Pollster: Democrats Losing Support Among White Men

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President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats hit a historic high this week when the health care overhaul was signed into law. But not everyone was happy with the outcome. Quarrels aside, one truth is coming to light: the political party in power is losing support. Guest host Allison Keyes talks with David Paul Kuhn, chief political correspondent of RealClearPolitics.com, about the declining relationship among the white male voting bloc and President Obama and Democrats.


I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

Coming up, we'll learn about a disturbing trend that's popped up in a city of brotherly love violent flash mobs. That's in a moment.

But first, our weekly political chat. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats hit a historic high this week when the health care overhaul was signed into law. But not everyone was happy with the outcome. The law sparked an emotional outcry in some legislators. Mostly Democrats have faced anger and resentment over their support for the legislation. Several had their offices vandalized or became the target of racial taunts and even death threats. Some Republicans have also reported vandalism at their offices.

Many Republican leaders have condemned the acts, while other conservative accused the media and the Democrats themselves of blowing the event out of proportion to discredit health care opponents. Quarrels aside, though, one truth is coming to light: The political party in power is losing the support of a vital voting block, white men.

Here to discuss that is David Paul Kuhn. He's chief political correspondent at RealClearPolitics.com and also author of "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma." Welcome, David.

Mr. DAVID PAUL KUHN (RealClearPolitics.com; Author, "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma"): Thanks for having me.

KEYES: You wrote an opinion piece earlier this week in the L.A. Times titled "The Revenge of the White Men." Why are white men frustrated and looking for revenge?

Mr. KUHN: Well, they aren't looking for revenge. I didn't write that headline and it's not journalistically accurate, so let's just avoid that word.

KEYES: Right. Okay, so let's say what you wanted to say.

Mr. KUHN: Let's use the words frustrated, forgotten, words like that.

KEYES: Okay.

Mr. KUHN: Okay. You have to start from the supposition that whites in general, including white women, a majority of whites are skeptical of big government. They would prefer a smaller government with fewer services than a big government with more services. But white men, around 71 percent, 70 percent are skeptical of big government, while white women it's closer to the mid 50s.

So you are talking about a group of American voters who are most skeptical of big government. That frames everything. Two, whites overall, only about a third of white women and men approve of the health care bill as passed, according to Quinnipiac's recent poll.

KEYES: Are they feeling abandoned by the Democratic Party?

Mr. KUHN: Yeah. I mean, and that's the key point. In the end, about half of all job losses in this recession are among white males. And Barack Obama made historic gains, gains not seen since Jimmy Carter in 1976 with white men, while at the same time not making gains actually with white women. So, he made inroads important.

Millions of white men voted for Barack Obama who had been voting Republican in presidential cycles prior. But clearly we can now tell from polling that his approval rating has plummeted among this group, and especially independents. In other words, the very voters that moved to Barack Obama, particularly after the economic collapse in mid-September of 2008 are now many of them are disapproving of this president. It looks as if that exact swing block has actually turned against this president.

In other words, they disapprove of his administration and they look to be they tell pollsters they are voting for a Republican in their district, in other words, a Republican Congress. And this is why Democrats should fret potential repeat of the 1994 election.

KEYES: David, just how vital is this voting block? I mean, are there a lot of them?

Mr. KUHN: There are a lot. They represent about 36 percent of all voters in presidential elections, and in congressional midterm elections it's even higher. There are about 100 million white guys in America. Of course not everyone votes in any political block. But it's vital because they directly correlate to Barack Obama's majority.

In other words, Barack Obama only gained a majority of electorate in the 2008 election after he started making these historic gains with white men. So, in other words, it's not that Barack Obama couldn't win without making gains with white men, but he would not have had his majority. He would not have had be able to claim a majority of American voters if not for the gains with this block.

KEYES: We only have a few moments, but you said that the white men felt abandoned by President Obama in a way that they didn't by FDR.

Mr. KUHN: I did. And it's that goes back to priorities. And those priorities are of course that FDR focused his first year exclusively on the economy and jobs. And Barack Obama put health care to the front of his agenda.

KEYES: What - is there anything that the Democrats and the president can do to fix this just briefly?

Mr. KUHN: It's more difficult now than it was, but yes. One, they have to find a way to pass significant jobs bills that directly help construction and manufacturing workers most of all, blue collar workers. That will help blacks and whites and Hispanic men. And, two, they have to find a way to talk to working class whites about how this health care reform directly helps their lives.

KEYES: Which way is this block looking to vote in the next congressional races?

Mr. KUHN: They're looking to vote Republican. And that's why the Dems should fret losing the House majority in November.

KEYES: Okay. David Paul Kuhn is chief political correspondent at RealClearPolitics.com, and he's also the author of "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma." He joined us from our studio in New York City. Thanks a lot.

Mr. KUHN: Thank you.

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