In the Bachmann-Clark CD6 race, the topline figures (49-40) remained basically unchanged from another SurveyUSA poll in July. But underneath the surface there was one shift that was pretty startling - voters are becoming very polarized based on age.
Since the July 12 poll, Clark has opened a 7 point lead among voters over 50. This is a promising development for the Clark campaign, since voters over 50 constitute a majority of the CD6 electorate.
Unfortunately for Clark, at the same time what was a 20 point lead for Bachmann among voters under 50 has turned into a massive 27 point lead.
The race for Governor shows a similar trend. Although the numbers for under 50/over 50 are not as dramatic as the CD6 race, digging a little deeper shows Emmer is winning only among voters age 18-34. But he's winning by 16 points among young voters in the September 15 SurveyUSA poll.
Compare this to the last pre-primary SurveyUSA poll from August. Nearly all of Tom Horner's gains have come in the 50+ age groups that had fueled Dayton's eye-popping 14 point lead that poll. And in August, Dayton led among the same young voters that the September poll indicates are flocking to Emmer.
The enthusiasm gap among young voters is a problem for the Dayton campaign, and in some sense not particularly surprising considering a national enthusiasm gap, Dayton's focus on senior issues and his campaign's lack of social media savvy. More disturbing to me is that Horner's effect on the race appears to be breaking more along age than party identification. And since older voters were the bedrock of Dayton's early poll success, Horner's recent surge has evened up the race. But that's another post.
A new Rock the Vote poll released this week indicates a roadmap for appealing to young voters that is very consistent with Clark and Dayton's positions. These include creating green energy jobs, increasing college affordability, opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and standing up to corporate special interests. But as the pollsters noted:
To limit their losses this November, Democrats must re-energize these young adults. Currently, just 17% say they are paying “a lot of attention” to the upcoming elections, and engagement is higher among young Republicans, 60% of whom say that they are very likely to vote this November, compared to 51% of Democrats. The reservoir of support is still much larger on the Democratic side however, as they preferred Obama by a 21-point margin in 2008 (55% to 34%).In Minnesota, Emmer's proposed cut for higher education will hit home with this age group. Focusing on college campuses with a message of college affordability is crucial. Clark has solid support among older voters, and now must work at eroding Bachmann's commanding lead among young voters. Her opening television ad about Bachmann's coddling of BP is a message she'd be well-served to return to.
The dearth of support among young voters for DFL candidates is worrisome, but presents opportunities in the MN-Gov and CD6 races.
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