21st Century America Project

What the 2010 Census Means for the 2012 Election

Last week NDN hosted a panel discussion on what the 2010 Census means for the 2012 Election.  Morley Winograd, NDN Fellow and co-author of Millennial Makeover, one of New York Times Ten Favorite Books of 2008, and the forthcoming Millenium Momentum, focused on the growth of the Millennial Generation and the importance of engaging this fast-growing portion of the electorate.  Joel Kotkin, an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, and the crtically acclaimed author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, offered his thoughts on migration within America (particularly to the South and West), and what those changes mean for state and national politics.  Carlos Odio, the former Deputy Latino Vote Director for Obama for America and Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs, and now the Director of Special Projects at New Organizing Institute, offered reflections on the changing Latino electorate and how and where their participation will make an impact in 2012.

Some of the most interesting questions came from our audience, who wondered if the midterm turnout rates were a predictor of 2012 enthusiasm among Millennials and Latinos, and whether the administration's policy priorities matched the electorate's priorities.

We plan to continue the census series, so be sure to send any ideas for future programming to Alicia at alicia@ndn.org.

This Week in The 21st Century America Project

Today, as analysts pore over President Obama's budget proposal, Millennial Generation activists are focusing on what his proposal means for students.  According to a write-up by Reuters:

President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the next fiscal year nips and tucks at individual grants for low-income students but the amount budgeted is twice as high as two years ago because the number of students has grown.

One tuck is a decision to end the year-round Pell which allows students to collect two grants in a calendar year if they attend summer school, which is most likely to be felt by for-profit schools, according to one analyst.

The other tuck is the elimination of interest subsidies for loans to graduate students.

The maximum award for a Pell grant remains $5,550, which more than nine million students expected to benefit from as part of the program.

The New York Time's David Leonhardt delves into the Pell provisions, writing:

When the Pell program recently expanded to include grants for summer classes, the additional cost was not supposed to be very large - roughly 1 percent of Pell's annual $30 billion cost in future years. Instead, many more students than expected have signed up for the program and are receiving federal grants for summer classes. In 2013, summer grants are projected to make up $5 billion of the program's total $36 billion budget - or a whopping 14 percent.

In my earlier post, I asked for evidence that the summer grants did not help lift graduation rates. The administration official preferred to ask a different question: What evidence exists that summer grants, which began last year, have lifted graduation rates? Or, as the official put it, "Is the evidence adequate to justify a $5 billion new entitas lement?"

The administration decided that the answer was no and that eliminating the program was the kind of budget cut that the government should be making, given the deficit. One reason to be skeptical that summer grants are making a big difference is that enrollment in summer classes has risen only marginally in the last year.

By contrast, the Republican plan would offer even sharper cuts.  Nick Anderson at The Washington Post writes:

House Republicans would lower the maximum Pell grant to $4,705 and cut other education spending by $4.9 billion, according to their spending proposal for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

This narrow but important conversation about educational grants brings into focus an even larger and long over-due conversation about unemployment among young Americans.  University of Massachusetts Amherst Economics Professor Nancy Folbre explores this issue on today's New York Times Economix blog.  As she writes,

Neither lofty rhetoric surrounding a new "competitiveness agenda" nor bipartisan invocations of the importance of public investments in human capital can conceal the emerging reality.

Apart from the American Opportunity Tax Credit and modest increases in financial aid, public policy is not doing much to help young people from moderate- and low-income families who can't find a job or afford the education they need to improve their chances of finding one.

When last reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August, unemployment among those aged 16 to 24 was about 19 percent - unchanged from the previous year. Partly as a result, community college enrollments, already on an upward trend, have grown in the last two years. However, state budgets, already groaning under fiscal pressure, have been unable to provide additional support.

As voters - particularly Millennial voters - begin to compare and contrast the budget proposals, this underlying question about investment in the largest generation in American history offers a stark contrast between the two parties. 

Review: Rebecca Traister's new book Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

The 2008 election will be noted in American history as much for its destination as its journey.  The composition of the candidates and supporting characters prompted long overdue conversations about gender, race, and what it means to be an American.  In her new book, Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women, writer Rebecca Traister revisits these conversations and begins a new conversation by arguing that the 2008 elections were ultimately good for women.

Good for women?  That might be difficult for any one who watched the gender dynamics of the 2008 Election to believe.  What about the incessant pantsuit talk?  The Mom-in-Chief backlash? Are we even going to talk about Palin's faux feminism? Traister manages to comprehensively chronicle these events, thoroughly analyze what she calls "campaigning while female," and argue that the path to progress requires us to move forward, despite setbacks.

Traister separates herself from other writers in this arena by offering smart and pointed criticism of unlikely characters from members of the center-Left media to feminist leaders.  Traister takes on Chris Matthew's "premature jubilation" in response to Clinton's Iowa primary defeat and the subsequent crescendo of male-bashing that ensued. "The eagerness to trash Clinton had been laid bare," Traister writes, "and it reeked of a particular kind of relief: relief from the guys who had thought they were going to have to hold their noses and get pushed around by some dame."  In addition, Traister recounts various exchanges between Gloria Steinem and younger feminists such as Shelby Knox that capture the generational tensions around Clinton's candidacy.    

Unlike Clinton's failed-Iowa strategy - where her campaign took women voters for granted -  Traister courts her target audience by presenting herself as both a keen cultural observer and the reader's witty best friend. Traister augments her analysis by skillfully weaving in the tale her own emotional rollercoaster:  an early Edwards supporter who found Michelle Obama too cool to be objective about, and who in the face of male-dominated media's scourge of Hillary Clinton found herself rooting (though not voting) for the former-first lady.  "I didn't want Hillary to win the Democratic nomination," Traister writes, "I didn't want John Edwards out of the race.  I didn't want Barack Obama to suffer a hope-squelching loss.  But I knew with primal surety that if I had been a New Hampshire resident on January 8, I would have pulled a lever for the former first lady with a song in my heart and a bird flipped at Chris Matthews, Roy Sekoff, Keith Olbermann and every other guy who'd gotten his rocks off by imagining Hillary's humiliation."  If I have one constructive criticism of the book, it is that I only wish there had been even more of Traister in it. 

After reading the book, I had a few questions for the author.  I hope you find Rebecca's answers as illuminating as I did. 

AM: It seems that neither Clinton nor Palin found a way to be simultaneously authentic and likable to a broad swath of women, much less Americans. You write about Clinton, "[T]he success of her ego-stroking strategy provided a disheartening lesson about how easily a powerful woman can change the mind of men if only she's willing to conform to power models that reassure rather than threaten them." Of Palin you write, she "gained her power by doing everything modern women have believed they did not have to do: presenting herself as maternal and sexual, sucking up to men, evincing an awshucks lack of native ambition. She met with such adulation because her posture reinforced antiquated gender norms."  Is the lesson to choose authenticity over cultivation?  Is there any way to marry their models?  And if both models requiring conceding power to men, what does that say about our political structure?

I actually do believe that there were moments at which Clinton managed to present her authentic self, and break free of the set-ups for how women are expected to act (in order to be taken seriously politically, to be "likable enough," etc). Several people in the book noted that, for example, in New Hampshire, when her loss was all but assured by press and polling, Hillary began to behave like herself more than ever before (and more than she would for some time after). She kind of told Chris Matthews where to get off, cracked jokes about sexism to the Iron My Shirt guys. Everyone only thinks about the moment when she teared up, but in fact her days campaigning in New Hampshire were Hillary at her loosest and most direct. She got a lot of that energy back toward the end of her campaign, when she was just plowing forward, when everyone was telling her to drop out. Those were the moments -- when, perhaps, it seemed she had nothing to lose -- that Clinton let go a little bit and really seemed to bring her unadulterated self to the trail. I do hope that there is a lesson there, since not coincidentally, those were the periods during which she was met with cheers and approval.

I would hope that looking back at that pattern would allow women candidates to have some more confidence in their own abilities to be themselves more of the time. But the other inescapable fact -- and one that I think of all the time when people talk about Palin's persona as if it's extra-fake or something -- is that the public persona constructed by most politicians, male or female, is just that -- a construction. We demand that our politicians perform for us, put on a show -- whether that show is of familial devotion or cross-partisan cooperation or just folksiness. The show that women put on, and that you quote me describing above, is of course colored by and shaped by gender expectation, which makes our analysis of it a bit more acute, perhaps? Or novel.

AM: You don't pardon your own behavior. "None of us were above thinking about how Clinton sounded or looked or what she wore," you write.  "We were like babies first encountering a new object: a potential president who had breasts and hips and a high voice, who was once pregnant and whose female skin changed as it aged.  It was only natural that we were sometimes going to get tripped up and befuddled in how we talked about her."  So where does that leave modern media?  Where did you draw your own line in terms of what you were willing to comment on and what you were not?"

RT: Alas, there's no firm answer to that question. I drew my own lines by gut. Stuff that dismayed many -- reactions to the lines in Clinton's face, her pantsuits -- dismayed me as well, but also fascinated and cheered me because I was so anxious to /have the conversation/ that acknowledged that in Clinton we were seeing a potential president who was different from all those who had preceded her. I was tired of pretending that there was nothing different about her, because that was dishonest. But of course the desire to acknowledge her difference is very different from saying "Hey, let's all pile on her outfit!" And people who objected to the attention to her clothes or hair or voice (and I was among them too!) were very right to raise their objections. They key is to be able to say -- let's talk about what's messed up about this, or where the double standards are, or why this bothers us, or when it might be appropriate to notice a candidate's physical or sartorial attributes and when it's not...It's all an evolving discussion of how we talk about public women.

AM:  You sketch out the limitations of the media including the crimes of the Leftist blogosphere and traditional media alike.  I particularly enjoyed Maddow's pointing out how tired and lazy cable news can be. How do we change those dynamics?

RT: It's about expanding the perspective of the mainstream media to include people of more colors, genders, ages, and ideologies. It's about having a commentariat that reflects the electorate.

AM: Amen.

Tomorrow's Event w/ Mike Hais and Morley Winograd on the Changing Coalitions of 21st Century America

Tomorrow at noon at NDN , we'll be revealing the findings of a 2,500 person sample market-research study on the new political coalitions of 21st Century America.  This study is the second in a three-part series.  If you missed the first study, released back in March, be sure to read it here.  Many of the most interesting findings (I've had a sneak-peak!) are even more interesting in the context of the continuum from the last release.  Also be sure to read Simon's last blog post - it really sets the stage for what's to come.

Presenting the findings and offering analysis are our NDN Fellows and acclaimed authors of Millennial Makeover, Mike Hais and Morley Winograd.  For those of you who follow Mike's blog Data Matters, or Mike and Morley's joint blog, Millennial Makeover, this is an excellent opportunity to meet them in person and watch them talk through the refreshing, prescient analysis they've become known for.  There will also be an opportunity for Q&A so be sure to RSVP

As a member of the 21st Century America Project team, I am thrilled by the amount we've been able to do in such a short time.  Building on NDN's legacy of conducting and sharing excellent public opinion and demographic research, in the last few months we've taken a look at the changing Latino demographic landscape and the changing political landscape. And along the way, opinion-makers have been taking notice.

I hope you'll join us tomorrow. 

Please Join Us Next Wednesday for a Presentation on the Changing Political Coalitions of America's Major Political Parties


I hope to see many of you next Wednesday at noon, here at NDN, for a Special Presentation by NDN Fellows and Co-Authors of Millennial Makeover, Mike Hais and Morley Winograd.  In the past few months, it's become clear that Mike and Morley's research and analysis is spreading far and wide. 

In May, Ron Brownstein featured Mike and Morley's work in a National Journal piece that took a generational snapshot of the recession's impact on the Millennial Generation.  That same month Michaekl Tomasky highlighted Mike Hais' electoral analsysis in The Guardian

To keep up with Mike and Morley, you can follow their Millennial Makeover blog and Mike's Data Matters blog for regular updates and thoughtful analysis. 

This presentation is a second installment in a series examining the changing coalitions of the 21st century American electorate.  To review the first installment in this research series click here.

At the heart of the presentation is a recently-completed 2,500 person-sample market research study.  Having had a preview of the research I can tell you that it offers new and interesting insights into the issues important to each coalition and great analysis on what this means for both major parties come November. 

These events tend to fill up fast so please RSVP here.

See you Wednesday!


Key Elements of Democratic Coalition Showing Continued 2010 Weakness

In preparing for my talk at the Campaign for America's Future Conference later this morning, I checked some April data on the vote intention of what I called the "under performing" Democratic coaltion with the latest Daily Kos Weekly Tracking Poll data.  Here it is:

April 22nd, June 3rd Daily Kos Weekly Track

                Obama Favorability        Vote Intent (%)

All                      54/51                       27/25

Women              65/59                        25/23

Black                  92/88                        18/16

Latino                 72/67                        19/16

18-29                 66/63                        18/13

To be clear what this quick analysis shows over the last two months key Democratic groups have had their feelings towards the President, and the their stated intention to vote in 2010, drop equal to or greater than the electorate as a whole. The drop in favorability with women, and in vote intent for Millennials, was particularly pronounced.  But there is no good news in here.  Honestly, I was surpised by these findings.

Our spring report on the coalitions of the two political parties found weakness in core Democratic groups key to the powerful new Democratic Coalition built in recent years   What the Kos track tells you is that if anything this trend has worsened, significantly, and if unaddressed, could contribute to a disapointing set of fall elections for party in power.

On Tories, Lib Dems and the Underperforming Democratic Coalition

- The UK General Election is full of interesting suprises.  There are many stories popping up there, but perhaps the most compelling has been the collapse of the Tories and the rise of the two center-left parties, the Liberal Democrats and Labour.  According to the latest polls the two center-left parties have close to 60 percent between them, with the once dominant Tories now in the low 30s. 

Given the peculiar election system in Britain, there are still many possible outcomes to the May 6th vote.   One, however, that seems unlikely now is a complete Tory victory.  If David Cameron manages to become Prime Minister with an almost 2:1 vote against him, it will lead to governing and legitimacy issues for the retreating Tories.  The Economist has a very good piece this week taking a deeper look at the fast changing UK General Election.

- I am a big fan of the Daily Kos weekly tracking poll.  It is full of interesting bits of data.  This week I focused on this bit:

                Obama Favorability        Vote Intent (%)

All                      54                          27

Women              65                          25

Black                  92                          18

Latino                 72                          19

18-29                 66                          18

This poll confirms what we found in our big recent study of the coalitions of the two political parties - for the Democrats to have the kind of election they hope to have this fall, they are going to have spend a great deal of money and time getting their new coalition more interested in voting this year.   The most pro-Obama groups are the ones, at this point, least likely to vote this fall.

Update: More on the growing repudiation of the Tories in the UK, from Left Foot Forward.  

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