Obama With Wide Lead Among Low Income Voters

A new July 10-13 WaPo/Harvard poll shows Barack Obama with a wide lead among voters earning less than $30,000/yr, 58-28 (the 24% undecided is hard to explain). This is not unusual for the Democratic candidate for President - John Kerry won voters earning less than 15k/yr by 63-37 and those earning between 15 and 30k/yr 57-42. Jointly, these two income groups were 23% of the electorate in 2004. Obama's lead, according to WaPo, stems from "overwhelming support from two traditional Democratic constituencies: African Americans and Hispanics."

The finding that is attracting attention is Obama winning whites who earn less than 30k/year by 47-37. Some say this "knock[s] down the idea that Obama can't win the vote of White low-income workers." But that has never been the question. The question is can he win enough white working class voters (50k/year or less income being the traditional definition) to win the election. In case you missed it, John Kerry lost the election in 2004. I think Obama can and will win the election. Heck, I say he is a shoo-in. The question is this - is winning 47-37 now, with 16% undecided a good result? I do not know, but I think it is nothing to crow about.

More . . .

As I wrote, Obama is performing about at John Kerry levels for voters earning 30k/year or less. In 2004 the income segment of voters made up 23% of the vote. Voters making between 30k and 50k/yr, who are not part of this WaPo poll, constituted 22% of the electorate in 2004. Kerry split those voters right down the middle in 2004. In 1996, Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole by 8 points in this income segment. In 2000, Al Gore split this income segment with George Bush. And it should go without saying, that Ronald Reagan dominated this segment in 1980 and 1984 as did George H.W. Bush

Of course, every vote counts the same and Bill Clinton did better than any Democrat in every income segment (except those earning under 15k/yr, the most consistently reliable Dem voters of any income group, where Clinton performed at the typical Dem level) since LBJ. But the big swing was in the 30k-50k group. I would love to see how Obama is doing in that income segment now. That would tell us something new.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    Read through polling for Florida, Ohio & PA (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by bmc on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:52:41 AM EST
    In the latest Quinnipiac poll published July 31...white voters still a problem for Obama, and working class/blue collar workers still a problem for him. McCain has cut Obama's lead in PA and in all three states, the lead is razor-thin. I don't know about the WaPo poll's fundamentals, but just on the surface, it looks like there could be some questions about their conclusions...


    Maybe this is why McCain (none / 0) (#10)
    by Coral on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:04:08 AM EST
    is pushing the "race card" issue and also the "arrogance" meme ... and why it seems to have stalled Obama's momentum, at least temporarily.

    This is a key constituency.


    hmmmm, but why are they touting an (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by PssttCmere08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:22:58 AM EST
    almost month old poll?  WTH?

    I was wondering the same thing (none / 0) (#60)
    by ChuckieTomato on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:36:24 PM EST
    This article says June 18-July 7 (none / 0) (#62)
    by ChuckieTomato on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:01:51 PM EST
    That's over a month old, and not reliable. Many things have changed since then.

    Interesting timing.

    News Article


    I noticed this sunday (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:56:56 AM EST
    that the bobble heads have started talking about the expected "Bradley Effect".
    I expect if it appears this could be one of the primary places it appears.

    Yeah this is the segment of the (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:00:26 AM EST
    voting population that O was referring to in his infamous "bitter" remarks, or what I like to call "The San Francisco Treat" :)

    Goes well with meat (5.00 / 0) (#34)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:27:14 AM EST
    If you can afford meat.

    Do these numbers include youth vote? (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:08:08 AM EST
    ie. college students, as opposed to working folks?

    If so, then yes, I would be worried that he is not outperforming Kerry.

    That's a VERY good question ruffian. (none / 0) (#13)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:09:31 AM EST
    Sometimes they break students out (none / 0) (#16)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:10:53 AM EST
    before they report the numbers.  Maybe they did so here. I should go read the polling fine print. But I bet BTD already did.

    Of course (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:10:42 AM EST
    But that has always been the case. This is not a newly created measure.

    The result should not be surprising.

    Obama has been leading nationally for some time now.


    Good point (none / 0) (#18)
    by CST on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:11:47 AM EST
    We often forget College Students are definitely "low-income".  Although, many file taxes as dependants, so it probably depends on how the question was asked.  However, I tend to think polls do not reach college students at all.  Most college students do not use land lines.

    From the poll info (none / 0) (#20)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:15:03 AM EST
    Low-wage workers were defined as adults ages 18 to 64 working
    30 or more hours a week, not self-employed and earned no more than $27,000 in 2007.

    Not sure how many students work more than 30 hours per week, or for how long a period they need to have worked that many hours per week in order to be included in the poll.  My guess is that not many full-time students are captured in this poll.


    I look at it differently (none / 0) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:16:09 AM EST
    First job out of college people is what I had in mind.

    Yeah - looks like the poll is capturing (5.00 / 0) (#26)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:20:31 AM EST
    workers. It would be interesting to see an age breakdown comparison between Obama and Kerry. I'm sure we'll get all of those numbers we can stand in time.

    Indeed (none / 0) (#23)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:18:55 AM EST
    what we need are figures for whites whose parents did not go to college. Class is about education in America.

    BTW, look at question 68 (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:20:02 AM EST
    heh - before your time, but (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:22:20 AM EST
    one of my favorite old Chicago (the group) songs is "Questions 67 and 68".  Maybe they were talking about a poll.  I never could figure it out.

    That does answer my question (none / 0) (#32)
    by ruffian on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:25:42 AM EST
    Not many current colleges students in here.

    Old Poll? (5.00 / 5) (#14)
    by Polkan on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:10:09 AM EST
    This poll was taken in June/early July. Why is it released today?

    No idea (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:11:07 AM EST
    and a good point.

    Maybe to "support" the idea that (none / 0) (#25)
    by zfran on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:20:14 AM EST
    Obama is supposidly winning with this part of the electorate? You know, cast the shadow and see if anyone can pick out what time of day it is (does this hold true today?).

    zfran....more smoke & mirrors perhaps? (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by PssttCmere08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:23:44 AM EST
    Maybe (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:24:03 AM EST
    to support the idea that he doesn't need to pick Clinton.

    And maybe to stem some of the bleeding from last week?


    This survey is really flawed. (none / 0) (#58)
    by wurman on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 11:53:00 AM EST
    These are not "voters."

    From the WaPo cited by Big Tent.

    Nearly six in 10 white and black workers said they think undocumented workers take jobs away from those here legally; seven in 10 Hispanics disagreed. (Nearly half of the Hispanic workers interviewed in this poll are not U.S. citizens.)

    Page 24, the PDF report (link):

    76. Are you a United States citizen, or not? Base: Not born in the U.S.
    Yes 30%
    No 62%
    Refused 7%

    Earlier, 28 percent of the total respondents are NOT voters (question 59).

    $27,000 (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Steve M on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:33:19 AM EST
    strikes me as a fairly low number.  Plenty of people without a college education (the traditional measure) are earning more than $27k.  And this poll excludes all senior citizens, including working seniors, which is definitely Obama's toughest demographic.

    But Jonathan Singer makes a useful apples to apples comparison in the post you linked, pointing out that McCain is only winning 28% of voters earning less than $30k whereas Bush won 40%.

    That's a pretty big difference and it can only be explained by the state of the economy.  Obama needs to turn into Hillary and just keep hammering the kitchen-table issues.  These voters are hurting and they are not going to be swayed by some stupid Paris Hilton ad.

    I remember hearing in 2004 that senators (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:44:18 AM EST
    make terrible candidates when it comes to connecting to voters on the "bread and butter" aspect of campaigning. Yes, I know HRC did well during the primaries but you have to remember that she has 1000% more experience with executive office than legislative. Senators tend to be more about national security and federal law, etc. which is why neither of these guys isn't knocking it out of the ballpark.

    Problem with these comparisons (none / 0) (#39)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:35:46 AM EST
    is that the amount of money you make can change. As I suggest above, a very good crosstab would be "did either of your parents go to college?"

    The bigger problem (none / 0) (#44)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:44:08 AM EST
    is comparing an exit poll with no undecideds to a July poll.

    Indeed (none / 0) (#50)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:45:33 AM EST
    Of course it can change (none / 0) (#49)
    by Steve M on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:45:12 AM EST
    and your voting habits often change along with it.

    Depends on who you blame (none / 0) (#51)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:46:21 AM EST
    for your new misfortune. (Or the reverse, of course).

    I know for a fact (none / 0) (#40)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:38:17 AM EST
    because I have several relatives in the field, that there are many public school teachers in arkansas making this or less.

    Hello to Captain Howdy (none / 0) (#67)
    by Bluesage on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:57:14 PM EST
    Hi - haven't seen you anywhere for a while.  I just found this site and am happy to see you here.

    Now, back on topic,

    But, but, but ..... During the primary all the Obama supporters said these voters were all too poor and too stupid to see what a miracle Obama was for this country and that's why they were Hillary supporters.  


    Not a good point (none / 0) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:43:33 AM EST
    The undecideds are way too high.

    there are no undecideds in an exit poll.


    Shrug (none / 0) (#54)
    by Steve M on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:55:11 AM EST
    Only 14% undecideds.

    Bush won 40% of the overall under $30k demographic.  Of those people, we can assume the people who aren't working are more likely to vote Democratic.  So we know that Bush must have been well over 40% with the subgroup sampled in this poll.

    McCain is at 28% with 14% undecideds.  Clearly he is underperforming.

    Of course, you're the one who thinks the election is over, not me!


    16% (none / 0) (#56)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 11:02:13 AM EST
    If they split 50/50, McCain get 36% (Bush got 38%).

    No difference.


    Hmm (none / 0) (#57)
    by Steve M on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 11:23:55 AM EST
    I thought we were talking about the 58-28 split.  58 + 28 + 14 = 100.

    We're sort of splitting hairs at this point, and I'm not sure whether your 38% or Singer's 40% number is correct, but I do think it's unlikely for McCain to pull half of the undecideds in a group where he trails by more than 2-1.


    Well said (none / 0) (#1)
    by david mizner on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:43:50 AM EST
    It's a little embarrassing to see liberal bloggers everywhere--from Greg Sargent to Jonathan Singer--seizing on the poll to claim that it somehow contradicts the belief that Obama is vulnerable among (white) working class voters--traditionally defined as people with no education past high school or people earning 50 k or less. That was the group that went so heavily for Hillary, and there was one poll last month that found McCain leading Obama among these voters by 17 points--which actually isn't bad for a Dem. If the margin gets to be 20 plus, Obama would be in trouble.

    Maybe that's why the poll is being touted (none / 0) (#68)
    by Valhalla on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 06:24:33 PM EST
    even though it's a month old?

    All you have to do is look (none / 0) (#2)
    by andgarden on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:46:08 AM EST
    at the primary results from the city of Philadelphia to know that there is a problem. As expected, Obama won 90% of the black vote. But Hillary won north of 70% of the working class white vote. John Kerry and Al Gore won both by overwhelming margins.

    Will the divide stick? If it does, OH is a lost cause, with PA and MI in trouble.

    Which is why McCain's position on (none / 0) (#33)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:25:55 AM EST
    Free Trade doesn't make a lick of sense (politically). Obama is in position to win these states by default, imo.

    personally (none / 0) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:46:54 AM EST
    I think the reason could be that they mostly have not been reached by the negative ads yet.  these are, in many cases, the real low information voters.
    thats not an insult it just admitting that usually these people have a busy day just trying to survive and not a lot of time to pay attention to politics.
    when the elitist stuff reaches them you will see those numbers change.  IMO.

    You know I would like to see (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Faust on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:06:29 AM EST
    a detailed analysis of "low information voters." Is it really true that there is a direct correlation between income and being "low information?"

    Most of my friends are pretty successful and when it comes to politics they def are not high information. They work very hard, often 60 hours a week, primarly because that's what expected in high end corporate jobs. It's just part of the culture.

    I think Americans in general work pretty hard regardless of income level. Most of us are very busy and don't take much time for ourselves. It's the "American Way."

    Heck even stay at home parents with multiple kids are going to be really busy. That's a full time job in itself.

    Being informed poltically in my opinion requires more than watching the gasbags on CNN and that takes some time an motivation.

    Anyway I'm wondering how well defined the concept of "low information voter" really is in political science. I think I'll go look it up now.


    Anecdotally, (5.00 / 0) (#36)
    by Valhalla on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:31:53 AM EST
    I grew up in what is thought of as the 'low info voters' segment.  It ticks me off every time I hear that, because it's mostly coming from supposedly 'high info voters' who are appallingly ignorant.  But, they went to college, or make a lot of money, and among their thinking that they know just about every d*mn thing, they include politics.

    But my experience is, most of the allegedly low info folks are people who read the paper every day, they read most of it, they watch the news, and they talk about politics, sports, and local news/events to their friends and coworkers pretty consistently.  They are people who live in real communities, not virtual ones.  I have had many more conversations about the campaigns and Congress's behavior when I go home to hang with my folks than I do anywhere else except specifically political sites on the web.

    What I think 'low info' really means, as used, is 'voters who aren't buying our line of b*llsh*t'.


    I've always thought low-information.... (5.00 / 0) (#42)
    by Shainzona on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:42:31 AM EST
    was meant to mean low-education - e.g., "not smart enough to bother with the facts of politics" versus those young kids who have fallen in line behind Obama because they're sooooo smart.

    Hilarious! (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by vicndabx on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:48:03 AM EST
    think 'low info' really means, as used, is 'voters who aren't buying our line of b*llsh*t'

    that is certainly what the Obama campaign (5.00 / 0) (#53)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:54:00 AM EST
    meant when they used it in the primary.  but I think there is a segment of voters that could rightly be described this way.
    for whatever reason.

    Not disparaging your viewpoint (5.00 / 0) (#55)
    by vicndabx on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 11:01:47 AM EST
    I agree, there are quite a few folks out there who haven't "gotten the news yet" for whatever reason.  Doesn't mean they're slow or have some other problem that has a negative connotation.

    My post was meant to be taken literally, that line by Valhalla was hilarious (to me least.)


    I absolutely agree (none / 0) (#63)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:22:49 PM EST
    I actually know some of these folks.   they are just busy surviving.  tried to make that clear in an earlier comment.

    Yes, that is true (none / 0) (#69)
    by Valhalla on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 06:31:24 PM EST
    I was reacting not to your comment, which was excellent, but to the implications that 'low info voter' has when spoken elsewhere.

    When I see people who had great educational and professional opportunities who spout the most appalling bull and then turn around talking about 'low info voters' when they really mean working class and poor people, it just ticks me off no end.

    My guess is that age is at least as much a factor as class.


    Well I looked around the web (none / 0) (#61)
    by Faust on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 12:40:17 PM EST
    and it's a very poorly defined concept.

    So I have decided that my defenition of a low info voter is anyone who knows as much or less about politics than "The Best Political Team on Television."


    it was speculation. (none / 0) (#19)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:14:10 AM EST
    I have no facts to support that speculation.  just personal experience.  and I would say below 20,000.

    Well I looked around. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Faust on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:32:55 AM EST
    It's a very poorly defined concept as far as I can tell.

    Well yeah. But I find it kinda ironic (none / 0) (#5)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:56:01 AM EST
    that the poorest income voters are voting their interest by paying more attention to the pocketbook than the political version of E! NEWS (the McCain ads)

    ironic but undeniable (none / 0) (#7)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:57:28 AM EST
    at least in the past.

    Please link properly (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:17:04 AM EST
    I had to delete a comment that broke the margin.

    new Rassmusen poll for today (none / 0) (#31)
    by TimNCGuy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:24:41 AM EST
    Now has McCain up by 1%.

    Waiting to see the new Gallup numbers tha come out today.

    just about to link it (5.00 / 0) (#35)
    by NJDem on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:28:41 AM EST
    here it is--FWIW


    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows the race for the White House is tied with Barack Obama and John McCain each attracting 44% of the vote. However, when "leaners" are included, it's McCain 47% and Obama 46%.

    A week ago today, Obama had a three-percentage point lead and the candidates were even among unaffiliated voters. Today, McCain leads 52% to 37% among unaffiliateds.


    Hmm, also seems to be pulling ahead (5.00 / 0) (#41)
    by Valhalla on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:41:10 AM EST
    on energy issues:

    Forty-six percent (46%) of voters trust McCain more than Obama on energy issues while Obama is trusted more by 42%. Two months ago, Obama had a four point edge on the energy issue (Premium Members can review Crosstabs and Trends).

    Off topic (none / 0) (#48)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:44:57 AM EST
    Sorry, got distracted by the poll talk n/t (none / 0) (#70)
    by Valhalla on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 06:32:31 PM EST
    Off topic (none / 0) (#47)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:44:40 AM EST
    Off topic (none / 0) (#46)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 10:44:26 AM EST
    sorry, (none / 0) (#59)
    by NJDem on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 11:57:38 AM EST
    my bad--got swept up in the talk about polls.

    The 24% undecided (none / 0) (#64)
    by cawaltz on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:26:26 PM EST
    isn't that hard to explain. Alot of folksa are waiting to see the VP choices IMO. They don't like either choice so they are waiting to see if the VP choices will be more palatable.

    It seems... (none / 0) (#65)
    by Oje on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:45:35 PM EST
    Josh Marshall's hectoring Clinton's racist supporters worked wonders - The Appalachians are now post-racial Obama supporters! Enlightenment comes to the mountain tops!

    I would wait until the votes are cast (none / 0) (#66)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 01:49:18 PM EST
    to make that statement.  but thats just me.