Pollster Breaks Down Obama’s Win
“If Hillary wants its, she’ll serve two terms as president, convert to Catholicism and ride out her years as pope.” While this particular forecast of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s future was made in jest, John Zogby doesn’t shy away from bold predictions. Zogby, founder of the Zogby Poll, is an internationally respected pollster, political analyst and best-selling author, and he knows Secretary Clinton well.
He also knows numbers. Zogby rose to prominence in the 1990s thanks to the accuracy of his presidential election predictions. He writes for the Washington Times, Forbes.com and various other outlets, and has been featured on network and cable news programs such as NBC’s “Today Show.” Like everyone who’s anyone these days, he’s also been spoofed on late night TV and profiled by the New Yorker. In his 2008 book, “The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream,” he relies on polling data to analyze cultural, political and demographic shifts in American society.
The Institute for Education (IFE), a nonprofit that promotes leadership, civility and global civic engagement, invited Zogby to share his expertise at a public policy roundtable on Nov. 13 hosted by Swiss Ambassador Manuel Sager at his residence.
The event was part of the IFE INFO series of programs that bring together influential leaders for salon-style policy discussions. The discussion was moderated by IFE founder and CEO Kathy Kemper, a frequent op-ed contributor and former professional tennis player who’s better known as “coach” to many Washingtonians, including a few Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile weekend warriors.
Ambassador Sager kicked off IFE’s most recent discussion by reminding the audience, which included several ambassadors, that we live in a global society — one where the impact of presidential elections goes well beyond a country’s own borders to affect global investments, export markets and of course the worldwide economy. He noted that more than 600 Swiss companies have invested in the United States, a sign of the enduring importance of the U.S. market.
Therefore, in today’s world, he said it’s not strange for a discussion of American politics to be hosted at the Swiss Embassy and attended by a diverse international audience. Besides, he joked, “All of us have lived now through 18 months of campaigning, of elections, and its difficult to go cold turkey.”
Zogby for one will probably never have to go cold turkey — in light of President Obama’s victory, analysts, pollsters and politicos will be scrutinizing the win for months to come.
Zogby pointed out that Obama’s re-election was more a demographic victory than an ideological one. By this measure, the president’s “winning demographic coalition” included four key groups:
First were Latinos, one of the fastest-growing voter demographics. In 2000, Latinos comprised 6 percent of the vote; in 2012, they were 10 percent. Second were African Americans. While not a growing portion of the population, they do represent a growing portion of the electorate, turning out in even greater numbers at the polls this year than in 2008 despite pundit predictions to the contrary. Both groups voted overwhelmingly for Obama over Mitt Romney (more than 70 percent and more than 90 percent respectively).
The third key group is young people, a cohort that includes what Zogby terms “first globals.” These voters, born between 1979 and 1991, have passports and global social networks, and they are more likely to view themselves as citizens of the world than to proclaim American cultural superiority. This group favored Obama in 2008 and 2012, but slightly less so this year thanks to a subset of young voters Zogby calls CENGAs (College Educated Not Going Anywhere). This libertarian-leaning cohort is skeptical of politicians and governmental institutions — a consequence, Zogby surmises, of a coming-of-age during a recession.
Young single women, who favored Obama by 71 percent, were crucial to his victory among young voters overall. Comments by GOP candidates such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock parsing the meaning of rape were especially alienating to a voting bloc born long after contraception was legalized and the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose.
According to Zogby, the last group in Obama’s demographic push was the “creative class,” those who work in technology, culture, arts and entertainment. This group, which he said makes up about a third of the workforce, tends to cluster in areas like Northern Virginia, Boston, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Such knowledge-sector hubs exist in all 12 of the red states that turned blue on the 2008 electoral map. In 2012, President Obama won all but one of those states — North Carolina, which he only lost by three percentage points.
Zogby wouldn’t go so far as to label these demographic shifts an emerging democratic majority, but he said Republicans cannot keep ignoring these changes. “There’s an emerging GOP problem, and demographics are a huge part of [it].” The flip side of the rising number of minority voters is the decreasing significance of the white vote, a group that Romney needed to win by 66 percent, according to Zogby’s calculations, though he only got 61 percent.
Moreover, while 81 percent of Zogby’s age cohort is white (he is 64), only 61 percent of first globals are white. As white voters make up a smaller portion of the electorate, it is clear Republicans will have to reshape their white male-centric message to appeal to a broader cross-section of the electorate.
Evangelicals are another critical part of the GOP base, but a generational shift in priorities may erode their support for the party as well. Evangelicals under 35 “are not your father’s evangelicals,” Zogby said. They are pro-life and pro-gun, but those culture war issues take a backseat to social justice, global poverty and man’s stewardship of God’s earth (environmentalism) — traditionally liberal terrain. Today’s young evangelical voter is less James Dobson and more Rick Warren, says Zogby.
So where does that leave future Republicans? During the audience Q&A, IFE board member Marci Robinson, president of the PR firm Robinson Communications and a former aide to Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), asked what a winning GOP message might be in 2016.
Entrepreneurialism, Zogby said — but for young entrepreneurs, that doesn’t translate into tax cuts, a mantra of today’s GOP economic thinking. Republicans will need to tweak their economic rhetoric to get them on board, he argues.
“Young people aren’t asking for tax cuts,” he cautioned. “They’re asking for gigs, jobs, contracts, whatever it is. One of the things I think Republicans should get … is that we aren’t talking about jobs promotion anymore; we’re talking about a ‘gig economy.’ Young people will have had four ‘gigs’ by the age of 30 and 10 by the age of 40,” he explained.
Republican rhetoric on immigration will also have to change. State laws encouraging “self-deportation,” support for border fences, opposition to the Dream Act and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States killed any chance the GOP might have had with Hispanic voters. That will be a “hard one to cleanse,” Zogby said.