Friday, July 31, 2015

Shades of Red and Blue Among Virginia Voters

With Virginia a likely "swing state" in the 2016 presidential elections, attention is being trained on Virginia's voters and their varying mindsets.  The findings of one such study by Christopher Newport University shows the complexities of Virginia's increasingly diverse and more urban population.  Not surprisingly, among the areas key to winning the state is the Hampton Roads region with roughly 1.7 million people.  The political views in the region could be described as schizophrenic in some ways with people saying they are conservative, but not partisan.  Also, moderates make up 40% of the state's voters - a reality seemingly lost on the Virginia GOP.  Here are highlights on the findings via the Daily Press:
On Thursday, the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University released a study that broke that purple electorate down into seven classifications, or "typologies."

One of the findings will surprise no one: "There are more moderate voters in the state," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. "Virginia is a swing state, with about 40 percent of the electorate deciding elections."

The center's report, "Commonwealth of Contrasts," places registered voters into groups based on attitudes and values rather than political party affiliations. The typologies they came up with are:

Solid Liberals, who reject completely the idea that everyone has the power to succeed or that most people who want to get ahead can.

Suburban Liberals, who hold views similar to Solid Liberals, but with less intensity.

Staunch Conservatives, who dominated by the Tea Party and take extremely conservative views on most issues, such as the environment, government and immigration.

Working Class Conservatives, who are moderate cousins of the Staunch Conservatives, but with less intensity.

Libertarians, a younger group with strong views in support of individual self-determination and responsibility and strong opposition to government intervention in most ways.

Disengaged Liberals, who are the only majority-minority group of the seven, are conservative on God and morality, but more liberal on most other issues.

Disaffecteds, who are younger voters who are the least partisan and least ideological of the groups.

In Hampton Roads, only 3 percent were identified as Solid Liberals — the lowest in the state. But 17 percent of area voters were identified as Suburban Liberals.

Less-partisan voters in the region topped 42 percent — one of the highest rates in the state, and a clear sign that Hampton Roads, like much of the state, is in play for the 2016 presidential election.

Rapid urbanization of major Virginia metropolitan areas — Hampton Roads, Richmond and Northern Virginia — has helped Democrats capitalize on local and national victories, the report finds.

"Not long ago, Virginia was predictably Republican in presidential elections," Kramer said. "But it's become competitive as it became younger and more racially and ethnically diverse, and as population shifted away from the rural parts of the state to Northern Virginia and the urban and suburban eastern half."

"President Obama's victories in Virginia in 2008 and 2012 suggest that the Democrats have built a new coalition of liberal voters in the Old Dominion," Kidd said. "Can they recreate that in 2016, or build a new one? And can the Republican nominee put together a new coalition large enough and energized enough to overcome the Democrats' recent success?"

Maybe, according to some political experts, but it's going to take some work.

A number of younger millennial voters fall within the Solid Liberal, Disengaged Liberal or Libertarian categories — with many nearly as unhappy with the direction of the country as Staunch Conservatives, according to the report.

[M]any undecided moderate and millennial voters have grown "disillusioned" with Obama over the last seven years, which could make it difficult for Democrats to maintain their growth in Virginia.  "They must find a way to recreate or fashion a new coalition," Kidd said. "The voter is disillusioned and that could come to the detriment of the party."

Republicans have a similar problem. If they nominate a right-wing social conservative, Kidd said, they risk losing millennial and moderate voters in Virginia.  "Young Libertarians are not attracted to socially conservative candidates," Kidd said.

"No one party can rely solely on its supporters to win Virginia," Kidd said. "If they do that, they lose."

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