Fun with Polling Report

You don't have to be a subscriber to find some amazing stuff on this truly great website. I recommend spending some free time in the American Scene archives. Here are just two of the gems you can dig up:

ABC News Poll. August 16-22, 1999. N=506 adults nationwide. MoE 4.5

"Now if you were to think about specific things that have been invented. What would you say is the greatest invention of the century?"

Automobile    12
Electricity       9
Telephone     9
(There were other responses to this poll--these three were my favorite.)

CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 15-17, 2000. N=1,150 adults nationwide, MoE 3


                          All       18-29     30-44    45-64  65 & up   
"Looking back at the war in Vietnam, do you think we..."
Did the right thing        24       31        26        21       19
Should have stayed out     60       55        58        67       61
Don't Know                 16       14        16        12       20

"Which side did the United States support in the war?"
North Vietnam             18         22        24        13       8
South Vietnam             57         47        53        66       60
Don't Know                25         31        23        21       32

That's right--in 2000 only 50% of people under 45 could name which government America supported during the Vietnam War. However, only 15% of people under 45 said they didn't know whether participating in the war was a good idea or not.

Don't let not knowing anything about what happened prevent you from forming an opinion America.

Altering the Electorate

Since the rise of the moderate and conservative factions of the Democratic Party in the late 1980's, it has become regularly accepted party dogma that it is necessary to change the Democratic Party in order to appeal to business, "moderates" and "swing voters." Crudely, the basic proposition behind this philosophy goes like this:

In order to appeal to "moderates,""swing voters," and business leaders, Democrats need to pass laws that appeal to such people.

 I am not going to debate this proposition right now. Instead, I would like to offer a different tactic:

When in power, Democrats need to pass laws that structurally alter the electorate and make it more friendly to progressive ideals.

The next time there is either a Democratic President or Congress, here are some legislative suggestions that may not appeal to business, swing voters or "moderates," but would go a long way to toward a structural realignment of the electorate favorable to progressive politicians:

Pass national, public and private-sector card check.
As a union organizer I am biased, but I cannot think of a single piece of legislation that over the long term would improve the lives of more Americans or better allow for a future, progressive America to come into being. It is entirely possible that if national public and private sector card check were passed in 2005, by 2025 union membership as a percentage of the workforce would triple to around 40%.

There are few, if any, better demographic indicators of how a region will vote than union membership as a percentage of the workforce. In 2000, Al Gore won 20 states. Only two of those states were not in the top twenty of all states in terms of union membership as a percentage of the workforce.  Just imagine how politics in this country would change if nationwide union membership was three times its current level. Just imagine how the power structure in this country would change. It is Holy Grail kind of stuff.

Universal Voter Registration
While states have a significant amount of control over voting eligibility, it would not be impossible to pass legislation guaranteeing a person's right to vote simply based upon being an American citizen--no registration required, no circumstances under which it can be revoked. Perhaps a constitutional amendment would be necessary. Still, by outlawing disenfranchisement for any cause, this legislation would probably significantly increase the percentage of non-white voters in the electorate.

In 2000, according to CNN exit polls, only 22% of minorities voted for Bush. However, due to extreme voter disenfranchisement (based significantly upon recent crime legislation and criminal prosecution patterns), minorities only made up 20% of the voting population. According to the 2000 U.S. census, non-Hispanic whites constituted 69.1% of the population. Assuming both the census and the CNN exit polls are correct, had whites and non-whites voted in equal proportion to their percentage of the population as a whole, Gore would have received 52.18% of the vote, and Bush would only have received 44.05%--a 7.6% shift to Gore.  

D.C. and Puerto Rican Statehood
While public sector card check and universal voter registration can be passed on state levels by Democratic Governors and legislators in lieu of Federal legislation, adding new states to the country requires Federal approval. If D.C. statehood is not passed the next time Democrats control the House, Senate and White House, the party should fold up tents. With D.C. statehood, 600,000 citizens who have committed no crime other than living in D.C. would be allowed to vote in Congressional elections. This is not even to mention that it would bring the Democrats one seat closer to a majority in the House, and put two Senate seats in the bag.

Puerto Rican Statehood is trickier, since within the last decade Puerto Rican voters have narrowly rejected becoming a state on two occasions (FWIW, independence never received more than 10% of the vote in either referendum). Further, Puerto Rico has its own political parties, so it is not clear whether Puerto Rican statehood would make the electorate more progressive or not.  Still, if Puerto Rico and D.C. were both states, it is quite possible that Tom Daschle would still be majority leader, that Democrats would only be three or four seats down in the House, and that Kerry would have eight more electoral votes as  part of his base come November.

**

I do not dispute that it is often necessary to appear "moderate" in order to win elections. However, sometimes looking tough on crime results in massive disenfranchisement of your own voters. Other times, "not bowing to Big Labor" weakens your most powerful supporter while further strengthening some of the most powerful supporters of your advisory. Elections are not all about image. Organization, material power and the demographic structure of the electorate are also extremely important. For Democrats to oppose D.C. statehood, private sector card check, and universal voter registration is to engage in slow, long-term suicide. If, in order to look "moderate," you help pass a law that structurally tilts the electorate in favor of conservatives, it will not be long before you are once again viewed as a flaming liberal.

Update: I produced a diary defining card-check and listing some of its advantages.

Two Perspectives on Youth Voting

James Carville: "We're supposed to pay great homage to the youth vote, but I don't see any significant mobilization among young people in the country right now. The youth vote is less important than the elderly vote, because the old people actually vote."

VERSUS

Salon:

Wooing the much coveted 18-to 24-year-old demographic is always a priority for candidates (and an incredibly daunting task: youth turnout in national elections has declined by 13 percent since 1972, the first year 18-year-olds could vote), but this year it's more important than ever. There's the sheer size of Gen Y, for one: There are 24 million citizens between 18 and 24, slightly more than in 2000. And they're seemingly up for grabs: a whopping 41 percent identify as independent, while the rest skew more Democrat than Republican -- but the difference is slight. Perhaps as a result of the 2000 election, when it became apparent that a handful of votes does, actually, mean something, the demo seems more likely to vote this year. A survey this fall by Harvard University's Institute of Politics found 75 percent of college students were registered to vote and 82 percent of those said they planned to vote this year, compared with 75 percent in 2000.

Turnout Question

Hi, this is Matt Stoller, from BOPnews (on Kos I'm 'MattS'). I don't do electoral projections, as I have no specific expertise in that area. But I am concerned about turnout, because that number says more about the state of American civic culture than an election result (though winning the 2004 election is critical to preserving the republic). And the bottom line is that turnout in the primaries has been bad.

I want to pass you a series of fascinating posts on the crisis of the left, and invite commentary, because I think this crisis is central to low turnout. I've put forward blogs as an important new tool for progressives, as they are beginning to solve a cultural need Americans have for authenticity in media (much as Ohmynews.com does in South Korea). But now I'm not so sure.

There's more...

The Liberal 44

After looking over the Harvard Polling of college youth, it seems that the only shot for Bush is to shack up with the young 20's as their roommate, where he leads 43-42. Otherwise, Bush gets an ass-kicking, 48-38 by Kerry in the booth. Bush, who was at 62% approval last year, now is at 50%.

Other notes, "Liberal" nets 31% and "Conservative" nets 20% self-identification. This flys right in the face of the polling done from 2001-2003, which showed Conservative with 21% and Liberal with 24% among the college age group. That's a 8% to Liberal shift over a year ago. 31-20 is not quite matching the 1973 Liberal leaning margin of 38-14, but still pretty convincing.

The 2004 result is coupled with self-identified Moderates leaning Liberal by a 13-10% margin, and pure Moderates numbering 23 percent. Bottom line, Liberal youths out number Conservative youth by a 44-33 margin.

What accounts for the dramatic shift? There's invading Iraq, which 47% are against, and 49% are for; but that wouldn't really account for a shift of self-identification. Nope, this is about social issues, and specifically, gay marriage.

Youth, by about a 2:1 margin, have no problem with "marriages between homosexuals" being recognized by the law. That's the exact opposite of the 2:1 general populace that are not in favor of gay marriage being recognized (Gallup). In fact, among the youth, only 12% would definitely vote against someone who is homosexual; compared with 14% who would definitely vote against a draft-dodger; or with 16% who would definitely vote against an atheist; 18% who would definitely vote against a resume liar; and 21% who would definitely vote against someone who cheated on their taxes.

Get the picture? Here is is: The social conservative pushing of a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage is driving youth to drop self-identification as Conservative, and pickup a Liberal title instead.

Moderate Republicans realize this; which why it's telling in reading through a Kay Hymowitz ramble about a New Republican Morning, as she finally, near the end of the spree, starts to deal with the pebble in her shoe:

And that surprise takes us back to the most vexing issue of our day: gay marriage, which encapsulates the tension between the sexual revolution and the new conventionality. On the one hand, it asserts the value of unrestrained sexual desire; on the other, it celebrates our new seriousness about constructing traditional meaning, solidity, and connection out of those desires in a vulgar and rootless post-liberation landscape. Regardless of how Americans resolve this tension, the change in the cultural zeitgeist means that, for all their wealth and fame, the Quentin Tarantinos and Ice Ts of this culture do not own it.
Takes us back? It's the first time it's mentioned! And only then, to wax off into a complete evasion of the issue. Reminds me of Feb 25th, Rove rolled out the constitutional amendment gambit that would ban gay marriage, Republicans in Congress looked at the polls and realized Bush was writing off the next two decades for his own re-election, and balked. Republicans don't have much of a choice though. The Religious Right is their base, if they lose that to the Constitutional Party (which is starting to flex power on its own anyway) they'll really start to reel.

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