The Urgent Policy Agenda

Less than a week after Paul Ryan released his latest budget—which would slash funding for Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and child care—Republicans released a new report announcing that they will try harder to connect with young voters, minorities, and women. 

We know something about young people, minorities and unmarried women (which we call the Rising American Electorate).  And we know that Paul Ryan’s budget has little to do with their priorities.  To find out how these voters are thinking about the policy agenda and the future, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, along with Democracy Corps, Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund, and the Voter Participation Center[1] conducted a national survey of 950 voters in the 2012 election, half of whom were reached via cell phones.[2]

The survey results are clear.  If the GOP—or anyone—wants to connect with the Rising American Electorate, they need to understand their real priorities, which include social insurance benefits, child care, and investment in jobs and education – in other words, the same programs that would be slashed under the Ryan budget plan.  This is an inauspicious beginning for the re-invented Republican Party.

What Paul Ryan and Republicans have fundamentally missed is that these voters depend on these programs in the present and require them for the future.  Paul Ryan seems to have no sense of the real pocketbook economy in which these voters live every day.  Members of the Rising American Electorate are 7 points more likely than average to report that they or someone in their family lost health insurance and 8 points more likely than average to report that they have moved in with a relative or had someone move in with them to save money.

These voters, especially the unmarried women who formed almost a quarter of the electorate and were critical to President Obama’s success in the 2012 election, are on the edge financially and face pocketbook-level pressures every day.  These women are totally focused on the economic policies that would help to ease working families’ fiscal pressures.  

Key findings:

  • The economy is still very tough.  Nearly 6 in 10 give the economy a negative rating and pocketbook-level indicators have not improved. More than half of the Rising American Electorate reports major spending cuts at the grocery store and almost 40 percent have had to move in with family or had someone move in to save money.
  • Voters are deeply concerned about the sequester cuts – both personally and for the country.  More than three-quarters of the RAE and 71 percent of all voters fear the cuts will affect the country in a negative way.
  • Republicans have just released their 2012 “autopsy” but have a lot of ground to make up with voters.  In this survey, two-thirds of all voters disapprove of the Republican Congress and almost half give negative ratings to John Boehner and the Republican Party. 
  • Democrats have a strong early lead on Republicans in the generic Congressional vote – up 4 points among likely 2014 voters.  While voters have soured on Washington in general, Republicans have borne the brunt of voters’ anger.
  • But despite a lead in the vote, support for Democrats among unmarried women has declined since November.  While the Rising American Electorate produces the same margin for Democrats as in November (+26), these voters are less engaged overall and unmarried women’s support for Democrats has dropped net 9 points since November.
  • Unmarried women feel that their priorities are not being addressed.  Almost 6 in 10 unmarried women do not feel the national political debate is raising issues important to them, which include social insurance benefits, childcare, and economic support. 
  • Democrats can re-engage unmarried women, whose participation will be critical in 2014. They are moved by a working women’s agenda – including education, support for women-owned small businesses, raising the minimum wage, child care, and pay equity.
  • The working women’s policy framework increases unmarried women’s support for Democrats, 11 points higher than their current vote, and much stronger than when the policy framework is focused on women’s preventive health issues.
  • There is work to do emphasizing the benefits of the new health care reform law.  Unmarried women are largely unaware of the health care law’s benefits and not seeing its gains.  Fifty-five percent of unmarried women think it’s too early to tell how the health care law will affect them.

Read the full memo here.

[1] The Voter Participation Center’s role in this project relates only to policy research for RAE outreach and education

[2] This memo is based on a phone survey of 950 2012 voters nationwide conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center from March 9-12, 2013.  Unless otherwise noted, margin of error is +/-3.18 percentage points at 95 percent confidence.

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