest 2 ‐ point improvement in the generic congressional ballot obscures more dramatic movement underneath. Moderates have swung toward Democratic candidates in a big way, supporting them over Republicans by more than a two ‐ to ‐ one margin (46% Democrats, 21% Republicans, and 34% undecided). Independents are now closely split in their support: 31% backing the GOP, 29% the Democrats, with a formidable 40% of independents undecided. Seniors, who supported Republicans by seven points in January, now divide their loyalties between Democrats (43%) and Republicans (46%). The gender gap is alive and well, with women supporting the Democrats by a 10 ‐ point margin and men the Republicans by a similarly impressive 12 ‐ point margin. The marital gap is enormous: married men are voting Republican by a 22 ‐ point margin, while married women split (R+1). Single women are voting Democratic by a whopping 36 ‐ point margin, and single men by 13 points….Democrats should also capitalize on several important strengths as they prepare their candidates for November. Voters put their confidence in Democrats over Republicans on key issue dimensions, including standing up for the middle class (D+18), Medicare (D+14), representing middle class values (D+13), and Social Security (D+10). Voters who are undecided in the congressional race follow similar patterns. That the voters trust Democrats to protect Social Security and Medicare is no small token given the advanced age of the electorate in a midterm year; voters 60 and over afford Democrats a 7 ‐ point advantage on Social Security and Medicare

Lake, Gotoff and Dunn avoid making “sweeping predictions for November.” But they urge Democrats to “capitalize on several important strengths” and advocate “a bold economic policy agenda.” It’s an encouraging poll for Democrats, and if it’s on target, 2014 could be a precendent-busting midterm election.

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