Pew's political typology study always offers a comprehensive look at attitudes toward both parties -- and this year is no exception. But while the results offer the most clues about the long-term direction of the country's politics, it also tells us some important things about the 2014 midterm election.
- Democrats looking for a break from the glut of pessimistic news about the upcoming election won't find it here. The survey finds that outside of their hardened liberal base, support for the party and President Obama has dropped precipitously and across-the-board since 2012. The drop-off is most acute among a group Pew calls "Hard-Pressed Skeptics," which is older, whiter, and more downtrodden than the average Democrat. They overwhelmingly backed Obama in 2012, 65 percent to to 25 percent, but now a plurality of them, 48 percent, disapprove of his performance.
- This is a voting bloc Democratic incumbents in blue-collar states like Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich must reach to win reelection. They have some reason to think they can: Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics think government should do more to help the poor, and only one-quarter of them think the GOP cares about the middle class. With the right populist Democratic agenda and a smart outreach campaign, these voters could be persuaded to rejoin the Democrats. But doing so is still an uphill fight at a time when Democrats already have enough problems.
- Of course, persuasion is only half the battle. Democrats also need to make sure they show up to vote at all. The typology study shows Hard-Press Skeptics make up less than 10 percent of people who are politically engaged in America. It shouldn't surprise that among the three groups Pew identifies as the most politically active, two are Republican while just one is Democratic. A lot of Democratic voters just aren't that tuned in to elections, which explains the party's traditional turnout problems in midterms.
Take a long look at the study -- it's worth your time. Just know if you're a Democrat, you won't find much reason for optimism.
-- Alex Roarty