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The Rising American Electorate: Game Changers in 2016 Elections

06/29/2015 12:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

Unmarried women, people of color and millennials -- voters of the "Rising American Electorate" -- will make up a majority of voters for the first time in 2016.

A national survey of likely 2016 voters released today by the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps reveals that the Rising American Electorate will be game changers in the upcoming elections. Unmarried women, people of color and millennials -- voters of the Rising American Electorate (RAE) -- are the new American majority of voting-eligible citizens and will make up a majority of voters for the first time in 2016. More than a year out, they already are showing strong enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton over her Republican challengers, according to the survey, when these RAE voters hear an agenda that speaks to their economic lives and promises a more efficient government untainted by big-money politics.

Just last week, the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed the growing power of the RAE. All races except non-Hispanic whites had more births than deaths between 2013 and 2014, and "millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them," the Census Bureau reports. "The population as a whole has become more racially and ethnically diverse in just the last decade, with the percentage minority climbing from 32.9 percent in 2004 to 37.9 percent in 2014."

"For the first time ever, the majority of votes in this next presidential election will be cast by the Rising American Electorate -- the new American majority," I wrote in a statement. "Candidates simply can't win without the support of unmarried women and the rest of the RAE -- millennials, Latinos, African Americans, Asian-Americans and other people of color."

Currently, Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead over prominent Republican contenders, the survey finds. Importantly, support for Clinton equals or exceeds President Obama's performance in 2012 among the Rising American Electorate. And backing from white unmarried women has increased by 7 points over 2012.

Although the political horserace is difficult to predict at this early stage, the new survey makes clear that there is an underlying dynamic that is longer-lasting. There will be three other "races" underway to win the support of the RAE over the next 17 months:

  • The Enthusiasm Race: RAE voters and unmarried women currently are less enthusiastic about the 2016 elections than their conservative counterparts, the poll shows. RAE voters also demonstrate real doubts about the ability of the government to deliver on the change they need. A 67-percent majority of Republicans and non-RAE voters describe their level of interest in the election in the highest terms (a 10 on a 10-point scale). Among RAE voters, by contrast, that number drops to 48 percent.

  • The Women and Families Empowerment Race: One way to turn this around and spark the RAE's enthusiasm is to promote the women and families economic agenda -- proposals that work for women and families and call for equal pay, paid family leave, affordable child care and protecting Social Security and Medicare.
  • The Agenda Race: There is an overall agenda race, too, that affects voter enthusiasm. It's an agenda focused on reforming the government and political system, combined with a broad economic agenda that provides working people -- and working women -- with the tools they need to improve their incomes and lives.
  • Messages That Move the Needle

    RAE voters respond when they hear an agenda that addresses the economy of everyday Americans and promises a more responsive and effective government -- as well as a government not corrupted by huge corporate campaign spending, the survey shows. Changes like equal pay, a solution to the problems with Medicare and Social Security, and a serious investment in our infrastructure find traction among base groups and blue-collar voters alike. Nineteen percent of unmarried women, 20 percent of RAE members and 16 percent of the RAE report being "more interested" in voting after hearing the agenda, vs. 12 percent for Republicans after hearing the GOP agenda.

    "The New American Majority is determining the New American Agenda," I wrote. "The key question is which candidates will be listening."