Greenberg Poll: Democrats need a reform agenda to go with popular economic policies


Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reports on Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s new poll today which shows that the so-called “Rising American Electorate,” the Obama coalition, is less “tuned in” to the 2016 election than the angry old white conservatives who listen to hate talk radio and FAUX News demographic a year out from Election Day:

A new poll by veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg . . . illustrates the challenge that Democrats face.

The new poll, which was commissioned by Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, shows that members of the Rising American Electorate — minorities, millennials, and single women — are significantly less tuned in to next year’s election than GOP-aligned voter groups are. [This is a hangover from the midterm election Democratic voter drop-off problem.]


The poll has some good news for Democrats. The survey, which was taken in four key battleground states — Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin — suggests that in those states, the demographics do favor Dems. That’s because the poll finds that RAE voter groups — who helped drive Obama’s wins — now make up a “majority or near majority of the vote” in all those states. The poll also finds Dems leading in Senate races in two of those states and tied in two others.

But members of the RAE are insufficiently engaged in next year’s election when compared to Republican-aligned voter groups:

Screenshot from 2015-11-09 11:48:44

Unmarried women, minorities, and particularly millennials are less interested in next year’s voting than seniors, conservatives, and white non-college men are. Non-college women — a group the Clinton camp is reportedly eyeing as a way to expand on the Obama coalition — are also less interested.

“Unmarried women are a key dynamic in American politics,” Page Gardner, the president of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, tells me. “It’s clear that the party or candidate who can increase turnout of unmarried women and the other segments of the Rising American Electorate will be well-positioned for victory in 2016.”

Now, obviously there is a very long way to go, and plenty of time for these voter groups to get more engaged. If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, and the prospect of electing the first female president seems increasingly within reach, you could see engagement kicking in much more substantially. (It will be interesting to see how non-college, unmarried, minority and millennial women respond.)

But Greenberg’s pollsters are sounding the alarm now, warning that Democrats need to take more steps to tailor their message towards boosting the interest level among these voters. As Stan Greenberg outlines in his new book, America Ascendant, the key to engaging these voters is two-fold. It isn’t enough to simply outline bold economic policies to deal with college affordability, child care (universal pre-K), workplace flexibility (paid family and sick leave), and so forth, though those things are crucial. What’s also required to engage these groups, Greenberg argues, is a reform agenda geared to reducing the influence of the wealthy, the lobbyists, and the special interests over our politics. Today’s new poll suggests the same.

The basic problem outlined by Greenberg (and noted by other Dem pollsters) is that, even if Democratic economic policies are broadly popular, this isn’t enough on its own, because many Americans don’t believe government can or will actually deliver on those policies. Greenberg writes: “when voters hear the reform narrative first, they are dramatically more open to the middle-class economic narrative that calls for government activism in response to America’s problems.”

Thus, it’s not an accident that Clinton, in addition to embracing a robust economic agenda, has also stressed campaign finance and voting access reform. Her campaign knows engaging these voter groups on Obama-like levels is crucial to her White House hopes, and seems to share in Greenberg’s analysis.

Screenshot from 2015-11-09 11:54:36

In Fact, A new Democratic group is out today with a plan to extend the automatic voter registration system recently enacted in Oregon and California nationally. Democratic Group Called iVote Pushes Automatic Voter Registration:

As Republicans across the country mount an aggressive effort to tighten voting laws, a group of former aides to President Obama and President Bill Clinton is pledging to counter by spending up to $10 million on a push to make voter registration automatic whenever someone gets a driver’s license.

The change would supercharge the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to offer people the option of registering to vote when they apply for driver’s licenses or other identification cards. The new laws would make registration automatic during those transactions unless a driver objected.

The group, called iVote — which is led by Jeremy Bird, who ran Mr. Obama’s voter turnout effort in 2012 — is betting that such laws could bring out millions of new voters who have, for whatever reason, failed to register even when they had the opportunity at motor vehicle departments.

Many of those new voters would be young, poor or minorities — groups that tend to support Democratic candidates, Mr. Bird said.

“I do think it can be a complete game-changer,” he said. “It’s definitely countering what we see as a very organized and well-funded effort by the Republican Party across the country to chip away at voting rights.”

* * *

With both houses of Congress in Republican hands, the push for automatic voter registration is starting in the states. Oregon enacted the first such law this spring, and California passed a similar measure last month.

Craig T. Smith, who was the political director in Mr. Clinton’s White House and is advising iVote, said legislation to enact automatic voter registration was pending in 17 states. The group is hoping to help push through as many of those bills as possible next year.

The group also plans to begin a petition drive in Ohio to put automatic registration on the ballot next November. And it is exploring the possibility of ballot measures in Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

“The right to vote has come under siege,” Mr. Smith said. “Part of this is to retake the momentum, to make it easier to vote.”

* * *

The effort by iVote is the first major push to counter the Republican moves with a legislative strategy to expand voter rights.

Here in Arizona our Democratic donor class, and worse, our Democratic consultant class, is always “Woe is we, we don’t have the money to run ballot measures,” so they don’t. Well pay attention Arizona: iVote says it will spend “up to $10 million” nationally, so make the call to iVote today for a piece of that action and file the ballot measure for automatic voter registration. Get on board this train.

Terry Goddard’s “dark money” initiative, which  received a favorable editorial opinion in Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun over the weekend, Exposing dark money can be Arizona game-changer, also polls well in the Greenberg poll. Greenberg polled the following questions:

Screenshot from 2015-11-09 12:29:42

This reform agenda drives up enthusiasm among Democratic leaning voters, working class women, and single women.

Democratic Middle Class Reform Money Agenda

Screenshot from 2015-11-09 12:37:50

Democratic Middle Class Reform Government Agenda

Screenshot from 2015-11-09 12:40:27

Democrats in Arizona need to start helping themselves by putting popular measures on the ballot to drive up Democratic leaning voter turnout. Stop worrying about what the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the “Kochtopus” dark money network run by Sean Noble are going to do.  The far-right will always have more money to spend. Democratic leaning voters are longing to stop playing defense against bad Tea-Publican policies, and to go on offense with a set of good progressive policies. They want something that empowers them to effect necessary change in this state.

Earlier this year I posted A challenge to voting rights organizations for a package of ballot measures that included (1) automatic voter registration, (2) all-mail voting, (3) a constitutional amendment to move statewide office elections to presidential years, and (4) a constitutional amendment to declare the right to vote a fundamental constitutional right. Add Terry Goddard’s “dark money” initiative to this mix, and you have a solid reform agenda that will turn out Democratic leaning voters. (Note that this does not include that damn fool Top Two Primary initiative).

“If you build it, they will come.”


  1. These uninterested voters are really uneducated voters. They do not understand how crucial their vote is to the quality of their lives.
    My parents were not college graduates, but they voted in every election in which they were able to vote, including school boards and bond issues. They often took me with them. My parents understood that in a democracy, voting is a privilege, a right, and an obligation.
    I think HS curricula should be revised to emphasize the importance of voting, and the very negative effects suffered when people don’t vote.

    • Patricia, I would postulate that your own story is an indicator that education is not really going to do much to bring non-voters to the polls. Your parents did a commendable job of teaching you by example that voting is an important privilege and obligation. Mine taught me that, as well. I couldn’t wait to cast my first vote and I researched the heck out of every candidate and every ballot measure so that I make an informed decision. I am fairly certain you do the same.

      People not raised in that type of environment have to learn later in life how important it is. A large percentage of them never do learn and really aren’t interested in learning, I believe that is why we have such abysmal voter turnout rates in this Country. Of course they will whine and complain about politics, but actually getting involved is not something they do. I wish education would work because we do need better turnouts of legitimate voters casting ballots.

  2. Pay 200 dollars per vote to a vote broker who fills out the ballot in his garage. So you can pursue insane economic policies that screw the out of the poor. That’s voter rights?

    • Excuse, me John, when did your party ever care about the poor? And which party is it that proposes all those voter suppression tactics?

  3. “…the angry old white conservatives who listen to hate talk radio and FAUX News demographic a year out from Election Day.”

    O-o-o-o-o!! The great boogeyman hiding in every Democrats closet!!!

    Do you suppose the reason they don’t trust that these “important” changes will take place is because they have heard it all before and the changes HAVEN’T taken place. Blacks have been steady supporters of Democrats for generations and their situation has only degenerated under the care of Democrats. Lots of promises made, not many kept.

    • Steve,
      I’m not sure what you mean when you say that “their situation has only degenerated under the care of Democrats”.
      Since 1980, a total of 35 years, the Democrats have been in control of the federal government for a total of four years, 1993 to 1995 and 2009 to 2011. Given this fact, how can you attribute anything to the “care of Democrats”.

      • I am not certain what you mean by “control of the government”, but the Democrats have held power via majorities in the House, the Senate, or both since 1970 for the majority of the time. Since 1970, Democrats held the majority in the House of Representitives 12 times to the Republicans 6. In the Senate the Democrats held the majority 10 times to the Republicans 8. Those majorities they held gave them considerable influence over what happened in Congress 1970 to 2013.

        Let’s be honest, Democrats are better at getting what they want out of Congress than Republicans. You can always count on Republican snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Perhaps if you explain what you mean by “controling the government” we could discuss this further.

        • Steve,
          America does not have a parliamentary system, like the UK or Canada. We have one national election to elect the president, 50 state elections to elect Senators, and 435 elections to elect the House.
          What I mean by “control of the government” is when one party controls the Presidency, and both the Senate and House. And since 1980, it has happened twice, for one two year segment each.
          Without unified government, parties are severely limited. For example, right now the right wing in America is gnashing their teeth over their inability to repeal Obamacare, slash spending and other priorities. This is due to two structural features. The Senate filibuster requires 60 votes and the Presidential veto, which requires a two thirds vote in both chambers.
          Going back to your original thesis about the Democrats relationship to black voters, I would argue that in general it makes more sense for blacks to vote Democrat at this stage in American history. The Republican party seems to be driven by white, mostly male, Southern politicians, who appear to care little for issues most germane to blacks, such as public education, quality health care and a rational foreign policy that does not endanger our military for vainglorious wars.

          • Jim, thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. I now understand and I have no rebuttal for that. It makes sense. You have a enviable grasp of the political system. Kudos to you.

  4. this is why republicans want voter suppression. and obama and the democrats whine but do nothing to stop it.

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