New Poll Shows More Americans Want a Government That Does More, Not Less

Today, Project Vote released What Happened to Hope and Change? A Poll of 2008 Voters, a new report summarizing the results of a telephone survey of 1,947 Americans who voted in 2008, analyzing their views on the role of the government, government spending, and the budget. This unique poll not only surveys the historic 2008 electorate, but also includes special samples of black, low-income, and youth voters, and compares these groups both to a national sample and to self-identified “Tea Party” sympathizers.

“We wanted to learn more about the views of the black, youth, and low-income voters who overwhelmingly participated in 2008 election,” said Lorraine C. Minnite, director of research for Project Vote. “These voters represent roughly a third of the electorate, they will play an increasingly important role in American politics, and they fundamentally believe in a government that doesmore, not less. Yet their voices are largely ignored, and their views are not being represented.”

Instead, the new report says, over the past two years the opinions and values of these populations have been drowned out by the anti-government rhetoric of more affluent, older, and mostly white Americans who have organized under the “Tea Party” banner.

“The winning coalition in 2008 included an unprecedented number of young voters, who were more racially diverse than any cohort in the history of American politics and more progressive than any young voters since the 1960s,” said Peter Levine, director of  CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement).  “The new poll from Project Vote provides essential information about these young people’s hopes and beliefs in 2010.”

Project Vote’s analysis reveals that black voters, low-income voters, and young voters have starkly different views about the role of government, federal spending priorities, and the budget deficit than “Tea Party” sympathizers, and in fact are far closer to the views of the 2008 electorate as a whole.

According to the poll, majorities of black, young, and low-income voters support:

  • Increasing taxes on investment income, increasing social security taxes on incomes greater than $107,000, and ending combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a means to reduce the deficit.
  • Spending money on infrastructure, as do two-thirds of all 2008 voters.
  • Spending the same or more on income support programs such as Food Stamps for less well-off Americans. Two-thirds of Tea Party sympathizers support spending less.
  • Tea Party sympathizers, while almost universally dissatisfied with the way the country is going, report they themselves are doing very well: more than three out of four say their personal economic situation is fairly good or very good.
  • Meanwhile, one in five young voters, and nearly two out of five black voters and low-income voters, reported that there were times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food for their families. Just over one in 20 Tea Party supporters said the same.
  • Strong majorities of black voters, young voters, and low-income voters agree that government should work to provide for the needs of all citizens. Half of all voters agreed with that sentiment, while only one in five Tea Party sympathizers agreed.
  • Together, the three “surge” groups represent a larger portion of the electorate than those who self-identify with the Tea Party.

"The Project Vote poll of 2008 voters casts an extraordinarily bright and hopeful light on the future of American electoral politics,” said Frances Fox Piven, Project Vote board member and Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Graduate School and University Center, CUNY.

The poll finds that the policy preferences of these three voting constituencies are far more closely aligned with the views of average Americans—represented by the poll’s national sample—than the minority views of the self-identified Tea Party sympathizers.

“What Project Vote’s poll shows is that the views on government held by progressives represent the majority,” said James Rucker, executive director and co-founder of Color of Change. “We shouldn’t let Tea Party activists convince us that we, and not they, are the minority.”

Tags: electorate, 2008, poll, youth, minorities, Tea Party, government, Project Vote, Low-income (all tags)

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