Obama's 2008 Coalition: Not Expanding, But Intact
Ron Brownstein's weekly column on Thursday looked closely at the contours of the President's approval ratings (as measured by the Allstate/National Journal "Heartland Monitor"). And it confirmed what Alan Abramowitz was saying here at TDS back on July 14: Barack Obama's support levels in various demographic groups largely reflects where they were the day he was elected president.
Looking at six groups that backed Obama in 2008, and five that did not, Brownstein shows that some groups in both categories continue to give Obama a positive job rating at levels higher than last November: college-educated white women (+6), Latinos (+6), non-college educated white women (+8) and seniors (+7). The only category with whom he has significantly less support than on election day is African-Americans, but there support levels have declined from 95% to 88%, hardly a catastrophe.
Brownstein does see some peril for Obama in trends among white men, where tepid support levels coincide with "pessimism about the country's direction bordering on alienation," and an upsurge of anti-government attitudes.
He quotes TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira as warning that the condition of the economy is central to non-college-educated white voters. If it doesn't show improvement soon, "the potential for an anti-government backlash is very real. You could see his support really crater out among these non-college whites." But to those who predict a 1994-style conservative surge fed by these voters, Brownstein reminds us:
Working-class white voters still represented just over half of all voters in the early 1990s. Now they constitute just below 40 percent of voters, while minority voters, who still back Obama overwhelmingly, have doubled their share of the electorate to about one-fourth. (College-educated whites have held steady at about one-third of all voters.)
In any event, it's reasonably clear that Obama's 2008 coalition is intact. It remains to be seen if that will be enough, along with Democratic majorities in Congress, to enable him to show some legislative successes by the end of his first year in office.