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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“Americans have been sour on the economy since President Joe Biden was sworn into office,” Monica Potts writes ink “Voters don’t like Biden’s economy — but why?at 538/Abc News. “As we head into an election season that is likely to be a 2020 rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump, voters give Republicans and Trump an edge on economic issues. An April 12-14 poll from Echelon Insights found that 57 percent of all voters somewhat or strongly disapproved of the way Biden is handling the economy, and favored Trump on making the economy work better by 48 percent to 40 percent. That’s only a recent example of what surveys have routinely shown: Voters aren’t happy with Biden’s handling of the economy….But what exactly are voters disapproving of? What do they mean when they talk about the economy? Therein lies a disconnect between most economic indicators that economists consider — things like GDP, the unemployment rate, job growth and inflation — which are all looking up, and how voters feel. When voters measure economic well-being, they’re much more likely to use more personal metrics, such as how easily their family can meet their basic needs. That can be more of a feeling than an exact calculation, and right now, the Biden reelection campaign is battling the general sense that everything has gotten a little bit worse….Partnering with 538, PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research firm, spoke to 16 voters in two different focus groups to ask more about what they mean when they talk about “the economy.”* The answer was mostly that they felt they’d been better off financially four years ago than they were today, and a lot of that had to do with the cost of living, including persistent high prices at the grocery store and gas pump and for bigger costs like housing and higher education. The two groups were made up of undecided voters who were leaning toward Trump and undecided voters leaning toward Biden. In general, most Trump leaners said that Trump was better on the economy. Biden leaners, meanwhile, wanted to vote for Biden despite their feelings about the economy.” Potts shares some revealing quotes from the interviews and concludes, “The truth is, few could point to the exact economic problems they wanted to see resolved, or name the tactics they thought Biden or Trump could employ to help resolve them. This was true even when it came to issues like retirement savings that affected them personally. In general, they are feeling the burden of hardships and want something to be done, but those general vibes are difficult to address….Economic sentiment has been improving in recent months, but it’s still relatively low among most voters. It will likely remain a challenge for the Biden campaign, and a plus for Trump’s campaign, barring huge shifts in the months ahead.”

From “A Huge Gender Gap Is Emerging Among Young Voters” by Thomas B. Edsall at The New York Times: “It has become clear that one constituency — young voters, 18 to 29 years old — will play a key, if not pivotal, role in determining who will win the Biden-Trump rematch….Four years ago, according to exit polls, voters in this age group kept Trump from winning re-election. They cast ballots decisively supporting Biden, 60 to 36, helping to give him a 4.46-point victoryamong all voters, 51.31 percent to 46.85 percent….This year, Biden cannot count on winning Gen Z by such a large margin. There is substantial variance in poll data reported for the youth vote, but to take one example, the NBC News national survey from April found Trump leading 43 to 42….Young voters’ loyalty to the Democratic Party has been frayed by two distinct factors: opposition to the intensity of the Israeli attack on Hamas in Gaza and frustration with an economy many see as stacked against them….Equally important, a large gender gap has emerged, with young men far less likely to support Biden than young women….Bill McInturff, a co-founder of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies — which conducts surveys for NBC along with the Democratic firm Hart Research — provided The Times with data covering a broad range of recent political and demographic trends….Tracking the partisan identification and ideology of 18-to-34-year-olds, the McInturff analyses show that from 2012 to 2023, women became increasingly Democratic, going from 55 percent identifying as Democratic and 29 percent Republican in 2012 to 60 and 22 in 2023. The shift was even more striking in the case of ideology, going from 32 percent liberal and 29 percent conservative to 51 percent liberal and 17 percent conservative in 2023….Among young men, the Democratic advantage in partisan identification fell from nine points in 2012 to five points in 2023.”

Edsall continues, “What gives? I asked the Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who recently joined the Biden campaign’s polling team, a job she also held in 2020. She sent a detailed reply by email:

Three reasons. First and foremost is the abortion issue and all the aspects of reproductive health, including medication abortion, I.V.F., birth control and criminalizing abortion. Young men are very pro-abortion and birth control, but young women really vote the issue.

Second is style and respect. Young men are not as troubled by the chaotic and divisive style of Trump, while young women want people to be respected, including themselves, want stability and are very concerned about division and the potential for violence. Young women think Trump’s style is an embarrassment abroad, a poor role model for their children and dangerous for the country. Younger men, especially blue-collar, have a grudging respect for his strength and “tell it like it is” attitude.

Third is the economy. Young men, especially blue-collar and people of color, feel left behind in this economy. They do not feel things have been delivered to them. They do not know anything about what this administration has done. Younger women are much more committed to a role for government to help people like themselves as a foundational view. They don’t know much more about the economic programs than young men, but they tend to respond more favorably to Democrats in general on the economy. Younger men also feel more left behind on the economy and more sense of grievance than young women do who are also increasingly dominating college and higher education.”

Edsall adds: “The Times/Siena poll conducted April 7 to 11 asked voters “How much do you think Donald Trump respects women?” A majority of men, 54 percent, replied that Trump does respect women (23 percent “a lot” and 31 percent “some”), while 42 percent said he does not (14 percent “not much” and 28 percent “not at all”)….Women replied quite differently, with 68 percent saying Trump does not respect women (24 percent “not much,” 44 percent “not at all”) and 31 percent saying Trump does respect women (15 percent “a lot” and 16 percent “some”).” Also, notes Edssall, “Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and Silents and What They Mean for America’s Future,” wrote by email that the question of why there is such a gender divide “is tough to answer,” but she made some suggestions: “It could be that the changes on the left have driven young men away from the Democratic Party. For example, the idea that identities can be divided into ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ may have alienated some young men.”….Another likely factor, according to Twenge, is:

Fewer young men get college degrees than young women, and in the last 10 to 15 years the parties have split by education, with more of those without a college degree conservative and Republican. This appears even among high school seniors, where young men who do not plan to attend a four-year college are 30 percent more likely to identify as conservative than young men who are planning to get a college degree.

In an article published in January on the Business Insider website, “The War Within Gen Z,” Daniel A. Cox, the director of the Survey Center on American Life at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote:

Something strange is happening between Gen Z men and women. Over the past decade, poll after poll has found that young people are growing more and more divided by gender on a host of political issues. Since 2014, women between the ages of 18 and 29 have steadily become more liberal each year, while young men have not. Today, female Gen Zers are more likely than their male counterparts to vote, care more about political issues and participate in social movements and protests.”

If you see this gender rift between young voters as a a potential way for the Biden-Harris campaign to survive the polarization generated by the Mideast violence, you are probably not alone. You can bet that there will be video ads showing young women saying something like “I’m not happy with all of the Administration’s policies,. But Trump and the Republicans want to cancel women’s reproductive freedom, and I’m sure as hell going to vote against that.”

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