Hillary wins the country club vote

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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A new Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton winning a clean sweep of the highest-income slice of voters, highlighting the Democrats’ growing dominance among the nation’s wealthy and well-connected.

The new poll, released Tuesday, shows potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is backed by 45 percent of likely voters who earn more than $100,000, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got 43 percent of the same group’s vote.

But Christie edged the former secretary of state 44 to 43 percent among middle-income voters who earn between $50,000 and $100,000, suggesting that the GOP’s strongest support lies in middle-class voters instead of the country-club set.

Among the high-income voters, Clinton beat Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul by 49 percent to 43 percent, beat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 54 percent to 36 percent, and beat former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by 49 percent to 40 percent.

In contrast, Bush and Paul lost the middle-class vote to Clinton by only two points, according to the poll of registered 813 Republicans and 803 registered Democrats. Cruz lost the middle-class vote by six points.

In a question about overall favorability, Clinton got positive reviews from 53 percent of the wealthiest group, but from only 50 percent of the middle-class group. That three-point class gap doubled when Quinnipiac counted unfavorable ratings — only 40 percent of the upper-class group rated her negatively, while 46 percent of the middle-class group rated her negatively, according to the poll.

The Democrats’ strong support among the wealthy clashes with the established media’s eagerness to portray the GOP as the party of the rich. That image was created before the late 1980s, when Democrats under President Bill Clinton traded their long-standing demand for tax increases to win more votes and donations from the wealthiest Americans.

President Barack Obama used that image to help defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, with the aid of donations from numerous billionaires, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and investors Warren Buffett and George Soros.

Those donations were rational. During Obama’s tenure, nearly all economic gains have gone to the top one percent, while wages have stagnated for all other Americans.

The GOP’s loss of support among the wealthy has created a funding problem for the GOP, prompting party leaders to zig-zag between the demands of elite donors and populist swing voters. That dynamic is highlighted by the immigration debate, where wealthy donors have allied with progressives to press for an increased inflow of cheap foreign workers, amid strong opposition from worried middle-class, working-class and independent voters.

The wealthiest demographic has been trending leftwards for decades, ever since President John Kennedy first won a narrow majority of professionals in 1960.

The high-income group includes risk-averse executives at companies who are dependent on favorable government regulations, many youthful rich from the post-industrial Internet sector, and many post-grad professionals who trust their fellow university-trained progressive peers to direct the nation’s government, economy and civic life.

Many of the $100,000 voters — but not a majority — also support Democratic control of the Congress.

Forty-three percent of the wealthiest group favor Democratic control of the Senate, while 49 percent favor the GOP. Middle-income voters, however, clearly favor GOP control by 50 percent to 41 percent.

Forty-nine percent of the $100,000-plus group favor GOP control of the House, while 44 percent favor Democratic control.

But another question showed that wealthy GOP voters aren’t as loyal to the local party candidates as are wealthy Democratic voters, or middle-class voters.

The $100,000-plus group split evenly — 40 percent to 40 percent — over whether they would vote for their local Democratic or Republican candidates. That’s a drop-off in support of roughly nine points among GOP voters, but a drop-off of only one to three points among the wealthy Democratic partisans.

Middle-class voters were relatively more willing to pull the lever for their local GOP candidate, by 40 percent to 34 percent.

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