This question starkly separates the electoral coalition that each side now relies upon. Obama receives mostly good marks for his impact on the economy from African-Americans (69 percent positive), all minorities (59 percent), Hispanics (57 percent), the millennial generation (55 percent), and college-educated white women (53 percent). Those are core elements of the modern Democratic coalition that all have been growing as a share of the electorate. Jessica, a white college-educated nurse from Philadelphia (who declined to provide her last name), encapsulated the perspective of many of these respondents. “He’s doing more for the middle class, which is where most of us lie,” she said. “That’s helping us out. He doesn’t buy into special interests for the rich, and he’s doing what he can.”
Karen Smith, a college-educated white woman—an education professor—from Farmington, Maine, was also positive. “I think based on the statistics that have been presented, we clearly have come out of the recession, and unemployment rates have dropped,” she said. “I think the auto industry has certainly turned around, [and] it was obviously in shambles when Obama entered office. So I think there’s more, more, more work to be done on the economy, but I think we have made some progress since the recession and since he entered office.”
By contrast, Obama gets lousy grades from the groups Republicans now rely on most: college-educated white men (55 percent negative); whites older than 50 (56 percent); white women without a college degree (58 percent); and, above all, noncollege white men (a resounding 63 percent negative).
“Too much of the stuff that is happening is getting away from our American people working hard and earning a living,” said Rick Meyers, a white college-educated tennis instructor from Abilene, Texas. “There are way too many entitlements and distribution-of-wealth things, where those of us who do work hard are having to give up too much of our money to people who end up not working hard and are getting too much free stuff. It’s just that simple. It’s just like with Obamacare—our premiums and deductibles have more than doubled since this has taken over. It’s just not fair.”
Similar patterns resurface on assessments of Obama’s overall performance. The even split (47 percent to 47 percent) represents the highest approval rating Obama has registered in a Heartland survey since June 2013. The now-customary divisions are apparent, with Obama drawing majority approval from minorities, from millennials, and (barely) from college-educated white women, and mostly negative ratings from the Republican-leaning groups. Blue-collar white men, the same group fueling Donald Trump’s rise in the GOP presidential contest, are especially negative; just 22 percent approve of Obama’s performance, and 72 percent disapprove. The numbers are only slightly better among whites over 50: 35 percent approve, and 61 percent disapprove.