More educated Democrats are more progressive across the board
“Lots of people who vote for Democrats aren’t all that political and just think Republicans have scary ideas or are racists.”
Insert the meme of a bell curve surrounded by three figures:
Idiot: ‘I vote for Democrats because Republicans have scary ideas or are racists.’
Angry middlebrow guy: ‘I vote for Democrats because they have better ideas on climate change, unions, healthcare…’
Wise man: ‘I vote for Democrats because Republicans have scary ideas or are racists.’
And they are killing us politically on dumb niche social issues.
If it's also true that more educated, further left Democrats are a lot more likely to vote in primaries, that would complete the picture. If it weren't for the hurdle of getting past the primary, I suspect Democratic candidates, who want to win elections as much as any candidates, would get past the problem of pleasing elite opinion.
Since I agree completely and fervently with Matt's take on this issues, I thought I'd think carefully about what the best arguments against might be. The common "mobilize the base" argument is thoroughly debunked, as Matt writes. In the last Q&A session, he also mentioned the fact that the Ds did make gains in 2018 and 2020, which of course relieves pressure to change anything. But if I were a hard left progressive staffer having a private conversation with Matt, I would focus on three things:
First, by firmly moving intra-party discourse to the left, you can exert a lot of power through the administrative apparatus when you are in power. Getting your people appointed in the White House, in the Department of Education, at the EPA, to any open fed seats, etc, is a real win. And while you will bear some cost when the public learns about a novel interpretation of Title IX, say, I think it is fair to argue that this cost is quite small compared to the material gains.
Second, by quashing dissent and vigorously suppressing "blue dog" kind of ideas, you get to effectively set the narrative in media and among the professional staff at big tech companies. This obviously helps your cause both short and long term.
Third, if the D's were to move to the center, then yes, they would probably pick up more votes in the near term. But long term, the Rs would then also be forced to rein in their partisan base. Currently, the Rs can win simply by talking about government spending, inflation, immigration, and CRT. No need to confront either the Trumpist flank, or the unpopular parts of their own agenda (tax cuts, privatizing social security, total abortion bans, etc). If the Ds moved to the center, then the Rs would probably be forced to follow. Which might actually be bad, if you are Chuck Schumer or Raphael Warnock.
For me as a centrist, all of these "counterarguments" just reinforce my desire to see the Ds move to the center. But there is work to be done here convincing a staffer who genuinely wants to turn the US into an extra woke version of Denmark.
I think the grandest point Matt makes is that if the party moves toward the center the policies of the country will move to the left, NOT toward the center. I think that is true and the reason why people have to learn to hold strong to their views in principle but look a little more cold heartedly at the politicians. They are not there to pander to you and your allies, they are there to win and push policies that shape the country in the direction you would like. They are not your spirit animals. Move to the center to move to the left I love it.
This is why the Dave Roberts-type discussion of the GND was so silly. The argument was that all the hardcore leftwing stuff would be so popular that the less popular climate provisions would be palatable. Like, if all economic parts of the GND were really popular, politicians would have run on and won on those issues previously.
“College educated” is a broad category and I wonder whether graduates of commuter colleges have different politics than those who graduate from top 25 institutions. Cultural power is concentrated amoung those who graduate from top institutions, so it’s worth studying a narrower group which is hard to survey through random dialing
"...media made for college graduates is considered prestigious and highbrow in a way that local TV news or the Joe Rogan Experience is not."
I wondered what the actual breakdown is of Rogan listeners and found this article: https://www.mediamonitors.com/audience-demographic-variations-specific-to-genre/
"Joe’s listenership is 71% male and evenly split between high school and post-secondary graduates. Fifty seven percent of his audience reports earning over $50k per year, with 19% making over $100k. The average age of his listeners was 24. The most likely additional podcast responses from his listeners were “Serial,” “The Daily,” “This American Life,” and “This Past Weekend w/ Theo Von.”"
Given the average age of his listeners is 24, I would imagine that his base isn't the non-college educated median voter, but is actually a young man who is either in college or just out of college. I know it was a throwaway line, but I think the Rogan phenomenon highlights a different issue for Democrats, which is how to (or should we) reach out to the disaffected early-20s male voters who kinda like Bernie Sanders, like that Trump pisses off the nerds, and otherwise don't care about politics.
Those abortion numbers are really worrisome - my fear is that after Roe goes the salience of the issue shoots up and we wind up having a bunch of state referenda on late term abortions in which the Democratic position is i) "experts say the term partial-birth abortion is misinformation," ii) if you support any restrictions on abortion you are an extremist who has no place in the Democratic party.
And the media debate will be about things like: is it racist and an act of violence against women to publish pro-life newspaper columns in the Times? Roe has sidetracked this issue into a debate about the power of the Supreme Court so I don't think the "political elites" from your poll have any idea how unpopular their position on abortion is, or any desire to persuade people who don't agree with them.
I think I have some quibbles with the interpretation of the Navigator Research data here. Notably, if I'm understanding this graph correctly, while more college Dems than non-college Dems say it's important to focus on climate (44% vs. 39%), the same gap – and in the same direction – separates the two groups on "jobs and the economy" (51% of college vs. 46% non-college) – and an even larger gap in the same direction on the pandemic (72% of college vs. 61% non-college). And look at the numbers on voting rights – 45% of college Dems say it's important vs. 33% of non-college.
The big differences in the other direction include health care, as MY notes (in general, and also Social Security and Medicare, with a 12-point difference) and "corruption in government" (I want to know more about what the voters who described that as a priority have in mind).
I think some major takeaways here are: the numbers on "jobs and the economy" are interesting because pundits often put forward focusing on the economy as in tension with focusing on the pandemic, and they're in the news constantly, but the education gaps among Dems on the two issues run in the same direction rather than canceling each other out. That suggests that the five-point difference on the economy might be a good baseline for the quotient of college-educated Dems just paying attention to the news more and saying the "correct" answer more consistently – and climate has the same five-point difference.
The second major takeaway is wow, almost 40% of non-college Dems say it's not most important to focus on the pandemic! That and the economy numbers support the thesis of this piece in the sense that successful messaging for Democrats isn't just a matter of stressing "bread-and-butter issues" or what have you – at least not only the issues the media deems bread-and-butter.
I’ve always thought Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to fill corporate board seats with labor reps was compelling — maybe a good idea to redesign and repurpose it for DNC leadership instead?
This was an interesting post but, honestly, nothing in it surprised or informed me all that much. Pretty much what I would have expected.
What *would* be possibly more interesting is the same analysis for the Republican party. Just like with the Dems, the vast majority of Republicans in government and (I suspect) activists are college educated. How much do they differ, and in what ways, from the non-college part of the coalition?
I suspect there's a lot more convergence in the Republican coalition, but since it's such a black box to me, I could be way off.
This is an explanation that makes a lot of sense for this domain. I'm interested in your thoughts on, e.g., corporate marketing that codes as left on cultural issues, and the extent to which that's a related (marketing departments are staffed by college educated people) or distinct (these companies actually face market discipline and so actually frame these messages in fairly broadly popular ways) phenomenon.
I am all in on the idea that the Democratic Party suffers b/c of the influence of super leftie college grads. However, I think the polling data actually doesn't make it super clear there's a meaningful gap in issue preferences.
In all the issues polled, there's a huge majority of both college and non-college Dems on the same side. Generally there's more college Dems holding the left position but it's still either over 60% or about 40% for both groups. So, it seems you are pretty safe as a Dem going with and left-wing position, especially when you think what the aggregate number would be.
How many college educated progressives believe they’re doing it for the non-college educated Democrats? If you make decent money on the coasts, you mostly aren’t voting for yourself. Republicans are gross and scary but they have limited impact in the northeast and west coast. If uneducated people can’t be bother to vote in their best interests because of bigotry and ignorance, upper middle class progressives should just take the tax cuts and check out of politics.
I want to see the companion article on Republican elites. Are the business-owner/CEO/political operative types just as reactionary and racist as the base or do they skew further left or right? Inquiring minds want to know.