A Great Realignment?
As Democrats gain college-educated voters, they're losing Hispanics and men.
Recent Axios addition Josh Kraushaar, a longtime political analyst, crunches the numbers from several recent polls and sees something of a political realignment occurring in American politics.
In yesterday’s installment, “The Democratic electorate’s seismic shift,” he tells us that “Democrats now have a bigger advantage among white college graduates than they do with nonwhite voters, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.” As a result, he contends,
We’re seeing a political realignment in real time.
• Democrats are becoming the party of upscale voters concerned more about issues like gun control and abortion rights.
• Republicans are quietly building a multiracial coalition of working-class voters, with inflation as an accelerant.
In the Times/Siena poll, Ds hold a 20-point advantage over Rs among white college-educated voters — but are statistically tied among Hispanics. Hispanic voters backed Democrats by a nearly 50-point margin in the 2018 midterms. In the 2016 congressional elections, Dems lost white voters with a bachelor’s degree.
He continues the analysis in today’s hit, “The great realignment.”
Shifts in the demographics of the two parties’ supporters — taking place before our eyes — are arguably the biggest political story of our time.
The big picture: Republicans are becoming more working class and a little more multiracial. Democrats are becoming more elite and a little more white.
Why it matters: Democrats’ hopes for retaining power rest on nonwhite voters remaining a reliable part of the party’s coalition. Democrats’ theory of the case collapses if Republicans make even incremental gains with those voters. Even small inroads with Hispanic voters could tip a number of Democratic-held swing seats to the GOP.
What the data show: Democrats are statistically tied with Republicans among Hispanics on the generic congressional ballot, according to a New York Times-Siena College poll out this week. Dems held a 47-point edge with Hispanics during the 2018 midterms.
• An NBC News poll in April found Democrats held a 38-point lead among women with college degrees — up from 10 points from 2010. Democrats lost ground with nearly every other demographic group tested in the survey.
• Nearly every House pickup in the 2020 election came from a woman or non-white challenger. The GOP’s ability to win back a House majority this year rests on the success of candidates breaking the party’s typical mold.
We’ve been seeing this play out for a bit but we tend to explain away seeming anomalies as one-offs. Yes, Trump did better with Hispanics in 2016 than Romney did in 2012 despite constantly saying racist things. But, hey, Romney was running against a person of color and Trump was running against a woman, so cultural biases could be implicated. But we saw the same thing in 2020.
Again, it seems bizarre. Trump’s border policy was widely decried as racist and cruel. And yet they shifted in his direction. Kraushaar seems to attribute this to class experiences.
Between the lines: Add the reality of growing inflation and worries of recession, and you see why Democrats are losing ground with a core part of their coalition.
• Wealthier Americans aren’t feeling the day-to-day hardship hitting the working class.
• This week’s Times/Siena poll found affluent voters care about gun control and abortion rights. Working-class voters are squarely focused on the economy.
Reality check: Suburban districts still make up the majority of congressional battlegrounds, and the GOP’s Trumpified brand remains a threat to limit their gains.
• Republican candidates holding extreme views on abortion or echoing Trump’s election lies are still toxic in the suburbs.
• Since the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, Democrats have made small gains in national polls.
The bottom line: The GOP is trading soccer moms for Walmart dads.
To some extent, this makes sense. If you’re making $100,000 a year or more, an extra $100 a month for gas or $50 a week for groceries is annoying but not life-altering. And, while abortion rights objectively impact poor and minority women more than affluent white women—who can easily travel to another state if necessary—they’re simply not top of mind if you’re struggling to make ends meet.
I have to think a lot of this shift is cultural, too. Increasingly, working class and professional people simply see the world in vastly different ways on everything from things like defunding the police to whether men can get pregnant. And I would think a significant number of Black and Hispanic voters see the emphasis on these issues as counterproductive.