A Democratic poll meant to draw attention to the opportunity Senate Democratic candidates have of taking the chamber back, found that nearly seven of 10 likely voters believe the country is on the wrong track and want major changes to help struggling families and small businesses.
The Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund/Democracy Corps poll seven years into President Obama's change elections found that 66 percent view the country going the wrong way compared to just 22 percent who say it is on the right track.
"This is a change election," said long-time Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg. "People want more change," he said.
That change, he suggested, should be a focus on government and financial reform aimed at the middle class. "Changing government is one piece that Democrats need to get right," he said.
The poll of voters in the key Senate election states of Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Colorado, revealed trouble spots for Democrats, but also opportunities. "Democrats can recapture the Senate but it will require them to bolster enthusiasm," said Page Gardner, the president and founder of Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund.
For example, the new survey suggested that the new majority of voters will be made up of millennials, unmarried women and people of color. But while they would typically vote Democratic, they aren't jazzed about the party.
Consider: Conservatives, Republicans and seniors are the most interested about the upcoming election, at 70 percent or higher. The combination of millennials, unmarried women and people of color are at the other end of the spectrum at 57 percent.
Gardner said in a conference call that there is "a lot of room to engage voters who are now not engaged."
Greenberg said there is good opportunity for Democrats if they move now to inspire disengaged voters. In his note, he made these recommendations:
Fix the enthusiasm gap, particularly among unmarried women and millennials. This is a long-standing problem, reflected in Democracy Corps' research and other surveys. Voters within the RAE are significantly less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than non-RAE voters. This survey shows how to raise engagement with unmarried women.
Fix the margin among Democratic base voters, particularly unmarried women. There is still room to grow support among RAE voters, and the underperformance of unmarried women in these Republican-held Senate seats could not be more dramatic. To cite one example, Obama won 63 percent of unmarried women in 2012 in Florida, but the Democrats' Senate candidate reaches just 48 percent in this survey.
Fix the margin with unmarried women voters and improve the margin with white working class women. Unmarried women are holding back the Democratic Senate candidates across these key states and more progress can be made with white working class women who are increasingly open to voting for Democrats. The Democratic message and agenda tested in this poll—particularly protecting Social Security from benefit cuts, policies to help working families like equal pay, and reforming government so it works for the middle class—get their attention.
Brand a tarnished Republican Party that is too partisan for these times.
Run unambiguously on a middle class agenda that includes economic policies for working families and fundamentally reforms money and politics and reforms government for the middle class. It is important to recognize how addressing the first two of these issues is predicated on effectively addressing the last. In this survey, we field tested the money and government reform policies that WVWVAF and the Voter Participation Center developed this year. The result? Democratic candidates make major gains among unmarried women and help equalize the enthusiasm gap for unmarried women and white working class women.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.