New Voters, New Values: Women, Latinos, African Americans, and the Young Don't Believe What Older White Men Believe. Their Views Fueled Obama's Victory and May Portend a New Democratic Majority

By Lake, Celinda; Adams, Michael et al. | The American Prospect, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

New Voters, New Values: Women, Latinos, African Americans, and the Young Don't Believe What Older White Men Believe. Their Views Fueled Obama's Victory and May Portend a New Democratic Majority


Lake, Celinda, Adams, Michael, Mermin, David, The American Prospect


Barack Obama would have lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections had a new set of voters not joined the American electorate-voters who brought with them a range of values that differed sharply from those of more traditional voters. These changing values--on such issues as personal social responsibility, the role of government, sexual mores, gender roles, and America's place in the world--underpin the decisions these voters made on Election Day and provide a basis for understanding Obama's victory. They also signify profound changes to American politics and pose elemental challenges to both the Republican and Democratic parties in coming years.

As the values of the new American electorate (Latinos, women, the young, the unmarried) clash with those of the old (particularly white married men over 35), the country could see a shift not only in voting patterns but also in public policy. Consider these different groups' answers when asked if they agreed or disagreed with a question that ascertained their views toward nationalism (chart at left).

The world that young people, minorities, women, and the unmarried experience has produced sets of values on economic and social issues that vary greatly from those of older white men in particular. The increased influence of these newer groups is not a temporary electoral condition, contingent on a charismatic African American candidate. These Americans who turned out in force for Obama are an increasingly powerful presence in the U.S. electorate--and, like older white married men, they are bringing their values with them to the polls.

"I often or occasionally
feel I am more a
citizen of the world
than of my country."

PERCENTAGE WHO AGREE:

WHITE MARRIED MEN 35 AND OVER   23%
WHITES                          40%
30 AND OVER                     40%
MARRIED                         44%
BLACKS                          54%
UNMARRIED                       59%
UNDER 30                        62%
LATINOS                         74%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Older White Men

White married men over the age of 35 stand out among Americans on many measures--to begin, by their support for traditional social hierarchies and institutions. They score low on the value "Flexible Definition of the Family." Asked to agree or disagree that "getting married and having children is the only real definition of a family," about half (49 percent) of these men agree, compared to 37 percent of the rest of the population. Thirty-seven percent of older white married men also agree that "society should regard two people of the same sex who live together as being the same as a married couple"; among other Americans, 52 percent do.

Closely linked to this belief in traditional family is a belief that the family should be a seat of patriarchal authority: Forty-four percent of older white married men agree with the statement "The father of the family must be master in his own house." Among other Americans, support for this statement is 39 percent.

When it comes to the appropriate size and role of government, an issue that animated much of the recent election campaign, older white married men differ from their compatriots substantially. They are about half as likely (18 percent) as other Americans (39 percent) to agree that "it should be primarily government, not the private sector, that is concerned with solving the country's social problems." This disinclination toward governmental responsibility and power is bolstered both by their somewhat weaker sense of responsibility for the fates of people less fortunate than themselves and a slightly stronger faith in the value "American Dream" (the belief that "it is possible for myself and/or my children to 'make it'")--a statement that 76 percent of older white married men support, compared to 69 percent of other Americans.

Similarly, 55 percent of this group endorses the idea that people basically get what they deserve ("Just Deserts"), while 49 percent of other Americans agree. …

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