Sunday, September 19, 2010

DFL needs to pay attention to young voters

In contravention of national trends, DFL candidates for Congress and Governor are losing among voters under age 50 and voters aged 18-34 are the strongest support base for their Republican opponents. Let's take a look at the crosstabs from the two SurveyUSA polls released last week.

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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TonyAngelo said...

This has been a trend for SurveyUSA all year and not just in Minnesota. I find these numbers hard to believe and suspect they have more to do with a flaw SurveyUSA's methodology when it comes to young voters. Perhaps it's an issue with cell phones perhaps it's the fact that they are an automated pollster, who knows.

PPP and others haven't shown this trend in their cross tabs this year only SurveyUSA AFAIK.

Aaron Klemz said...

Are there any recent polls beside the SurveyUSA pair that have age crosstabs avaiable? When I wrote this I checked the Ras and MPR/HHH poll for comparable numbers and they weren't available. What are some other polls that overstate R support among young voters?

TonyAngelo said...

Here are some other SUSA polls with questionalbe 18-34 numbers: (look at the Sen race here, wyden is killing it with everyone but young people)

There are more. Other pollsters who have been polling this cycle don't show this, but with SUSA it's consistent with all of their polls in all states. I don't know why, but it's weird and makes me question their results to a degree. 

In a mid-term election it may not matter in the end, as young people are not going to make up as much of the electorate as in a presidential year, but it's still an issue with their polls that they need to address.

Phoenix Woman said...

Clark's media people have done a good job of forcing Bachmann to abandon a really pricey ad campaign -- namely, the one featuring the Fake Jim.  I think Clark should make a point of emphasizing young college-age people in her ads.

Aaron Klemz said...

I went and looked and you are right about the Wyden race - it seems fishy, but the rest look fairly normal. That is, except for tthr > 20% that Libertarian Monds gets in the GA-Gov race.

My concern is that in MN particularly, the DFL strategy is overly focused on older voters. While I may be guilty of focusing too much on results from one pollster in looking for confirmatory evidence, is there any countervailing evidence beside a perception that SUSA's method might be suspect? I mean, it is entirely possible given the RTV poll that we're seeing some states where the enthusiasm gap is really big.

Alec Timmerman said...

How much does time of season play into the young voter survey? Is polling St. Cloud in the summer different than polling St. Cloud in the fall or mid-semester? How many kids were back in school during the seurvey time period? How many were transient? Maybe this has no effect.

TonyAngelo said...

In each one of those polls the Republican had their largest margin among young people, that just doesn't seem right to me.

Look at this PPP poll of CA-Gov for instance:

SUSA has 18-34 as Whitman's best age group and PPP has it as Brown's.

None of the other races I cited have been polled by anyone who's crosstabs I can see, but that trend among SurveyUSA's polls has been evident all year.

TonyAngelo said...

Here you go: