AP-GfK Poll: Working-class whites shun Dems

By ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON (AP) – Desperate for jobs and cool toward President Barack Obama, working-class whites are flocking to Republicans, turning a group long wary of Democrats into an even bigger impediment to the party’s drive to keep control of Congress.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows whites without four-year college degrees preferring GOP candidates by twice the margin of the last two elections, when Democrats made significant gains in the House and Senate. The poll, conducted last month, found this group favoring GOP hopefuls 58 percent to 36 percent – a whopping 22 percentage-point gap.

In 2008, when Obama won the presidency, they favored GOP congressional candidates by 11 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters. When Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006, the Republican edge was 9 percentage points.

Compared with better-educated whites, working-class whites tend to be older and more conservative – groups that traditionally lean Republican and are uneasy with the young president’s activist governing. Their wariness is reinforced by a prolonged economic funk that has disproportionately hurt the working class and shown scant signs of improvement under Obama and Congress’ majority Democrats.

Though accustomed to trailing among working-class whites, Democrats can hardly afford further erosion from a group that accounts for about 4 in 10 voters nationally. Their GOP preference is in contrast to whites with college degrees, who the AP-GfK Poll shows are split evenly between the two parties’ candidates, and to minorities, who decisively back Democrats.

Many of these working-class voters were dubbed Reagan Democrats in the 1980s, when some in the North and Midwest who had previously preferred Democrats began supporting conservative Republicans. Many never warmed to Obama during the 2008 presidential race, when he said some bitter small-town residents cling to guns and religion for solace. They preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, by 2-1 and in the general election backed Republican nominee John McCain by 18 points.

“They try to make everybody think the economy is better, and it isn’t,” Jennifer Moore, 40, a school bus driver from Amherst, Va., said of Democrats. “Gas prices are going up, food is going up and people working for the minimum wage can’t make it.”

In the AP-GfK poll, working-class whites were likelier than white college graduates to say their families are suffering financially and to have a relative who’s recently lost a job. They are less optimistic about the country’s economy and their own situations, gloomier about the nation’s overall direction and more critical of how Democrats are handling the economy.

“Democrats are more apt to mess with the middle class and take our money,” said Lawrence Ramsey, 56, a warehouse manager in Winston-Salem, N.C.

To read more, visit: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20101006/D9IM5PT80.html

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