[Stanley] Greenberg and other Democratic writers concede that Republicans will continue to win the white working-class vote — composed, roughly speaking, of whites who do not have four-year college degrees. In 2012, President Obama won only 36 percent of these voters against Republican Mitt Romney; in 2014, Democrats won just 34 percent of these voters in House races.
Though these voters are a declining proportion of the electorate —from about 65 percent in 1980 to about 35 percent today — they still hold the balance of power in the Deep South and in swing states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.
Republicans also have two other groups that, unlike the white working class, are increasing in size: voters with a four-year, but not an advanced, college degree, and senior citizens.
And there’s a surprising subset of this trend: While African-American support for Democrats doesn’t vary by income or occupation, there is now, according to the ANES surveys, a gap opening up between Hispanics with a high school diploma or less, who supported Obama by more than 70 percent, and those with some college or an associate degree, who supported him by just 55 percent. Based purely on current demographic trends, one could reason that in a generation, as more Hispanics get college degrees, they could become almost as tough a sell for the Democrats as white college graduates are now.
And there’s an added consideration. Sociologist Richard Alba argues in the current American Prospect that the very census categories upon which political predictions about a majority-minority country rest are highly suspect.
The other key group that is moving toward Republicans, senior citizens, was once a dependable Democratic vote. Bill Clinton won voters 65 and over twice, Al Gore carried them in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004. But since 2008, seniors have begun tilting Republican. Republicans gained a 6-point advantage over Democrats in 2010. This is at least partly explained by opposition to Obama’s moves on health care and immigration.
According to Pew polls, seniors have been the group most disapproving of Obama’s Affordable Care — 56.5 to 37.9 percent in September 2013. Many seniors appear to have feared that the Affordable Care Act was being financed by reductions in projected spending on Medicare. They saw themselves having to sacrifice their own coverage for the sake of the uninsured.