Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama's Challenge: Playing Catch-up to More Progressive America

While Obama's poll numbers have headed south the harder he runs to what his campaign assumes is the partisan center, a DMI study finds that middle class voters are ahead of the curve on which he lags:
Middle-class voters are split on the presidential race (about half leaning toward McCain and half to Obama) but there’s a lot of agreement around public policy with strong support for progressive measures. 75% of middle-class respondents think a universal national health insurance plan is an excellent or good idea. 71% want to see a law requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave. 78% wish their representative in Congress had voted to expand SCHIP (health coverage for uninsured low- and middle-income kids). 68% say their rep should have voted to make it easier for people to organize labor unions. (the list goes on – check out the poll report itself).

While Democrats and folks planning to vote for Obama tended to support these policies most strongly, all the policies mentioned above get a majority of support from Republicans and McCain supporters as well.
DMI also discovers that Congress is able to vote against many progressive and popular initiatives because the elected representatives fail to communicate effectively with their constituents:
If these policies are so popular, why isn’t the nation moving in a more progressive direction? One problem is that most middle-class Americans don’t know how their members of Congress actually voted on the issues in question. While two-thirds of middle-class adults say they try to follow what Congress is doing at least somewhat closely, most get very few communications from their representatives. 72% cannot name a single piece of legislation passed by Congress in the past two years that has benefited them or their families. In part, this reflects a grim assessment of Congress’ efficacy. But it also says something about the lack of connection between the nation’s legislators and their middle-class constituents. 68% of middle-class adults would like their rep to support taxing hedge fund managers at the same rate as others in their income bracket. But 69% don’t know if that’s how their rep actually cast the vote. It’s hard to hold your representative accountable if you don’t know what they’re up to.

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