Why Voters Left the Dems in 1994- by Nathan Newman
Date:         Wed, 16 Nov 1994 13:54:43 -0800
From: Nathan Newman 
Subject:      ELECTION ANALYSIS: Which Voters left the Dems
To: Multiple recipients of list LEFT-L 

           --By Nathan Newman

In the November 13th Sunday NEW YORK TIMES, they listed a thorough
breakdown of sub-group voting patterns dating back to 1980.  It is worth
looking over to understand which groups moved away from the Democrats in
the last two years.  However, remember that turnout figures are different
in Presidential years.  In 1994, turnout was 39% of eligible voters, so it
is worth emphasizing that 80% of the voting population did not vote for
the "Republican landslide" involving just 20% of the voting population.

That said, here are some of the more interesting shifts:

Neither blacks nor Latinos changed their voting patterns significantly;
blacks maintained their roughly 88% Democratic voting pattern, while
Latinos voted Democratic at a 70% rate.

However, between 1992 and 1994, there was a significant shift in white
voting patterns.  Where whites voted 50-50 Dem-Repub in 1992, 58% of
whites voted Republican in 1994--an 8% shift.

White men shifted even more--from 51% Rep in 1992 to 62% in 1994. (It is
worth noting that the highest previous Republican vote by white men was
57% in 1984 when Reagan was reelected).

By age group, there was almost no shift in voting patterns by those under
age 30.  They voted 53% Dem in 1994 compared to 55% in 1992. Those age
45-59 also maintained roughly the same voting pattern--about 51% Dem.
        But those age 60 and older shifted strongly towards the
Republicans, from 56% Dem in 1992 to 51% Dem in 1994.
        But the age group that turned the Congress over to the
Republicans were those age 30-44.  They voted 53% Dem in 1992, but voted
only 48% Dem in 1994--the only age group that voted by a majority for

A couple of shifts did occur in the Democratic "base":
        Households with a union member voted more Democratic in 1992 than
they had in over a decade (67% that year) but voted Dem by only 63% in 1994.
        Gays, lesbians and bisexuals voted Dem 77% of the time in 1992,
but only 60% voted Dem in 1994.  This may be an artifact of the sample
size and which gays turned out this year, but is significant.

But the real story of the election is when you look at voting patterns by
income level.  What shows up is a loss of support for the Dems from the
poorest voters and a general diminishment in class-polarized voting patterns.
Here is a table of the voting patters, using 1982 (the last big gain in
House seats for Democrats, 1992, and 1994):

                      1982          1992             1994     Dem Shift (82-94)
                   Dem   Rep      Dem   Rep       Dem   Rep
Income level

Under $15,000      73    27       69    31        62    38        -11%
$15,000-29,999     60    40       57    43        52    48         -8%
$30,000-49,000     52    48       52    48        49    51         -3%
Over $50,000       37    63       47    53        46    54         +9%

Between 1982 and 1994, there was a loss of between 8-11% of the vote from
working class voters making less than $30,000 per year.  Democrats
managed to lose the votes of those who have suffered the most under
Reaganomics and who will be hurt most by Newt Gingrich and his gang.

There are two ways to analyze this result, both of which probably
contributed to the result.

The first answer is that different people turned out in 1994 than in
1982, given the low turnout of off-year elections.  In 1994, more of the
poorer voters were religious conservatives motivated by cultural issues
of the Christian Coalition.  That is born out by surveys showing that 20%
of voters identified themselves as "White born again Christians" who
voted 76% for the Republicans.  Such "white born-again Christians" voted
only 54% Republican back in 1982, and were not mobilized in the same way
as in 1994.

But the other part of the story is why poorer voters not interested in
the Christian Right agenda did not turn-out and why even religious voters
were more interested in voting on cultural issues than on their economic
self-interest.  The answer is that Clinton's failure to deliver on health
care and a real improvement in the economy for such lower-paid workers
disillusioned them.  The Democrats demonstated how limited their party is
in delivering benefits to working Americans, so they saw little
difference in the parties and voted on cultural divisions rather than
economic divisions.

Interestingly, richer Americans decided the same thing and many more
upper-middle class Americans decided the same thing and voted more
Democratic than they had under Reagan--probably inspired by opposition to
the religious conservatives.

Without a strong economic message for working Americans, voters turn to
cultural issues to define their politics.  And in an economy that is
destroying the standard of living of most Americans, cultural politics
becomes more and more racist and xenophobic.

If the Democrats or any progressive party is to have a chance of
regaining the allegiance of the population, we need to develop a credible
economic message that addresses the needs of working and poor Americans.
Otherwise, we seemed doomed to a conservative and increasingly xenophobic

*****    Nathan Newman:  newman@garnet.berkeley.edu  *******