White voters move to GOP

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Democrats have built their post-1960s political coalition by uniting various minorities under a banner of diversity, but polls now show that the white majority — especially in the middle class — has lurched towards the GOP.

A Pew poll released today showed that the GOP’s advantage among white Americans has climbed from 42 percent to 49 percent, giving them a 10-point lead over the Democratic Party’s 39 percent.

This lead among whites is particularly prominent among middle-class voters, where the GOP’s lead has stretched to 16 points, up from just a 1 point advantage in 2008.

The GOP’s lead among whites earning less than $30,000 is 4 points, up 10 points from 2008.

The GOP’s lead among whites earning more than $75,000 per year has stretched to 14 points, up from 9 points in 2008.

The GOP now has support from 54 percent of middle-class whites, 47 percent of poor whites and 54 percent of wealthier whites.

That lopsided support for the GOP among white voters is offset by the Democrats’ far more lopsided support among minorities. 88 percent of African-Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics support Democrats, according to the Pew poll. Pew’s numbers show a Democratic gain of 6 percent among Hispanics, and a loss of 2 percent among African-Americans, since 2008, according to the poll. (Black voter participation may decrease in 2012)

Democrats typically attract roughly 75 percent of votes cast by gays and lesbians.

Also, the Republicans’ advantage among whites is less anchored that the Democrats’ lead among minorities.

A Pew report released in May sorted voters into various groups, including “disaffecteds.” Three-quarters of this group’s members are white, and only 11 percent have college degrees, said the report, “Beyond Red vs. Blue.”

Disaffected voters are “downscale and cynical,” overwhelmingly aligned against President Obama, hostile to taxes and skeptical of the federal government. But they’re also hostile to some policies favored by the other groups defined by Pew, including mainstream conservatives, “staunch” conservatives and libertarians.

Only 15 percent of disaffected voters support budget-balancing cuts to Social Security and Medicare, compared with 56 percent of libertarians and 47 percent of staunch conservatives. They’re more supportive of government intervention in the economy, and are hostile to immigration and free trade. They are also more supportive of conservative social rules than are libertarians, partly because their poverty exposes them to more risks when they or their peers engage in risky behavior — including drug consumption, divorce, and unmarried sex — as compared with wealthier Americans.

Disaffected Americans make up 11 percent of the population and 11 percent of the electorate, according to Pew. The Tea Party movement includes some disaffected voters who are not consistently loyal to the GOP.

This political divide came into play during recent elections, including the May special election to fill New York’s 26th-district House seat. An anti-free trade candidate drew away enough votes to hand victory to a Democratic candidate who prominently opposed cuts to Medicare.

Obama is trying to regain ground among these whites, while he also works to maintain his lead among African-American and Hispanic communities. In his Friday Maryland town hall meeting, for example, Obama repeatedly announced his support for government programs such as Medicare, and soft-pedaled his repeated call for more taxes as “balance.”

“This idea of balance, of shared sacrifice … isn’t just some wild-eyed socialist position,” he told the audience of African-American, Hispanic and white students. “I want everyone to … have a chance to become a millionaire [and] I think the free-market system is the greatest wealth-creation system ever known,” the president said.

His call for additional taxes “is about asking people … to share in the sacrifice.”