Déjà Vu All Over Again: It's the Economy, Stupid

08/25/2011 10:19 am ET | Updated Oct 25, 2011

New research shows that the progressive base in this country -- unmarried women, persons of color, and those under 30 years old -- is struggling more financially than the conservative base, are not as motivated politically and are not responding to the progressive economic message now being offered on Capitol Hill.

According to the latest Democracy Corps/Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund survey of 1,480 likely 2012 voters (conducted August 6-10, 2011), job one should be regaining the support and motivating the unmarried women, people of color, and younger voters who make up the Rising American Electorate (RAE) and a rapidly growing majority (53%) of the eligible voting population in this country.

And as the survey findings demonstrate, this will be a real lift. Even though these voters formed a strong base for progressive victories and drove change in 2006 and 2008, dissatisfaction with Washington's inability to make any progress on economic issues, coupled with the fact that these voters are disproportionately feeling the brunt of the economic downturn, has created doubt about incumbents in office and left RAE voters with little motivation to engage in political issues.

While key groups including unmarried women and persons of color continue to indicate strong support for Obama and the Democrats heading into next year, they are not confident that either party can fix the economy:

• Among RAE voters, a 27-point tilt in partisanship is cut to 12 points on whether Democrats or Republicans would do a better job on the economy. This gap exists among a number of key groups, including unmarried women and youth.

While RAE voters believe that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to look out for the interests of women, they are uncertain that their interests are currently being served on economic issues:

• The debt ceiling debate led to a less favorable view of Democrats (39 percent more favorable, 45 percent less favorable) among RAE voters, and a majority (52 percent) of RAE voters thinks the debt agreement will have a significant and negative impact on them.

Finally, the survey findings show the RAE is consumed by economic concerns -- and for good reason. Voters in the RAE -- particularly unmarried women, voters of color, and white women under the age of 50 -- have been hard hit by the economy.

These voters are more likely than the overall electorate to have themselves or a family member experience a significant reduction in economic well-being over the past year; nearly half of younger white women have seen their own wages or those of an immediate family member cut, while one third of unmarried women or their immediate families have lost health insurance.1

So while progressives are focusing on jobs and lowering unemployment, RAE voters are struggling with the cost of living -- made more difficult because of reduced wages. It is no surprise that RAE voters have the strongest reaction in the survey to making changes that specifically affect women's standing in the economy as it relates to wages.

Nearly half of RAE voters want to see changes made to pay inequities between men and women, including 52 percent of unmarried women who are most likely to be the sole breadwinner in their households.

RAE voters need to be re-engaged and motivated if they are going to turnout and provide the type of support needed for progressive victories Just one in five voters in the RAE says they are extremely interested in elections and debates in Washington, compared to nearly one-third of non-RAE voters.

Bottom line: progressives need a stronger economic narrative that connects, that ensures these must-have voters turn out and support traditional allies who support their public policy agenda. And they need it now.

To read the entire poll results, click here.

1 - Data from Democracy Corps June 2011 Poll