Charles D. Ellison has had enough of the “dissatisfaction poll”. He wants to see results of an “anger poll”.
Where presidential elections are beauty contests, Congressional midterms are all about anger and rage.
Polls never really show the exact extent of this. There’s no identifiable or authoritative Anger Poll – a “how angry are you?” poll. We see numerous polls about preferences and what we do or not like. For example, we already know we don’t like doing our taxes, which is the view discovered from above by a Pew Research Center survey showing 56 percent of us hate doing our taxes. But, that’s probably the folks who end up owing.
Personally, I’d like to see an anger poll. Not another level of dissatisfaction with Congress poll or how much fam disapproves of President Obama poll. And even though it’s something like news for the horse race gamblers, some of us get unbelievable headaches from survey after survey measuring how much half the public still detests the Affordable Care Act.
But, an anger poll could go beyond the political divisions and reveal the root cause of electoral anxieties we see in polls and hear on the street. The deciding factor in this upcoming Congressional midterm isn’t really about which party base is the most mobilized, but it’s more about how angry or anxious certain blocks of voters are.
This is problematic for both Democratic and Republican parties. However, at this stage, it’s much more problematic for Democrats as the left has proven itself incapable of using voter anger as a valuable resource. While progressives are writing diatribes and pity party scripts, conservatives are coming up with creative twists on anger.
Defensively, Democrats are earnestly rolling out a wave of populist themes designed to win the hearts and minds of lost base voters.
From the minimum wage to equal pay, the issues seem solid on paper and in polling headlines bearing upbeat assessments of a Democratic Party comeback in this year’s highly consequential midterm election. National Gallup polls over the past 12 months show pretty convincing numbers of Americans supporting a minimum wage hike: 76 percent wanting an increase in November 2013, up from 71 percent just nine months earlier.
On the issue of equal pay, electrified by legislative wrangling in Washington over the Paycheck Fairness Act, Democrats are convinced they have a battle flag to wave. With Republicans appearing to stutter for a retort, polls again show relatively solid majorities of Americans supporting equal pay for women. In a recent American Women research poll, 65 percent gave a nod to the Fairness Act. Even a recent Rasmussen poll, known to lean GOP, shows 78 percent of women believing they don’t receive equal pay for equal work, along with 53 percent of men.
While the polls give Democrats political flavors that float nicely off the tongues of partisan pundits crushing conservative commentators on the talk show circuit, it’s not certain whether these numbers will translate into votes come November. Deeper dives into the numbers reveal a problematic outlook for Democrats as they struggle to find electoral traction with traditional constituencies.
Even if 69 percent of Americans support a minimum wage hike, as a Bloomberg poll found, there’s no guarantee 69 percent of Americans are going to vote for Democrats in November. The key question observers are asking is: What issue or issues, exactly, will make voters tick in 2014?
In that same Bloomberg poll, the winds begin to shift when a later question injects the possibility that a minimum wage increase could stunt job growth: under those circumstances, just 57 percent support minimum wage.
YouGov shows 62 percent support for the wage increase, which still leaves 38 percent in the “opposed” or “not sure” columns. And for Democrats, there is a distressing 30 percent of Americans who believe a minimum wage spike will actually hurt individuals — since more businesses won’t hire them due to budget constraints.
A solid 30 percent of voters age 55 and up and 27 percent of independent voters also oppose the notion of more pay for minimum wage workers, two blocks that typically determine the outcome of Congressional midterms. And with a barely 40 percent voter turnout rate during in-between presidential cycle elections, those numbers could be the difference between fewer Republicans controlling the House or the GOP outright controlling the Senate.
An early March Washington/ABC poll discovered 50 percent of the population would vote for a Congressional incumbent who votes for a federal minimum wage hike. Nearly 30 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference and 19 percent said they’d vote against the lawmaker who votes for a national raise.
The Bloomberg poll showed just 49 percent of voters motivated enough on the strength of that issue that they were going out to vote. But, the voter picture gets foggier when wealthier Americans making more than $100,000 annually don’t support a minimum wage, thereby illuminating an income gap whereby the richer are less likely to support such measures.
Ultimately, the issue of race could appear as the bellwether in this election. In the YouGov poll, 86 percent of African Americans support the minimum wage increase, compared to just 56 percent of whites and 70 percent of Latinos. Obviously, this presents a number of problems for Democrats as they look to rely on non-white base voters to raise them over the top as candidates near November.
At this stage, Democratic strategists frame the racial dimensions of the midterm in the context of non-white voter turnout. “Our voters are younger, more unmarried women, more African-American and Latino voters,” President Obama said, attempting to energize donors at a Houston gathering. “They get excited about general elections; they don’t get as excited about midterm elections.
“[But] we have this congenital disease, which is in midterm elections we don’t vote at the same rates.”
Whether Democrats or Republicans are willing to admit it, race may end up being the critical fault line in this election. And not just in terms of non-white voters not showing up at the polls.
One of these issues will have to resonate with white voters as much as it does voters of color if Democrats expect to see dividends in November. In a recent poll from Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Roesner Research, just 64 percent of what are called “Rising American Electorate” voters — Black, Latino, unmarried women and youth — indicate they’ll vote in the 2014 midterms compared to 79 percent of white voters.
Since 2006, Democrats have watched their white voter share plummet — which is the reason Obama is hitting the campaign trail sounding electoral alarms. In the 2006 midterms, which Congressional Democrats won, they managed to snag 47 percent of white voters. Two years later, in the historic election of the first Black president, it dropped to 43 percent. By the 2010 and 2012 cycles, a sobering reality hit Democrats when fewer than 40 percent of the white electorate voted for Democrats.
Originally appeared at UPTOWN Magazine
CHARLES D. ELLISON is a veteran political strategist and Chief Political Correspondent for UPTOWN Magazine, hosting its newly launched #Uptownhall tweetcast every Wednesday at 2pm ET. He’s also Washington Correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and a frequent contributor the The Root. He can be reached via Twitter @charlesdellison.