The Slatest

The Straightforwardly Popular Ideas of the Radical Left

Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed campaigns with support from New York Democrat candidate for Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a rally on the campus of Wayne State University July 28, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is running on a public internet proposal.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The rise in support for single-payer health care among the American public is at this point an old story. Polling on some of the newer ideas animating the Democratic Party’s rising left has been more scarce, although a new firm, Data for Progress, has been working to bring more data to the debates over the party’s direction. They made a splash earlier this year with a poll showing that a 52 percent majority of likely voters backed the idea of a federal job guarantee.

Last week, the group released results from eligible-voter polling on a number of left-leaning policy ideas, which showed that majorities support “community job creation” for anyone who can’t find employment (54 percent), having the government produce generic life-saving drugs (51 percent), and the creation of a public internet utility for those without internet access (56 percent), a proposal currently being pushed by progressive Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. Ending cash bail, a criminal justice reform issue taken up recently by both Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, has plurality support among eligible voters at 46 percent.

Additionally, the group says that support for these policies is stronger in parts of the country, and among voters that have been challenging for Democrats, than some might have guessed. Rural voters are even more supportive of generic drugs and a public internet utility than urban and suburban voters, and also seem to be more supportive of the community job guarantee than suburban voters. A plurality of Trump voters supported government creation of generic drugs (46 percent) and public internet service (41 percent). This package of policies was also broadly backed by eligible white working-class voters—they support the idea of a community job guarantee, for instance, by a 27-point margin, and slightly more white working-class voters favored than opposed a basic monthly income of $1,000 for every American and a $5,000 savings account for every American, accessible at the age of 18. (The poll surveyed 1,515 eligible voters across the country, from July 13 to July 16, and data can be found here.)

As New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz pointed out last week, even the left-wing tax proposal the group polled—a 90 percent rate on income over $1 million, in line with rates during the Eisenhower administration—seems less crazy to eligible voters than Republican tax orthodoxy. While voters opposed the idea “by a 7-point margin” he wrote, “in Pew Research polling from August of last year, voters opposed lowering taxes on corporations by a 49-point margin, and opposed cutting taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 by a 48-point one.”

Results like this lend weight to the idea that Democrats can push the policy envelope much further left than is generally assumed. That’s not to say that there’s a large, ready-made constituency for far-left candidates everywhere in the country, or that Trump-curious voters will reliably front issues like these over partisanship and political culture. But if Democrats are genuinely and open-mindedly seeking for novel policy messaging for those left cold by the Clinton campaign and Democratic rhetoric during the Obama years, they should plainly be looking leftward for answers.