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National Politics|By Amy Walter, January 23, 2014

To understand why Democrats are making such a significant push on the issue of economic equality take a look at this chart below:

Voters Making Less Than $50K/Year

Year % of Electorate Making Less than $50K/Yr Dem. Advantage Among Less-Than-$50K Voters National Two-Party Vote Margin
2006 40% D+22 D+10
2008 38% D+28 D+8
2010 36% D+11 R+5
2012 40% D+20 D+5

It should come as no surprise that lower-income voters are reliably Democratic. However, Democrats need to do more than just “win” these voter; they need to carry them by a significant margin in order to succeed at the ballot box.

In the 2006 wave election that swept Democrats into the majority in the House and Senate, Democrats had a 22 point advantage among the 40 percent of the electorate that made less than $50,000/year.

Fast forward to 2010, when another electoral wave washed the Democrats out of power and put the GOP in charge of the House, and you see that the Democratic margin among those making less than $50,000/year had been slashed in half to just 11 points. Moreover, lower-income voters made up a smaller percentage of the electorate than they did in 2006.

Democrats have made inroads with wealthier votes in recent years; those making more than $50,000/yr split evenly between Democrats and Republicans in 2006 and 2008. But, this support has been inconsistent. Republicans carried these voters by 13 points in 2010 and 8 points in 2012.

While Washington policy makers and pundits can debate the merits of and the legislative prospects for a minimum wage increase, the political imperative for Democrats to keep lower-income voters engaged in 2014 is quite clear.

What should make Democrats nervous, however, is the fact that Obama’s current job approval rating among this group of voters is down to 47 percent according to the latest polling from the Washington Post/ABC News. The President saw his job approval numbers among lower-income voters  yo-yo between 2011 and 2012, from a low of 40 percent in November of 2011 to a high of 57 percent in August of 2012. But, by the fall of 2012, his approval ratings stabilized in the high-50s which is where they stayed until Election Day.