Sep 27 / Erin Ferns Lee

Poll is a ‘Refreshing Corrective’ to Media Narrative of Tea Party Domination

Project Vote’s new poll, which reveals the “rising electorate” from 2008 has starkly different views about the role of government than Tea Partiers, has inspired some discussion on the mood of voters before the election in November. “What Happened to Hope and Change,” we ask, and several bloggers, columnists, and reporters (sometimes with a combination of relief and frustration) attempt to answer.

“Lorraine C. Minnite, the author of the study, argues that the poll shows that the media is paying too much attention to the concerns of the mostly white and better-off Tea Party,” reported Linda Scott at PBS News Hour.

The poll’s finding that Tea Partiers only make up 29 percent of 2008 voters, compared to the 32 percent of black, young, and low-income voters, who turned out in droves in 2008 was a “refreshing corrective,” wrote The Nation’s Christopher Hayes.

“We’ve all spent so much time dwelling on the slights and accusations of the Fox News crowd, there’s been shockingly little attention paid to the views, frustrations and convictions of what we might call the forgotten electorate, otherwise known as Obama’s base,” he wrote.

Hayes noted the poll’s finding that young, black, and low-income voters “believe the inverse of the Tea Party’s” views, especially on the economy: Despite having personal finances that are far better than the national average, the majority of  “pessimistic” Tea Partiers rate the economy as “very bad.” Yet black voters—who “are the most optimistic when it comes to the economy”—were most likely to report that there were times in the past year that they didn’t have enough money to buy food.

“While anti-spending rhetoric dominates the air waves…roughly one-third of voters from the last election support more government spending,” wrote Jay Heflin at On the Money, the Hill’s finance and economy blog. “One issue facing the country is finding the revenue for entitlements. The poll found respondents were open to increasing taxes to keep these programs alive.”

“That is the tragic and perilous irony of this political moment: the people with the most faith in the president and the Democratic Party are the hardest hit by the continuing economic disaster; it’s this brute fact that’s driving the so-called enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives,” Hayes wrote. “More than frustration with the lack of a public option or anger at a White House that seems to relish insulting the ‘professional left,’ the flagging enthusiasm among Obama’s ’08 base is the product of a kind of cognitive dissonance between hope and reality.”

And reality may hit all the harder come November, some say, not because the majorities don’t believe in an equitable economy, but because they feel defeated and largely ignored.

“I am just about fed up with all the Tea Party triumphalism coming out of the primary elections,” wrote Eli at Firedoglake, an online news site. “But as the media often forgets, the GOP is not America, and a majority of Republican voters is not the same as a majority of all voters…And most amazing of all, when you compare their responses to the country as a whole, it turns out that [black, low-income, and youth voters are] a lot more mainstream and representative of America than the tea partiers are.”

“So yeah, it looks to me like most Americans are okay with the government doing more than just making the world safe for corporations and rich people.”

“These findings challenge the notion that [deficit] reduction is the number one priority of the Tea Party,” wrote assistant professor at George Washington University, Elizabeth Rigby at the Huffington Post. “Instead, it seems that their support for spending cuts rests more on an opposition to redistributive, safety-net programs as personified in a sign held up at a Tea Party rally that cried out: ‘Redistribute my work ethic.’ Understanding these underlying views are likely to provide more insight into the Tea Party movement than focusing on the deficit trope the Tea Party continues to emphasize.”

Roddie Burris at McClatchy Newspapers noted that “minorities, the young and low-income make up a third of the electorate…a group larger than those who identify themselves as the tea party movement.” And despite being “largely silent” with “more moderate views,” these “two groups are on a collision course in November.”

“As the election approaches the 30-day window, traditional Democratic voting groups are focusing on a different set of issues, according to new polling. And they plan to vote in big numbers, and are angry and energized, too, says the polling.”

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