Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Jun 3rd 2009 at 11:30am UTC

Obama’s Cross-Class Coalition

Obama and Class.gif
Andrew notes the real (positive) trend in the president’s approval ratings. And Chris Bowers speculates, given recent (and ongoing) demographic shifts, that even Michael Dukakis would have won the 2008 election. Demographic shifts do seem to be on the Democrats’ side.

But Obama may be on his way to fashioning a broad cross-class coalition, according to this Gallup survey which tracks the president’s approval rating by occupation (pointer from Charlotta Mellander).

The president enjoys a nearly two-thirds (65 percent) approval rating overall. He enjoys relatively high approval ratings across major occupational or class groups, and his approval rating is rising across key groups.

Blue Collar Workers: Production and manufactuirng workers provided a 68 percent approval rating, up from 62 percent in March.

Service Workers: Service workers gave the president his highest approval rating in May, 71 percent.

Professional, Knowledge, Creative Workers: The president registered a 65 percent approval rating from professionals (up three points from March) and 60 percent from managers and government workers.

Entrepreneurs and Self-employed Workers: The president’s biggest gains came from business owners and self-employed workers, where his approval rating increased 11 points from 44 percent ion March to 55 percent in May.

It’s an open question whether Obama can maintain these numbers (Andrew Gelman says they might not be so enduring), but right now they look impressive, especially given the very uneven ways the crisis is affecting these groups.

12 Responses to “Obama’s Cross-Class Coalition”

  1. Buzzcut Says:

    This is interesting. That Obama’s support among those he is directly hurting is actually increasing is quite surprising.

    There’s a number of things going on:

    1) The media is a bunch of Obama lapdogs. It’s sad, really.

    2) Ditto for comedians, satirists, etc. Obama and his ego are ripe for satire, but I have yet to see the subject broached.

    3) People really do want to feel like the Predisent is doing SOMETHING for them. Obama is getting a lot of face time. He’s on the news everyday, whereas Dubya was nowhere to be seen. Obama is much more like Clinton in that regard.

    4) The “celebrity-ization” of the Presidency. Since when is the President on the cover of US Weekly?

    5) Seen all those Obama nicknacks? Children’s books? What’s the deal with that?

    None of these things are positive trends for the American people.

  2. Patrick Adler Says:


    Just to clarify- you think there’s some causal connection between 1-5 and these approval ratings?

    My gut tells me that the causal arrows are working the other way (except perhaps for for 1). Obama is enormously talented as a politician, and the history-making nature of his presidency makes Americans proud of themselves. I reckon that the exposure, the marketing and, the celebrity all follow from these facts. I don’t think the service class is supporting him because they see his keychains dangling everywhere.

    I don’t deny that the media is infatuated with Obama. And I agree that’s a bit of a problem when there are such important issues at stake… but it’s not hard to see why. This guy is a stud- a pure celebrity for an age when politics and celebrity have melded together (the Colbert, Huff Po, Governator age). But take comfort, if the pattern of american celebrity holds, there will be a backlash!

  3. Michael Wells Says:


    First, all of these groups are American Citizens who want to see the country thrive. Obama is moving ahead decisively on several issues of the economy, the environment, international relations. To some extent his rise is boosted because he’s not a destructive embarrassment like W. I think people are seeing competence and are relieved.

    We seem to be surviving the financial crisis, at least in the near term. If banks start lending again and credit loosens, business support will go even higher.

    Straightening out health care and controlling expenses is a huge issue for small businesses & self-employed people. Obama is seriously addressing this and there’s hope of a rational system. I recently worked on a project with two health care agencies and they can’t wait for a standardized and linked electronic medical records system.

    As for directly hurting people, put aside your obsession and give some examples that don’t involve taxes.

  4. sm2 Says:

    Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your even response to Buzzcut’s incendiary comments. I knew if I waited long enough, you would provide a much better response than my own reflexive tendencies.

  5. Buzzcut Says:

    If you’re in the managerial class, besides taxes, you’ve got some very heavy handed treatment of managers in the banking and automotive industries.

    Yet, I wonder how many of those automotive executives voted for Obama, or would approve of his actions now.

    sm2, if you think that that’s incindiary commentry… you need some asbestos underwear. That’s some pretty mild stuff.

    Michael, you see “competance”, I see a bullshit artist being covered by a media complex that doesn’t ask a lot of questions. Obama is taking a lot of risks. We’ll see how well they play out.

    Okay, now that was incindiary.

  6. Michael Wells Says:


    Fair enough. I agree that “Obama is taking a lot of risks. We’ll see how well they play out.” I’m hoping they do, both because I think he’s going in the right directions and for the good of the country. But risks by definition can go badly. As in poker, the aim is not to win the most hands but the most money — hopefully he’ll get the important ones right among the inevitable clunkers.

    And yes, there’s been some “heavy handed treatment of managers in the banking and automotive industries” who ran their companies (and in the case of banks, the world economy)into the ditch. I’d say their treatment is both mild and deserved. I doubt that top auto execs are a significant voting bloc, execs in other industries that benefit from a stable and constructive government more than balance them out.

    By the way, I’d agree that the media and comedians are playing softball and in the long run that’s not going to help anyone. But they’ve got their own problems — Newsweek just remodeled itself after the National Enquirer, Carlos Slim is bidding on the NY Times and my local paper (Oregonian) is barely thick enough to line the catbox. To our detriment, they can’t afford the reporters to ask a lot of questions.

  7. Buzzcut Says:

    Michael, Rick Wagoner was doing a fine job with what he had to work with. The cars coming out of GM now are world class, better than the Japanese. More importantly, he got GM’s sprawling global operations in a semblance of order (the Koreans design the small cars, the Chinese built them, the Germans design the midsized cars, they’re built in local markets, the Australians design and build the big RWD cars, and the Americans design and build the trucks and SUVs).

    If not for the financial crisis, I think GM was on the road to a strong comeback. Now that it is broken up, I don’t see any strategy that will bring GM back. Losing Opel pretty much kills any car development ability that they had.

    GM is going to end up like Amtrak, subsidized for the rest of time, not providing a product that anyone really wants.

    Anyway, Wagoner was purged for one reason and one reason only: he was against the bankruptcy. Had he been more ammenable, he’d still be there.

    BTW, the financial straits of the news industry have nothing to do with their lap dog nature. Their political bias does. Journalism as a profession is a joke.

    I hope everyone likes their Newsweek edited by Steven Colbert.

  8. hayden fisher Says:

    As an owner of multiple small businesses and an entrepreneur and professional, and a former GOP supporter, I highly dispute Buzzcut’s comments. Obama is tackling major issues like health care and public transit and governing with an eye towards results, not the survival or revival of any particular ideology. While I would like to see more emphasis on cutting corporate tax rates and the borrowing of a few of the points of Newt’s plan (also borrowed from countries like Ireland), on balance, Obama is pro-business and pro-capitalism; but not nakedly or irresponsibly. Just a quick personal comment on some very sweeping contentions…

  9. Michael Wells Says:


    We’ll have to agree to disagree. When I rent a GM car, they’re poorly designed and built, the headrest pushes my head forward and down, the doors are flimsy. Not trash anymore, but hardly world class. A new Chevy isn’t as good as my 10 year old Subaru.

    GM being “on the road to comeback” has been the song for almost as long as Wagoner has worked there (since the ’70’s.) During that time GM’s American market share has fallen from over 50% to below 20%. With the other US carmakers, GM spent its efforts on political lobbying against fuel efficiency and cheap tricks like labeling SUV’s working vehicles (for fuel regulations) and selling them as family cars. At the same time Toyota, Honda, Subaru put their efforts into building good cars. GM has been a dinosaur for decades. I’m not sure about the wisdom of rescuing it, but it showed no sign of anything but continuing decline.

  10. Buzzcut Says:

    but it showed no sign of anything but continuing decline.


    Chevy Malibu, Traverse, Cruze, Camaro

    Cadillac CTS, STS, SRX

    Pontiac G8

    These cars are all best in class.

    It’s not easy turning around the Queen Mary. Wagoner was doing it.

    BTW, your myth about the Japanese building cars is just that, a myth. Toyota makes its money on trucks. Highlander, RX350, Rav-4, etc. It made an incredibly ill timed bet on the Tundra truck. We’ll see how that works out. But their ballance sheet isn’t great now either. Not GM bad, but maybe not even as good as Ford. I guess it will depend on if GM and Chrysler survive, and if not, where their customers go.

  11. Michael Wells Says:

    “These cars are all best in class…..
    BTW, your myth about the Japanese building cars is just that, a myth.”

    I puzzled over this for a while, then remembered going to Kansas City for the first time and being struck by the number of American cars on the road. To a West Coast boy, it looked like a return to the 1950’s. But that’s the Midwest. We see what we’re surrounded by — I see lots of Japanese cars, you see lots of American trucks.

    Here are the top selling vehicles in the US in 2008:
    Ford F-Series: 515,513pickup
    Chevy Silverado: 465,065 pickup
    Toyota Camry: 436,617 midsize
    Honda Accord: 372,789midsize
    Toyota Corolla: 351,007 compact
    Honda Civic: 339,289compact
    Nissan Altima: 269,668midsize
    Chevy Impala: 265,840midsize
    Dodge Ram: 245,840pickup
    Honda CR-V: 197,279compact

    By manufacturer:
    Chrysler 245,840

    So the Americans are making money on pickups, but the best selling Japanese vehicles are compact and midsize sedans. I see Toyota SUVs, but around here more compacts. I don’t know which are more profitable, you may be right about that but the Japanese are making and selling cars.

    So I thought about best in class. My own experience driving them is todays GM cars are mediocre, but I Googled “cars best in class”. Consumer Reports listed 1 American car (a Chevy) of 21. Kiplinger listed 1 American car (a Caddy)of 11. JD Powers listed two American cars (Chevy & Pontiac) of 8. So GM is doing the best of American makers, but Detroit isn’t running away with the honors.

    Actually,this makes me a bit sad. I grew up in a Chevrolet family, my parents owned nothing else. I learned to drive in a ‘55 Chevy convertible. I’d love to want to buy American, but nothing I see makes me optimistic. The last American car I owned was a ’70’s Plymouth van — when I realized I was spending more to keep it in the shop than car payments would be, I got my first Subaru. I drove it 10 years, then got my current 1999 Outback which I’ll probably keep another 5 years.

  12. Buzzcut Says:

    I don’t know which are more profitable, you may be right about that but the Japanese are making and selling cars.

    It’s hard to see how Honda is making money on $20k Honda Accords. But when the same guts are used to make a $30k Oddyssey Minivan… they’re making money hand over fist on those. I suspect that that is Honda’s most profitable vehicle.

    Ditto the Civic vs. CRV.

    Nissan, Toyota, and Honda wouldn’t be pushing into the truck and SUV markets if they weren’t extremely profitable.