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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his NYT opinion essay, “One Thing Keeping Democrats Up at Night,” Thomas B. Edsall writes: “The composition of the minority electorate in the United States is rapidly changing. This constituency was once dominated by Black voters loyal to the Democratic Party. Now, African American clout has been eclipsed or at least threatened by Hispanic, Asian American and other nonwhite voters whose less firm loyalty to the Democratic Party lowers the party’s Election Day margins among people of color overall….This multiracial, multiethnic population constitutes one-third of the electorate, according to an article published by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, “The Transformation of the American Electorate,” which was written by Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory….“Eight months out from the election, polls are still suggesting 2024 will be the largest racial realignment since the Civil Rights Act was passed,” Adam Carlson, a data analyst, posted on X (formerly Twitter) on March 5….Three days later, John Burn-Murdoch, the chief data reporter for The Financial Times, contended in “American Politics Is Undergoing a Racial Realignment” that

many of America’s nonwhite voters have long held much more conservative views than their voting patterns would suggest. The migration we’re seeing today is not so much natural Democrats becoming disillusioned but natural Republicans realizing they’ve been voting for the wrong party.

On March 15, the polling expert Nate Silver, citing Burn-Murdoch’s racial realignment article, posted “Democrats Are Hemorrhaging Support With Voters of Color” on his Substack.”

Edsall notes further, “Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts who oversees data collection at the Cooperative Election Study, described his views in an email:

What I see is some fluctuation over the past two decades coinciding with unique presidential candidates, no major realignment. A lot of what people are prognosticating about is something that current polls suggest might happen in November, but at this point I don’t think we can say that there has been any kind of major shift yet.

Along similar lines, Jacob Grumbach, a political scientist at the University of Washington, replied by email to my inquiry about racial realignment:

The overall takeaway is that we’ve seen some Latino movement toward Trump in some parts of the country and potentially some Asian American movement as well. It’s an important shift, but it’s uncertain how durable it is, and it’s not unseen in earlier periods, such as George W. Bush in 2004.

There was universal agreement among those I contacted that recent polling data is problematic for the Biden campaign, which is reflected in the RealClearPolitics analysis of the 13 most recent surveys, which, in aggregate, give Trump a 1.7 percentage point lead over Biden, 47.2 to 45.5.”

Edsall adds, “Compare some of the results of the March 10 to 12 Economist/YouGov poll of 1,559 adults with those in the March 9 to 12 Civiqs/Daily Kos survey of 1,324 registered voters….YouGov found Biden leading Trump 68 to 15 percent among Black Americans, 47 to 36 among Hispanic Americans and 56 to 29 among 18-to-29-year-olds. Civiqs found much higher levels of support for Biden among Black people (79 to 8) and Hispanics (71 to 17), but among 18-to-34-year-olds in the Civiqs survey, Trump had a substantial lead (49 to 36) over Biden….Carlson has aggregated polling trends for subgroups by combining data collected in February 2024 from 10 polling firms to get a sample size of 11,288 people, including 1,134 Black voters, 1,161 Hispanic voters and 1,003 young voters ages 18 to 29….The trends in these subgroups provide little comfort to the Biden campaign….Among Black voters, Biden led Trump by 55 points (73 to 18), far less than his 83-point margin in 2020. Among Hispanics, Biden led by six points (48 to 42), compared with a 24-point advantage in 2020. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, Biden led by eight points (50 to 42) compared with 24 points in 2020….Despite the erosion of Black, Hispanic and youth support since 2020, Biden remained competitive in Carlson’s data compilation — just two points behind Trump (47 to 45) among all respondents. This was possible because Biden made modest gains among very large subgroups: 1.3 points among 2,014 white college graduates, 0.6 point among 2,103 white non-college grads, four points among 923 voters ages 50 to 64, 1.8 points among the 2,208 voters 65 or older.”

Edsall writes, “I asked Carlson how he could justify using “realignment” to describe what’s been happening, since that suggests a full-scale partisan conversion of the country or of a major constituency, as in the 1932-36 realignment that saw the electorate go from majority Republican to majority Democratic or the post-civil-rights realignment that saw the white South go from majority Democratic to majority Republican….Carlson responded:

If what we’re seeing in recent polls regarding shifts among young, Black and Latino voters ends up happening in November, in my view “realignment” is the right term. It won’t be like 1932 or 1964, where the parties essentially swapped coalitions for the New Deal and civil rights, respectively.

Essentially it would be a continuation of the trends we saw in 2020 among Latinos, a sizable but not earth-shattering shift among Black voters (though even in the most pessimistic assessments Biden will still win at least 75 percent of Black voters) and a shift to roughly even among younger voters from a strong Dem advantage.

Carlson had this caveat: “For what it’s worth, I am skeptical that these swings will be this large once all is said and done in November, but that’s neither provable nor falsifiable until then.”…Data from the Cooperative Election Study, which conducts surveys of more than 50,000 voters every election cycle, does not support the case for a realignment of any major voting bloc….Perhaps most significantly, more detailed election study data breaking down voting trends by race, ethnicity and ideology shows that the defections of Black and Hispanic voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party are heavily concentrated among those who describe themselves as conservative….An estimated 16 percent of Black voters are conservative, and from 2012, when Barack Obama was at the top of the Democratic ticket, to 2022, their level of support for Democratic House candidates fell from 84.2 to 47.7 percent.” Edsall mulls over more data, and observes, “There is evidence that a substantial share of Black, Hispanic and other voters from multiracial, multiethnic backgrounds oppose some elements of the Democrats’ liberal social and cultural agenda.” Edsall concludes, “Voting data and polling data are in conflict, which confounds analysis — tiny shifts among white voters can still have an outsize impact. Biden knows he has to raise both the level of his support and the level of turnout among America’s minority voters if Democrats are going to have a decent chance of beating Trump.”

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