Poll Suggests Democrats Need New Populism Message To Keep The Senate

Isaiah J. Poole

If Democrats want to keep control of the Senate this fall, a new Democracy Corps memo says that it will have to target a progressive populist message to single women and the “rising American electorate” that acknowledges that the economy remains rigged against working people.

“Unmarried women are, perhaps, the most important target for Democrats across this Senate battleground,” says the memo, which is based on a survey of 1,000 likely 2014 voters in 12 battleground states.

In these states – Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia – Democrats are being held back by “a serious underperformance with unmarried women” during this cycle when compared to their support for President Obama and Democrats in 2012. “But engaging in a populist economic debate and attacks with a strong emphasis on women’s issues brings these critical voters back in the fold,” the report says.

A key conclusion of the report:

An “in your shoes” populist narrative about people’s economic struggles, a policy agenda about finally helping mothers in the workplace and making sure those at the top are paying their fair share, and, most important, a critique of Republicans for their polices that hurt seniors and women, result in significant gains with unmarried women and other key targets when matched against the Republican agenda and could prove the difference between a majority and minority-leader Harry Reid come next January.

An example of an “in your shoes” narrative that wins voters says that “people are drowning because jobs don’t pay enough to live on” and says that we need leaders “who can live a day of our lives” and dedicate themselves to improving the lives of working people rather than those “who show up with the big money.” That means helping people with affordable college, job training, child care, an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay for women.

Forty-eight percent of unmarried women and 47 percent of rising American electorate respondents (which include African Americans, Latinos and millennials as well as single women) find that message “very convincing.” That’s compared to the mid-30-percent of polled voters who found “very convincing” a message that centered on a call to “repeal Obamacare, cut regulations and lower taxes.”

In addition, “attacks on Republicans on women’s health and on their opposition to pay equity are very powerful and show that women are an amazing vulnerability for Republican candidates.”

The Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case has made possible a potent attack line for women who would be repulsed by support for allowing businesses to decide what forms of health care should or should not be available to them, the report says.

The report also says there is overwhelming support – 73 percent in favor vs. 24 percent opposed – for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling on money in politics.

Democracy Corps concludes that Democrats do have “a clear path forward,” including the ability to “go toe-to-toe in races that might otherwise be written off,” with a new populism agenda directed at working women and men.

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