sábado, 16 de febrero de 2019

The Most Important New Woman in Congress Is Not Who You Think

Bold progressives are getting the attention, but the Democratic Party owes control of the House to moderates like Mikie Sherrill. Whose agenda will prevail?

Mikie Sherrill had made a promise to the people in New Jersey who had made her a member of Congress. She would try to fire her boss on her first day at work. Now here she was. Would she? Could she? At 1:36 in the afternoon, in her opening salvo on the floor of the House of Representatives, she did—casting her vote for speaker not for Nancy Pelosi, arguably the most powerful woman in the history of American politics, but for … Cheri Bustos, the fourth-term congresswoman from Illinois. “It’s important to keep your promises,” she told reporters on her way out of the chamber.

Still, a few hours later, as the sun started to set on Washington, after Sherrill dashed across a traffic-clogged Constitution Avenue from a cab to the Capitol in bright red high heels, I asked her if she was afraid of having crossed Pelosi. Of retribution in the form of committee snubs. Of being rendered somehow less effective before she’d even gotten started.

“No,” she said.

Sherrill, a 47-year-old Navy veteran, is fit, with an easy, ready smile and sandy blond hair that she usually wears down. She had on a gray dress with flecks of color that more or less matched those non-shy shoes. And here, one half of one day into her time in Congress, she elaborated with a brief, bold assertion of the source of her power.

“She just got the majority, OK?” Sherrill said, referring to Pelosi. “And we did it with districts like mine. And we’re going to hold it through districts like mine.”

No—she was not afraid.

And she was right. Even as Pelosi punished some others who had spurned her, she would put Sherrill on the House Armed Services Committee—Sherrill’s top choice—and make her a chair of the science, space and technology subcommittee. In the wake of her unaccommodating, unruffled vote, Sherrill had emerged unscathed.

The best-known new member of Congress is obviously the ubiquitous and magnetic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the unreserved used-to-be bartender and millennial social media savant who has parlayed her outer-borough seat into a vanguard position at the head of a surging left. But she is not the reason Democrats are wielding a reclaimed wedge of power in the nation’s capital. Sherrill is. If there’s a Venn diagram of how Democrats wrested control of the House from Republicans —women, veterans, flipped districts in more affluent, more educated suburban terrain—smack at the center is Rebecca Michelle Sherrill: former Navy helicopter pilot, former federal prosecutor, mother of four (13, 11, 9 and 6). And even as Ocasio-Cortez and other younger, lefty, louder freshmen garner the limelight, “Mikie,” not “AOC,” is actually more materially the face of the Democrats’ fresh capacity to push legislation and check the agenda of a newly vexed President Donald Trump.

Congresswoman-elect Mikie Sherrill holds her daughter Marit's hand as she walks to the U.S. Capitol to be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019.

Ever since November’s tectonic midterms, in my conversations with party strategists as well as nonpartisan operatives involved in the variety of efforts to get more veterans elected, Sherrill’s name not only kept coming up but typically was the first one mentioned. “So impressive,” Rye Barcott of With Honor told me. “No ceiling,” said Emily Cherniack of New Politics. “A rising star,” added Carrie Rankin, the former chief of staff to Massachusetts congressman Seth Moulton. Dan Sena, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told me Sherrill could be a governor, or a senator, and soon. “She’s a future fill-in-the-blank for the party,” Sena said. Republicans I’ve talked to concur.

The root of this big talk is the nature of her victory. She won as a first-time candidate in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, which stretches from commuter enclaves just west of New York City toward the more bucolic northwestern portion of the state—and hadn’t voted for a Democrat in 34 years. She raised record money, chased into retirement a powerful local political scion, trounced a host of opponents in the primary and drubbed a conservative state assemblyman in the general. Sherrill did this by campaigning not as a left-leaning incendiary but as a less partisan alternative. And one of the most conspicuous ways she assuaged redder voters was by promising she wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for speaker. It was by no means the foundation of her race; neither, though, was it a pledge those who disdain the longtime Democrat leader would be likely to forget.

And so in D.C. her first act was her first test. There was not, she told me, “a completely safe way to keep the promise.” In picking Bustos, she explained, Sherrill recognized her as a woman who has found a way to win in a district that backed Trump—an ascendant member of the caucus who could be the speaker. When I asked Pelosi about Sherrill, the speaker responded with a gracious if flowery statement that amounted to no hard feelings: “This election proved that nothing is more wholesome to our democracy than the increased participation and leadership of women. As a Navy veteran, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and a mother, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill reflects the beauty, diversity and dynamism of her district and our country.”

New Jersey’s 11th is a mostly staid tangle of subdivisions, interstates and office parks, so Pelosi’s reference to the “dynamism” of Sherrill’s district is a nod not to some edgy vibe but rather its electoral volatility. Everywhere, and every cycle, is different, with myriad factors tipping the scales, of course, but one axiom is that a member of Congress is especially vulnerable in his or her first reelection campaign, before a combination of familiarity, incumbency and inertia set in. Ocasio-Cortez elicits conservative ridicule for her colossally ambitious Green New Deal; assuming, though, she doesn’t get sideswiped by redistricting, the reality is she’s in a much safer spot than Sherrill. And it’s Pelosi who will have the most say about whose respective agenda will get the green light—progressive or centrist—and when. Factored in those decisions: the fact that Sherrill is the one who needs greater shelter and leeway. Which of these women, then, will exert more influence over the shape of the party over these next crucial couple of years and beyond? Because while AOC’s New York City district isn’t going Republican in the foreseeable future, Pelosi knows Sherrill’s in North Jersey is a different matter. It’s worth keeping her happy, and Sherrill in turn needs to keep her red-tinged electorate happy, all while defending against potential attacks from within her own caucus.

On her first day in office, Rep. Sherrill rides an escalator in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on her way to meet New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (top), poses with her husband Jason and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a mock swearing-in (bottom left) and takes a family photo at the Capitol (bottom right).

When Sherrill was in the Navy, she had to pass a test underwater in which she was blindfolded, turned upside down in a replica helicopter and forced to find her way out. She had to endure prisoner of war training that involved being waterboarded and punched. “After you’re a Navy helicopter pilot,” the DCCC’s Sena posited, “everything else is easy.” Perhaps. A month-plus into the 116th Congress, though, the task for Sherrill—and the several dozen other Democratic members like her—inevitably gets harder from here. It’s one thing to tout a résumé—it’s another to defend a record. Votes are choices, and choices have consequences, and she will have to toggle between serving the interests of those to her left who fueled her bid and those to her right who are equally if not even more responsible for her win. How will she vote on issues like defense spending and the use of force? Security on the Mexican border? What about “Medicare for All”? The prospect of impeachment? AOC’s Green New Deal?

But back in the Capitol, on the evening of that first day, Sherrill along with her husband approached Pelosi for her ceremonial swearing-in. “Congratulations to you,” said a smiling Sherrill, shaking her hand. Pelosi asked after the kids. Sherrill said they had gone back to swim in the pool at their apartment. “Say no more,” Pelosi said. Pleasantries completed, Sherrill put her hand on a copy of the Constitution. She raised her hand. Pelosi raised hers. They smiled for the cameras, rolling, clicking, flashing. “Thank you so much,” Sherrill said to Pelosi with another quick pump of a handshake. “Thank you. Thanks again.”


Trump was the trigger. Sherrill was alarmed by his election and the outset of his administration, “appalled,” she said. She was irritated, too, by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s refusal to hold town halls, which she considered a baseline of responsible representation. A friend suggested to Sherrill—who had left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark in October 2016 and was looking to work in criminal justice reform—that she should run for his seat. Crazy, she thought at first. But the more she considered it, “the more I felt this real responsibility to do it,” she told me. She announced her candidacy in May of 2017.

Even then, a year and a half away from Election Day, before the driving themes of the 2018 cycle—of women, of veterans, of the primacy of smarter, richer suburbs—had come into full, vivid focus, Sherrill seemed tailor-made. She was not only a woman but a mother who helped coach her kids’ soccer and lacrosse teams in the suburbs, not only a veteran but a veteran who had been a pilot of an H-3 Sea King in Europe and the Middle East before becoming a Russia policy officer. A degree from the Naval Academy. A degree from the London School of Economics. A degree from Georgetown Law. “Her life before this,” Mollie Binotto, her campaign manager, told me recently, “really got her ready.” It produced a résumé, thought Saily Avelenda, executive director of the grassroots group NJ 11th for Change, that checked every conceivable box. “You couldn’t make one up that was better for this district,” she said.

Feeding off frustration with Frelinghuysen and the women-led antipathy for the self-styled alpha male in the Oval Office, Sherrill relentlessly rapped the president and worked to yoke Frelinghuysen with Trump’s “chaotic and reckless” administration.

When I talked to her in March 2018 for a story about New York candidate Max Rose and other veterans running for Congress, Sherrill made clear that Trump was her main motivation for running. “After a lifetime of serving the country,” she said, “to see all of the values that I had spent so much time supporting and protecting, values that I had really sworn to give my life to protect—things like attacks on women and minorities and Gold Star families and POWs and freedom of the press and the Constitution and the list really goes on—I knew I had to act.”

As for Frelinghuysen? “He has definitely been rubber-stamping Trump’s agenda,” she said. “In lockstep,” she said. “Complicit,” she said.

She tempered this prosecutorial rhetoric with a stream of disciplined nods to the area’s many moderates. She talked about infrastructure (in particular the importance of funding the Gateway tunnel), taxes (getting back the state and local deductions the Trump tax overhaul had diminished), health care (stressing availability and affordability over an outright scrapping of the Affordable Care Act) and sensible gun control (universal background checks), and she played up her credibility as a veteran who would “put the people of the country first,” rather than hew slavishly to the party line.

Helpfully for Sherrill, the 11th has been trending to the left for a decade. The last round of redistricting pulled in a piece of Montclair, where she lives, a blue bastion from whose hilltops one can gaze across the Hudson at the skyline of Manhattan. In 2008, GOP presidential candidate John McCain won the district by 9 percentage points. In 2012, Romney took it by 5.8. Trump won by less than 1. But he still won. “This district was not going to go for a liberal socialist,” said Patrick Murray, the top pollster at nearby Monmouth University. “It’s still conservative in its fiscal values, and she was able to play it right down the middle.”

Sherrill graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994 and flew H-3 Sea King helicopters throughout Europe and the Middle East. She left the Navy in 2003. | Courtesy of the office of Mikie Sherrill

It worked. At the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, she started racking up endorsements (the Democratic Party chairs from the four counties in the district, clusters of local and regional groups, EMILY’s List, NARAL, Moulton’s Serve America PAC, VoteVets, Joe Biden). Contributions rolled in. So did headlines. “Democrats gather to back Mikie Sherrill,” said one, which wasn’t so surprising. “Longtime donor to Frelinghuysen backing Democrat,” said another, which was. “PINK WAVE,” predicted ABC News. All of which contributed to the path-clearing late January jolt: “Frelinghuysen won’t seek reelection.”

As winter turned toward spring, projections had shifted from “likely Republican” to “leaning Republican” to “toss-up.” The Sherrill campaign was developing “this sense of inevitability,” as she would put it to me. Still, she needed moderate Republicans to side with her and would have to break with Pelosi to achieve that aim, and she was sufficiently astute to know the head of her party was going to need to be in the loop. Sherrill contacted Pelosi. The first time they talked was April, according to Sherrill, and she told Pelosi, she said, “about the district and what it looks like.” In May, Sherrill announced publicly she wouldn’t be supporting her for speaker if and when she got elected.

It had the desired effect.

“When she said that, I was, like, ‘That’s surprising and refreshing,’” said Nicholas Kumburis, a centrist from Parsippany who is the state chair of the fledgling, centrist Alliance Party. “She wasn’t going to just be a puppet.”

In the estimation of Michael Soriano, the Democratic mayor of Parsippany, this was “the smarter way to counter what we saw in 2016”—to not run as, in his words, “the as-loud and as-bombastic” candidate. She broke from Democratic orthodoxy, too, in areas like defense spending and taxes for large government programs—worried as she was that the brunt could fall disproportionately to her would-be constituents.

Finn Wentworth, a major donor who had contributed to Frelinghuysen in the past, credited this more middle-of-the-road approach for his ground-shifting switch to Sherrill. “Frankly, 20 years ago, she would have been a Kean Republican,” referring to Tom Kean, the former New Jersey governor. “She was not an extremist for left-wing causes or right-wing causes. … Put cable news aside. The vast majority of us live in the middle. And that’s where her voice comes from.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rep. Sherrill attends several services throughout her New Jersey district, including at the New Light Baptist Church in Bloomfield (top), the Livingston Community Center in Livingston (bottom left) and New Light Baptist Church in Bloomfield (bottom right).

In August, on MSNBC, Moulton pointed to Sherrill as somebody with a winning formula for her district who also could be part of an answer to the intractable partisanship of D.C. “It’s important that we are a party that embraces a diversity of ideas and is willing to embrace people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … and also amazing veterans like Mikie Sherrill … who is a much more centrist Democrat who can actually win a tough seat and take it back from a Republican, a seat that Alexandria would not be able to win.”

Given that her opponent was considered one of the most conservative in the State Assembly and had been endorsed in a tweet by Trump, it was perhaps not a surprise that, on November 6, Sherrill won. The surprise was that she won by as much as she did—by nearly 15 percentage points, an eye-popping swing in a district that only two years before had opted for Trump and given Frelinghuysen 58 percent of the vote. Gushed one headline: “Why Mikie Sherrill might be the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party in years.”


On a frigid night last month in Montclair, inside a warm diner on the main drag, a man working behind the counter started telling what sounded like an inappropriate joke.

“You know what helicopter pilots are good for?” he said.

Sherrill cringed.

“Uhhh …”

“They put themselves in the most dangerous places,” the man said, “for other people’s lives.”

Sitting across from me in a booth, Sherrill emitted a practically audible sigh of relief.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s nice. I have been called an Uber driver—that’s better, thank you—by Marines.”

For politicians, town halls are dangerous places, too, or can be. They’re unpredictable. Who’s going to stand up and ask what? But they make for illustrative snapshots of districts. And a few days after we talked at the diner, Sherrill held her first town hall, which was a priority given her criticism of Frelinghuysen. Outside the Parsippany Police Athletic League, officers directed cars into overflow lots. Inside, in a big gym with walls covered with banners for championship boxing, wrestling and basketball teams, and ads for insurance companies, labor unions and military recruiters, almost 500 people found seats in plastic folding chairs. Local Girl Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance. A row of veterans of Korea and Vietnam stood by the rear wall.

Sherrill, wearing a blue dress and a black blazer, delivered a bit of a preamble, outlining her committee assignments, telling them about bills she had co-sponsored and explaining why she had joined two centrist groups within her caucus—the New Democrat Coalition and (“more controversially,” she granted) the Blue Dog Coalition.

Top left: Rep. Sherrill shows her Congressional pin and the spouse's pin to her husband Jason, outside the Speaker's Lobby in the Capitol on her first day. Top right: Inside Sherrill’s office is a framed Time magazine cover. Bottom: Sherrill speaks to supporters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3, 2019.

“People have come to me and said they’re concerned because they felt like the Blue Dogs Coalition was a white, Southern coalition that undermined the Affordable Care Act,” Sherrill said. “And their fears—I understood where they came from—they weren’t unfounded—but I will tell you what the Blue Dogs coalition is right now.” One of the chairs, she said, is a Vietnamese immigrant from Florida “who believes in choice, LGBT rights and minority rights.” More than a quarter of the coalition, she continued, consists of Democrats from New York and New Jersey. “And it was important to me to join because of their focus on infrastructure, and I will tell you: We have got to get our infrastructure, especially the Gateway tunnel, funded.” People clapped.

The first question, from a former federal employee, was about the just-ended shutdown and how to prevent any more. The second was about the environment. The third was about taxes. It wasn’t until the last half-hour of a two-hour convening that Sherrill was hit with a question about impeachment. The first question about Medicare for All came even after that. It can be risky to read too much into the order of these questions, but there was a notable lack of anti-Trump bloodlust. There was, however, a detectable concern about Democratic politics writ large.

She was asked about the “rift” in the party.

“It’s by no means clear that a rift won’t be coming,” Sherrill said. “I think the fear is what we saw in the Republican Party—people on the Tea Party movement breaking with the party, creating a rift and having some 30-odd members of the Tea Party pretty much control the entire House of Representatives.”

Floating in the air, at least to me, was AOC. Sherrill, it turned out, was thinking it too, so she went there—carefully.

“What I have seen in the party is a group of people who come from very different districts,” she said. “So, you know, there are districts—like Queens, for example, is very different from Morristown.”

Knowing snickers rippled through the crowd.

“There are people who have different ideas, different agendas,” Sherrill said. “But what can happen with that is people kind of breaking paradigms and raising ideas that maybe we just hadn’t thought about …”

Then she named the name.

Reporters, she said, “they come to me and they’re always, like, ‘How do you feel about”—and here she kind of crouched down and whisper-hissed in her most snakish, conspiratorial voice—“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?”

Now people laughed and hooted and clapped.

“And I say,” Sherrill said, “‘I think this young woman has gotten a whole generation of people engaged in our democratic process in a way that we haven’t seen—” Cheers drowned out what she even said next—years? “And I think that’s exciting. I don’t agree with everything she says. I’m not going to vote on a lot of things she says that she might put before the floor. But I’m more than happy to talk to her about what shaping the future of this country might need to look like and then to look at it and say, ‘Gosh, we really need to move forward on environmental legislation. Where can we move forward together?’”

She was asked about cutting defense spending.

“I am not committed to cutting our military expenditures because there are areas where I feel we’re underfunding them, such as satellite technology and cybersecurity,” she said.

The impeachment question came from the president of a club of Democrats at a local retirement community. “Would you support an effort to impeach President Trump?”

Murmurs. Shifting in seats.

Sherrill said she wanted to wait to see the final findings of special counsel Robert Mueller. “People know that impeaching our president is going against the democratic will of the people. … So going against the will of the people like that is a huge step to take. I think it undermines our executive branch. It undermines institutions of our democracy. I’m not saying it’s not a step that I would take. It’s simply a step that I would take very carefully.”

The Medicare for All question came from a young man who asked what he asked with ferocity. “Will you support a Medicare for All bill?” he said, before making the case himself for that system. It elicited what might have been the loudest and most sustained cheering of the afternoon.

Sherrill let it die down.

“So,” she said, “with respect to Medicare for All …” It’s not easy, she said. “There will be winners and losers,” she said. She wants to be sure the high-taxed taxpayers of New Jersey’s 11th aren’t going to be the losers, she said. “What we’re talking about here is moving a third of our economy into a different plan,” she said. She advocated a more cautious, more incremental approach.

Rep. Sherrill’s red shoes that she wore on the House floor when she made her promised vote for someone other than Nancy Pelosi to be speaker.

It was, I thought, an appropriate end to the event. To my eye and ear, every time the crowd started to get riled up, typically by a question from somebody clearly to her left, Sherrill listened, waited for a beat … and then used her answer to turn down the volume in the room. Mic'd up, she was this bipartisan defuser. It made me have two thoughts. One: It’s a heck of a skill. Two: Is that what people want right now?

“There are going to be people on the far, far end of the left,” Heather Darling, a Republican Morris County Freeholder, told me, “that are going to expect to see things, like really big things, that she can’t deliver.”

At the Parsippany PAL, though, I offered Sherrill my admittedly somewhat cheeky post-town hall assessment. No gotchas or shout-downs. No fireworks or fisticuffs.

“It was,” I told her, “a little boring.”

She laughed.

“That’s … OK?”

martes, 12 de febrero de 2019

An early look at the 2020 electorate

The 2020 U.S. presidential election is rapidly coming into view – and so is the electorate that will determine its outcome.

While demographic changes unfold slowly, it’s already clear that the 2020 electorate will be unique in several ways. Nonwhites will account for a third of eligible voters – their largest share ever – driven by long-term increases among certain groups, especially Hispanics. At the same time, one-in-ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z, the Americans who will be between the ages 18 and 23 next year. That will occur as Millennials and all other older generations account for a smaller share of eligible voters than they did in 2016.

How MARCA POLITICA defines the electorate

What might these demographic shifts mean politically? In 2016, nonwhite voters were more likely to back Democrat Hillary Clinton, while white voters were more likely to back Republican Donald Trump. Younger generations, meanwhile, differ notably from older generations in their views on key social and political issues. It remains unclear how these patterns might factor into the 2020 election and, as always, a great deal will depend on who turns out to vote.
More Hispanic than black eligible voters

We project that the 2020 election will mark the first time that Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate, accounting for just over 13% of eligible voters – slightly more than blacks. This change reflects the gradual but continuous growth in the Hispanic share of eligible voters, up from 9% in the 2008 presidential election and 7% in the 2000 election. The black eligible voter population has grown about as fast as the electorate overall, meaning their share has held constant at about 12% since 2000.

In raw numbers, a projected 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2020, compared with 30 million blacks. The population of Asians eligible to vote will reach an estimated 11 million in 2020, which is more than double the 5 million who were eligible to vote in 2000, accounting for 5% of next year’s electorate.

Taken together, this strong growth among minority populations means that a third of eligible voters will be nonwhite in 2020, up from about a quarter in 2000. This increase is at least partially linked to immigration and naturalization patterns: One-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 election will have been born outside the U.S., the highest share since at least 1970.

Voter turnout will play an important role in determining the relative electoral influence of different racial and ethnic groups. For example, while Hispanics will outnumber blacks among eligible voters next year, they may not actually cast more ballots than blacks due to different turnout patterns. In recent presidential elections, blacks were substantially more likely than Hispanics to vote. Indeed, the number of Hispanic eligible voters who didn’t vote has exceeded the number of those who did vote in every presidential election since 1996.
(Samuel Corum/Anadolou Agency/Getty Images)

Still, the changing racial and ethnic composition of the electorate likely has political implications in part because nonwhites have long been significantly more likely than whites to back Democratic candidates. For instance, in the 2016 election, white voters favored Donald Trump by a 15 percentage point margin, while large majorities of blacks and Hispanics voted for Hillary Clinton.
Generational shifts

Another important long-term trend is the overall aging of the electorate. In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate (23%) will be ages 65 and older, the highest such share since at least 1970. This reflects not only the maturation of the large Baby Boom generation but also increased life expectancy among older Americans.

Baby Boomers and older generations, who will be ages 56 and older next year, are expected to account for fewer than four-in-ten eligible voters in 2020. This is a significant change from 2000, when nearly seven-in-ten eligible voters (68%) were Boomers, Silents or members of the Greatest Generation (collectively, those ages 36 and older at the time). Even as recently as 2012, when the youngest Boomer was 48 years old, Boomer and older generations were about half of the electorate (49%).

The next presidential election will also mark the first time that Millennials (who will be ages 24 to 39 in 2020) will account for a slightly smaller share of the electorate than they represented in the last presidential election. The raw number of Millennials eligible to vote is increasing due to foreign-born Millennials naturalizing to become citizens. But the Millennial share of the electorate has peaked as they are not growing as fast as the electorate overall.

Meanwhile, the leading edge of Generation Z (people ages 18 to 23 in 2020) is projected to comprise one-in-ten eligible voters, up from just 4% in 2016, when the vast majority were too young to cast ballots. These post-Millennials are on track to be more racially and ethnically diverse than their predecessors: In 2020, Gen Z eligible voters are expected to be 55% white and 45% nonwhite, including 21% Hispanic, 14% black, and 4% Asian or Pacific Islander. By comparison, the Boomer and older electorate is projected to be about three-quarters white (74%).

Differences in turnout rates again matter when talking about generations and should be kept in mind as election season gets underway. Since older adults are more likely to turn out to vote, it’s possible that older generations will form a larger share of actual voters in 2020 than their share in the electorate. That’s what happened in 2016: Even though Boomers and older generations accounted for 43% of eligible voters, they cast 49% of the ballots.

How to Choose the Most Electable Democrat in 2020

A field guide for progressives—and moderates—who say they’re willing to sacrifice their policy wish list to beat Donald Trump.

The complicated choice facing Democratic presidential primary voters, desperate to pick the right candidate to beat President Donald Trump in 2020, was encapsulated this past weekend. Elizabeth Warren, who on Saturday delivered populist fire in her formal announcement speech, represented the view that fierce ideological conviction can carry the day in the general election. The next day, Amy Klobuchar touted her Midwestern roots as she personified the belief that a candidate from the middle—both politically and geographically—would be the most electable nominee.

And both candidates had their rollouts somewhat clouded by scandalous accusations—Warren’s past identification as an “American Indian” and allegations that Klobuchar is an abusive boss—that raised questions about their “electability.”

Democrats say they care more about winning in 2020 than anything else. In a Monmouth University poll, when asked to choose between “a Democrat you agree with on most issues but would have a hard time beating Donald Trump,” or “a Democrat you do not agree with on most issues but would be a stronger candidate against Donald Trump,” Democrats threw their policy preferences under the bus by 56 percent to 33 percent. And when Democrats were asked, in a CNN poll, which of seven candidate attributes are “extremely important,” they ranked “has a good chance of beating Donald Trump” the highest, at 49 percent. Ranked second-to-last with 25 percent was “holds progressive positions on the issues.”

These are disturbing numbers to some on the left. A growing chorus of voices has argued that electability is a nonsensical ruse concocted to box out true progressives in favor of timid moderates. “It’s alchemy and a crock,” scoffed Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, noting that nominating Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders didn’t save us from Trump, and picking John Kerry over Howard Dean didn’t stop George W. Bush’s reelection. New York’s Eric Levitz further suggested that Trump’s unpopularity makes the electability metric, however slippery, irrelevant for 2020: “In all probability, it will take only a minimally politically competent Democrat to get him out.” The Week’s Joel Mathis recently counseled primary voters, “Don't ask yourself which candidate is electable. Ask which candidate you want to elect, then act accordingly.”

However, just because electability is not like pornography—you can’t always know it when you see it—doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Attempts to paint Barack Obama as too far left and Ronald Reagan as too far right didn’t work, but a candidate beloved by a party’s base can still flop in the fall. Cautionary tales abound, from presidential flameouts like Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, to more recent congressional clunkers like Randy “Ironstache” Bryce, Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and Christine “I’m not a Witch” O’Donnell—all cases in which primary voters passed on candidates with fewer red flags.

Yet a candidate can also perform badly on some electability tests and still become president. In 1992, Bill Clinton never fully put to rest questions about his honesty and character, but that mattered less than the economy. In 2016, Trump shouldered scandal after scandal, and was hardly a maestro at defusing criticism of his issue positions. But voters in the primaries of 1992 and 2016 could reasonably conclude that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump each had a distinctive ability to attract voters who were not normally part of their respective parties’ bases. And each man proved he could win in the fall by surviving scandalous blows in the primaries that would have destroyed ordinary politicians.

More important, each ran in the fall against opponents with electability problems of their own. Sometimes, it’s not the most electable who wins, but the least unelectable. But that’s not an argument for willfully flying blind and ignoring electability altogether.

Primary voters will never be able to divine electability with clinical precision. But when the ultimate goal is winning 270 Electoral College votes, simply choosing a nominee based strictly on who you like is an enormous risk. A majority coalition invariably includes voters who don’t think exactly the way you do.

Asking average voters to discern what other voters like in a candidate is a tall order. Plenty of people who make their living by analyzing politics attempt to do just that and still get it wrong (*cough cough*). But when the people wrested the power to pick presidential nominees out of the hands of party bosses, they assumed the responsibility of nominating candidates with the best chance of winning. This is not the year to give up on trying to figure out who that is.

Voters shouldn’t completely suppress their issue priorities, or pretend to know exactly which candidates swing voters would prefer. But Democrats should press the 2020 candidates to explain what they believe makes them electable and to back up their case with evidence. If primary voters want to nominate the candidate who best balances their desires for both electoral and policy success, they shouldn’t reject the concept of electability. Instead, they should get better at identifying it. Here’s how.

Electability Test No. 1: The Voter Turnout Test

Part of the challenge is that there are no agreed-upon criteria for how Democrats can win elections. When George McGovern lost by a landslide in 1972, Democrats were quick to conclude the party had drifted too far left, and tacked toward the middle with Jimmy Carter four years later. But after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, a debate still rages over whether she was too milquetoast moderate and too close to corporations, whether she overly emphasized social and cultural issues like gun control and transgender rights, whether she forgot to woo working-class white voters, or whether she failed to boost turnout among the young and people of color.

Primary voters can’t be expected to adjudicate which strategy is correct—as there is no one correct answer that applies for every election. But they can demand that the candidates offer some hard evidence that they are capable of executing whatever they say is the best strategy.

So if candidates promise, Bernie-style, that they can win not by persuading right-leaning swing voters but by maximizing turnout among left-leaning unlikely voters and flipping back working-class Obama-Trump voters, demand proof. Where do those voters live? Are the candidates already organizing them in significant numbers? Do they have former Trump voters who have publicly pledged support? Have they persuaded independents to register as Democrats in states with closed primaries? If so, show us.

Part of what hurt Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary was that once voting began, his own logic collapsed on him. If he was the candidate who could spark revolution via overwhelming grassroots turnout, why was he strongest in low-turnout caucuses? Why did he lose most of the primaries, regardless of whether or not they were open to independents? And why was the overall Democratic primary turnout lower in 2016 than in 2008? Any candidate trying to make similar claims today will need more proof than large crowd sizes at campaign rallies, a deceptive barometer of support that Sanders had in spades.

The job for candidates who promise to deliver a more conventional swing voter strategy isn’t any easier. They may say they know how to peel off Midwestern white working-class voters, or affluent suburbanites in the Southwest and New South, from the GOP. But don’t let them get away with blithely asserting they have the right profile to win. Show us. Are you getting Republicans to switch their registrations? Do you have the support not just of union leaders, but of union members who often part ways with their leadership?

Candidates who have won in swing states and red states—such as Klobuchar, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana—may appear to have a natural edge. But we know that past success does not always augur future results. Al Gore could not win his home state of Tennessee, and Mitt Romney could not win his of Massachusetts, because they recalibrated ideologically in order to compete at the national level.

So merely saying, “I’ve won here before” doesn’t cut it. Why did you win there before? Was it because your campaign approach at home, in either style or substance, was distinct from typical Democratic campaigns? If so, are you prepared to stick to that approach, even it means offending progressives?

A big complicating factor here is the potential for a vote-splitting third-party candidate. A centrist independent like former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz could prevent Democrats from building a majority anti-Trump coalition, posing a risk for Democrats if they to nominate somebody too far to the left. But, as Democrats know all too well, a more moderate Democratic nominee may fail to hold down the left flank, sending some voters to a left-wing third-party candidate (hi, Jill Stein!).

Candidates of all stripes need to prove not only that they can they attract new voters, but also that they’re not going to lose old ones. So while candidates may be inclined to survive the crowded field by winning an ideological “lane”—and consolidating support among a faction such as young populists or older pragmatists—if they pursue that strategy too divisively, they could spark an “Anybody But” movement within the rank-and-file. That would raise questions about another electability risk: their capacity to unify the party after the primary.

Electability Test No. 2: The Issue Defense Test

Progressives regularly justify adopting “bold” policy positions, and eschewing “incrementalism,” on the grounds that their wish list—including single-payer health insurance, sharp tax increases on the wealthy and free college—polls well. But counterarguments can drive poll numbers down. Any presidential candidate can take a position. Who is best at defending that position?

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had moments in 2016 that showed the weaknesses in their ability to sell their ideas. Sanders had his infamous New York Daily News interview, in which he gave flippant answers to questions about the logistics for breaking up big banks. But as the eventual nominee, Clinton’s energy policy gaffe was ultimately more damaging.

Her poorly constructed observation in a CNN town hall that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” completely obscured her previous sentence: “I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity, using clean renewable energy as the key, into coal country.” From that point forward, Clinton was never be able to convince coal country she had a plan with its best interests at heart.

In the 2020 primary, Kamala Harris had the first blunder when trying to defend a “bold” policy position. Asked during her CNN town hall if her version of “Medicare for all” would “totally eliminate private insurance,” she listed many of the frustrations associated with private insurance, then glibly concluded, “Let’s eliminate all of that.” This raised alarms about whether she wanted to eliminate private insurance, part of the concept of single-payer, which by definition doesn’t allow private insurers to compete with government plans.

Several Democratic presidential candidates then insisted their vision of “Medicare for all” would retain some private insurance, and the Harris campaign rushed to remind that she continues to support “public option” proposals that would not abolish private insurance. Clearly, she wasn’t initially prepared for critical questions, otherwise she would have given a more comprehensive answer that anticipated the inevitable counterarguments. Instead, she muddied her own position and inadvertently weakened the argument for single-payer.

One bobble, especially one so early in the primary season, does not condemn an entire presidential campaign. But these are the sorts of errors that rightly raise questions about a candidate’s ability to lead the charge for a progressive policy platform.

The quick embrace by several candidates of this week’s ambitious yet lightly sketched “Green New Deal” resolution will pose a fresh test of their persuasion skills. The far-reaching proposal from Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez envisions a “10-year mobilization” to meet “100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” while also “guaranteeing” every American a “a job with a family-sustaining wage,” and “providing all people” with “high-quality health care, “affordable, safe, and adequate housing” and “economic security.” With so many details unwritten, there are lots of questions to be asked, and therefore, lots of potential traps.

Electability Test No. 3: The Scandal Test

When video surfaced in 2008 of Barack Obama’s pastor shouting “God Damn America,” Obama salvaged his campaign with a speech for the ages about race in America. When in 2015, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was rocked before it formally began with revelations about the private email server she used while secretary of state, she gave a news conference that produced more questions than answers, and the matter literally dogged her from beginning to end of the campaign. One became president, and the other didn’t.

Many Democrats believe that molehills are often unfairly turned into mountains by disingenuous Republicans, aided by a conflict-driven and content-hungry news media. But you don’t get elected president by whining about unfair attacks. You get elected by beating them back.

And it can be ultimately helpful for candidates, and for choosy primary voters, to be put through the wringer early. A candidate who skates into the nomination, like Kerry in 2004, presents an enormous risk.

Kerry stayed out of the spotlight for much of 2003 while Dean became the darling of the left. But as Dean began to falter before Iowa, especially after Saddam Hussein was captured and Democrats had second thoughts about Dean’s anti-Iraq War stance, Kerry and his “Band of Brothers” were emphasizing his record of military service in Vietnam. As the New Yorker explained in February 2004, shortly after Iowa: “Democrats say that what they are seeking above all this year is a candidate who can beat Bush, and while Dean, campaigning as an antiwar, anti-establishment, outsider maverick, tapped the leaderless party’s hot anger, the stolid war hero Kerry, with twenty years of experience in the foreign and domestic policy debates of the Senate, better fit the cold calculus of electability.”

But that calculus left out of the equation the seething anger toward Kerry from conservatives who for decades loathed his anti-Vietnam War activism. That bitterness fueled the wildly dishonest yet politically damaging Swift Boat Veterans for Truth effort to discredit Kerry’s war record. Kerry wrapped up the nomination so fast, primary voters never got the chance to see how he might respond to such smears. Instead, they found out too late.

In all likelihood, the 2020 primary will be a protracted affair, giving ample opportunity for top-tier candidates to be thoroughly scrutinized. Controversies, of varying severity, are inevitable. Primary voters should watch carefully to determine who has the skills to nip accusations in the bud, and who can’t seem to put them to rest.

Warren is currently faring the worst on this front. She apologized last week for “furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship” after the Washington Post uncovered a State Bar of Texas registration card from 1986 in which she classified herself as “American Indian.” This followed the backlash she suffered last year from some Native Americans for using a DNA test to buttress her claim to Cherokee and Delaware tribal heritage. Maybe the latest apology is the end of the matter. But if it isn’t, primary voters should worry about whether Warren’s electability is compromised. What Warren is going through, and what other candidates may go through in the near future, might not be fair. But the Electoral College doesn’t have a fairness rule.

How Fancy Water Bottles Became a 21st-Century Status Symbol

There’s a reason Millennials will spend $50 on one.



The potential judgment of students can lead a teacher to do strange things. For Monique Mongeon, an arts educator in Toronto, starting a job teaching adults sparked a small crisis of confidence. “I was in my mid-20s, and I was looking at things I could do to make myself feel like a person who had authority to stand in front of a bunch of other 20-somethings,” she says. After ruling out fancy bags and shoes as too extravagant, Mongeon settled on a sleek $45 water bottle. “I was scrolling through websites thinking, Which of these S’well bottles looks like the kind of person I want to be?”

Nine years ago, there was only one S’well, and it was blue. Now you can get the curvy, steel-capped bottles in more than 200 size-and-color combinations, including some that look like marble or teakwood. Many are customizable with your initials. The big ones will hold an entire bottle of wine, and smaller versions are made for cocktails or coffee. Teens offer S’well bottles to propose to prospective prom dates. They’re a common sight in Instagram photos of artfully stuffed vacation carry-ons and aesthetically pleasing desk tableaux.

S’well’s success is impressive, but the brand has a host of competitors nipping at its heels in what has become an enormous market for high-end, reusable beverage containers. If nothing in S’well’s inventory calls out to you, maybe you’ll like a Yeti, Sigg, Hydro Flask, Contigo, or bkr. A limited-edition Soma bottle, created in collaboration with the Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh and Evian (itself a legend of designer water), was recently feted at New York Fashion Week. VitaJuwel bottles, which can cost more than $100, promise to “restructure” your tap water using the power of interchangeable crystal pods.

On the surface, water bottles as totems of consumer aspiration sound absurd: If you have access to water, you can drink it out of so many things that already exist in your home. But if you dig a little deeper, you find that these bottles sit at a crossroads of cultural and economic forces that shape Americans’ lives far beyond beverage choices. If you can understand why so many people would spend 50 bucks on a water bottle, you can understand a lot about America in 2019.

The first time I coveted a water bottle was in 2004. When I arrived as a freshman at the University of Georgia, I found that I was somehow the last person alive who didn’t own a Nalgene. The brand’s distinctive, lightweight plastic bottles had long been a cult-favorite camping accessory, but in the mid-2000s, they exploded in popularity beyond just outdoorsmen. A version with the school’s logo on it cost $16 in the bookstore, which was a little steep for me, an unemployed 18-year-old, but I bought one anyway. I wanted to be the kind of person all my new peers apparently were. Plus, it’s hot in Georgia. A nice water bottle seemed like a justifiable extravagance.

Around the same time, I remember noticing the first flares of another trend intimately related to the marketability of water bottles: athleisure. All around me, stylish young women wore colorful Nike running shorts and carried bright plastic Nalgenes to class. “With Millennials, fitness and health are themselves signals,” says Tülin Erdem, a marketing professor at NYU. “They drink more water and carry it with them, so it’s an item that becomes part of them and their self-expression.”

Read: Everything you wear is athleisure

Now, across Instagram, you can find high-end water bottles lurking around the edges of stylized gym photos posted by exercisers and fitness instructors. Usually these people aren’t being rewarded for the placement with anything but likes. Sarah Kauss, S’well’s founder and CEO, says people have been photographing her water bottles since the company began in 2010. “I’d receive hundreds of pictures a week from customers,” she says. “I wasn’t giving them anything for it. There wasn’t a free bottle or a coupon code or anything other than customers just wanting to show their own experience.”

Kauss says she always knew the bottle’s appearance would be important, even though positioning something as simple as a water bottle as a luxury product was a bit of a gamble. “As I moved up in my career, I was upgrading my wardrobe, and the bottle that looked like a camping accessory really didn’t serve my purpose anymore,” she says. When she noticed fashionable New Yorkers were carrying luxe disposable plastic bottles from brands such as Evian and Fiji, she realized reusable bottles could use a makeover, too.

Kauss and her contemporaries struck at the right time. The importance of fitness and wellness were starting to gain a foothold in fashionable crowds, and concerns over consumer waste and plastic’s potential to leach chemicalsinto food and water were gaining wider attention. People wanted cute workout gear, and they wanted to drink water out of materials other than plastic. Researchers have found that the chance to be conspicuously sustainability-conscious motivates consumers, especially when the product being purchased costs more than its less-green counterparts.

Nearly a decade on, the water-bottle trend shows no signs of slowing, and people just seem to like their fancy bottles a lot. The insulated metal variety, the most popular, does a far better job than plastic of keeping beverages at ideal temperatures. They’re durable and useful. When I put out a call for opinions on Twitter, I heard from hundreds of people about how much they loved theirs. Rebecca Thomas, a 28-year-old in Atlanta who owns three S’wells, says she once paid a ransom to an Uber driver after she left one behind in the car. (“That’s when I decided I’d never put wine in one again,” she says.) Others were similarly dedicated. “I will be buried with all of my different sizes of Hydro Flask,” says Emily Sile, a travel editor in New York City. “Maybe by then Hydro Flask will come out with a coffin, so I can be buried in that, too.”

The trend’s Instagram visibility might make it seem like high-end water bottles are the sole province of women. Indeed, brands such as bkr, whose bottles are pastel glass and can come with a special top meant to hold lip gloss, are explicitly marketed as products of feminine beauty. (Drinking water, after all, is often lauded as the ultimate skin-care product.) But the category’s origins in camping gear mean that it started out with a strong foothold among male Millennials as well, and brands such as Yeti and Hydro Flask have continued to court a more masculine audience. Mike Ferguson, a 37-year-old in Los Angeles, has four Yetis of various sizes that he usually uses for iced coffee and water. “I have very few vices, but this is one,” he says. “Am I a brand loyalist? I don’t think so, but the evidence suggests otherwise.”

Ferguson, like many other people I spoke with, got his first Yeti as a gift. Kauss says that’s a trend she sees with S’well’s customers, too: People will buy one or two, presumably for themselves, and then come back to the website around the holidays and buy six. Most brands also customize orders for large corporate clients, meaning your employer might hand you a logo bottle at the end of the year. Even if spending 40 or 50 bucks on a water bottle sounds bad, getting one for free can turn reluctant consumers into evangelists.

When those factors are taken together, it’s hard to be surprised that so many $50 water bottles exist, or that people have snapped them up in droves. On a certain level, a nice water bottle fulfills its promise in the way few things do. They hold water. They stay cold. They look nice on your desk. They don’t leave an unsightly sweat ring on your nightstand. For people such as Mongeon, the art teacher, they look like things that are owned by people who know what they’re doing. For a lot of people, they spark a little bit of joy in the otherwise mundane routine of work, exercise, and personal hygiene. For a generation with less expendable income than its parents’, a nice bottle pays for itself with a month of consistent use and lets you feel like you’re being proactive about your health and the environment.

A container of any kind, whether it’s a rented storage unit or a decorative basket, promises order and control. Marie Kondo’s Netflix show about organizing American homes in disarray was a hit for a reason: There’s a small amount of serenity in finding the right vessel and filling it with the right thing. Consumer choices might not be an effective solution to structural problems such as pollution, but it’s nice to feel like you’re making ethical choices. If nothing else, Millennials can buy the best water bottle they can afford and try their best to stay hydrated.

domingo, 10 de febrero de 2019

The State of American Jobs

How the shifting economic landscape is reshaping work and society and affecting the way people think about the skills and training they need to get ahead

Tectonic changes are reshaping U.S. workplaces as the economy moves deeper into the knowledge-focused age. These changes are affecting the very nature of jobs by rewarding social, communications and analytical skills. They are prodding many workers to think about lifetime commitments to retraining and upgrading their skills. And they may be prompting a society-wide reckoning about where those constantly evolving skills should be learned – and what the role of colleges should be.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted in association with the Markle Foundation, finds that these new realities are not lost on the American public: The vast majority of U.S. workers say that new skills and training may hold the key to their future job success.

That sentiment is echoed in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government jobs data, which finds that for the past several decades, employment has been rising faster in jobs requiring higher levels of preparation – that is, more education, training and experience.

The number of workers in occupations requiring average to above-average education, training and experience increased from 49 million in 1980 to 83 million in 2015, or by 68%. This was more than double the 31% increase over the same period in employment, from 50 million to 65 million, in jobs requiring below-average education, training and experience.1

At the same time, the national survey – conducted May 25 to June 29, 2016, among 5,006 U.S. adults (including 3,096 employed adults) – shows how deeply Americans have internalized these trends:

Many see personal upgrading as a constant: More than half (54%) of adults in the labor force say it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace. And 35% of workers, including about three-in-ten (27%) adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, say they don’t have the education and training they need to get ahead at work. Many are already taking action or being required to do so by their employer or by licensing requirements in their jobs: 45% of employed adults say they got extra training to improve their job skills in the past 12 months.

The public sees threats to jobs coming from several directions: Eight-in-ten adults say increased outsourcing of jobs to other countries hurts American workers, and roughly the same share (77%) say having more foreign-made products sold in the U.S. has been harmful. Significant shares also cite increased use of contract or temporary workers (57%) and declines in union membership (49%) as trends that are hurting, rather than helping, workers. At the same time, global markets for U.S.-made products are seen as helpful for workers by 68% of adults. And seven-in-ten say the rise of the internet and email has been a net positive.

Americans think the responsibility for preparing and succeeding in today’s workforce starts with individuals themselves: Roughly seven-in-ten (72%) say “a lot” of responsibility falls on individuals to make sure that they have the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy. And 60% believe public K-12 schools should bear a lot of responsibility for this. After that, views differ on the roles that other entities, such as companies and different levels of government, should play in preparing people for the workforce.

The role of college is being debated: While many college graduates with two- or four-year degrees describe their own experience as having a positive impact on them, just 16% of all Americans think that a four-year degree prepares students very well for a well-paying job in today’s economy. And there is no consensus regarding the main purpose of college. Roughly a third of adults (35%) say it should be to help individuals grow personally and intellectually, while 50% say it should be to teach job-related skills.

Overall, the survey findings and employment data show how Americans are hustling to adapt to new labor force realities. Some of the key themes in this two-pronged analysis:
The nature of jobs is changing, and women may be beneficiaries

The new analysis of employment data shows that the job categories with the highest growth tend to require higher social skills, analytic savvy and technical prowess. Since 1980, employment in jobs requiring stronger social skills, namely interpersonal, communications or management skills, increased from 49 million to 90 million, or 83%. Further, employment increased 77% (from 49 million to 86 million) in jobs requiring higher levels of analytical skills, including critical thinking and computer use. By comparison, the number of workers in jobs requiring higher levels of manual or physical skills, such as machinery operation and physical labor has changed relatively little.2

A look at occupations by the combinations of skills suggests that jobs requiring both higher social and higher analytical skills, such as managerial or teaching jobs, are generally doing better than other jobs in terms of employment growth. Employment in these hybrid occupations has grown 94% since 1980 (from 39 million to 76 million), representing a higher growth rate than jobs requiring higher social skills or those calling for higher analytical skills.

How we measured the changing need for skills in the workplace

The shifting demand for skills in the modern workplace may be working to the benefit of women. Women, who represent 47% of the overall workforce, make up the majority of workers in jobs where social or analytical skills are relatively more important, 55% and 52%, respectively. For their part, men are relatively more engaged in jobs calling for more intensive physical and manual skills, making up 70% of workers in those occupations. This is likely to have contributed to the shrinking of the gender pay gap from 1980 to 2015 given that wages are rising much faster in jobs requiring social and analytical skills.

These changes highlight the rise of a service-oriented and knowledge-based economy. From 1990 to 2015, employment growth in the U.S. was led by the educational services and health care and social assistance sectors. Employment has doubled in each of these sectors since 1990 (105% and 99%, respectively). By comparison, overall employment (non-farm) increased 30% during this period.
Most workers say they will need continuous training, and many say they don’t have the skills they need now to get ahead in their job

Fully 54% of adults who are currently in the labor force say that it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with changes in the workplace. An additional 33% say this will be important, but not essential. Only 12% of workers say ongoing training will not be important for them.

It’s the most highly educated workers who feel this most acutely. Some 63% of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education say they will need to keep advancing their skills throughout their career, compared with 45% of those with no college experience who feel the same sense of urgency. Government data reinforce this finding as workers with higher levels of education are more likely to engage in job training or acquire job certificates or licenses.

Young adults are more likely than their older counterparts to see skills and training as essential (61% among those ages 18 to 29), perhaps because of the longer trajectory they have ahead of them. Even so, 56% of those ages 30 to 49 say ongoing training will be essential for them, as do roughly four-in-ten workers ages 50 and older.

Adults who are working in certain STEM-related industries of science, technology, engineering and math are among the most likely to say ongoing training and skills development will be essential for them. Two-thirds of employed adults who work in computer programming and information technology say this will be essential for them. And roughly six-in-ten workers who are in the health care industry (62%) say the same. By contrast, about half of adults working in hospitality (47%), manufacturing or farming (46%) or retail or wholesale trade (46%) see training and skills development as an essential part of their future work life.3

For some people, acquiring new skills won’t just be a necessity in the future: 35% of working adults say they need more education and training now in order to get ahead in their job or career. A plurality of those who say they need more training say the best way for them to get that training would be through additional formal education. This is true across levels of educational attainment: Four-year college graduates say they would pursue a graduate degree, two-year college graduates say they would try to get a four-year degree, and high school graduates say they would go to college.

A significant share (about a third) of workers who say they need more training believe on-the-job training would be the best way to gain the skills they need to get ahead, while fewer (17%) point to certificate programs as the most promising pathway.
Public sees a mix of soft skills and technical skills as crucial to success in today’s economy

When people think about what it takes for workers to be successful these days, large majorities rank a mixture of technical and “soft skills” as critical, including detailed understanding of how to use computers (85% say this is “extremely” or “very” important), ability to work with those from diverse backgrounds (85%), training in writing and communications (85%) and access to training to update skills (82%).

Next on the list are training in science and math – 69% believe that is extremely or very important – and knowing computer programming (64%). A smaller share of Americans believe that mastering social media (37%) and knowing a foreign language (36%) are at least very important for success in the modern workplace.

The traits most frequently cited as important by Americans are anchors of the skill set of workers in the knowledge economy. It is not surprising, then, that some of the starkest differences in people’s answers are linked to their level of education. Those with higher educational attainment are more likely than others to think that knowledge of computers, writing and communications training, facility in working with people from many different backgrounds and access to more training on skills are extremely important for workers to be successful now. For instance, 46% of those with college degrees or higher and 44% of those with some college consider knowledge of computers to be extremely important, compared with 34% of those with a high school diploma or less.

Those who work in the manufacturing and farm sectors and those who work in the hospitality industry are less likely than those who work in the education, trade or health care sectors to believe that mastering computer technology and having training in writing and communications are extremely important traits to bring to the job.23 Moreover, those who do manual labor are less likely than others to think that computer mastery and communications skills are essential for workers. Manual laborers are also less likely than others to believe workers should be able to work with people from many different backgrounds.

Women are more likely than men to cite some traits as extremely important for being a successful job holder in today’s economy. Some 46% of women believe that having detailed understanding of computers is extremely important for successful workers compared with 34% of men who believe that. There is a similar-sized gender gap when it comes to training in writing and communication: 42% of women, vs. 32% of men, say this is an extremely important trait for today’s workers to have.

Additionally, there are some differences in people’s views tied to race and ethnicity. Hispanics are less likely than blacks or whites to think that it is extremely important for worker success to know computer technology, be trained in writing and communications, and be able to work with others from diverse background. At the same time Hispanics are more likely than whites to think that knowing a foreign language and mastering social media are extremely important.

How Americans view their jobs

On the whole, American workers are generally satisfied with their jobs. Even so, a significant share (30%) view the work they do as “just a job to get them by,” rather than a career or a steppingstone to a career. Views about work are sharply divided along socio-economic lines, and the sense of vulnerability is most acute among workers with no college education and lower-than-average household incomes.

There are also significant differences across industries and occupations. For example, people who work in management are more likely to be satisfied with their current job, to be in salaried positions and to have a more robust set of employer-provided benefits. By contrast, workers who are in retail, service or manual occupations have fewer benefits and lower levels of satisfaction.

About half of U.S. workers describe their job as a career, while 18% say it is a steppingstone to a career. Three-in-ten workers say their job is “just a job to get them by.” Those who describe their job as a career tend to be at least 30 years old and well educated, with higher incomes and holding full-time, salaried jobs.
Highly educated workers among the most satisfied with their jobs

About half (49%) of American workers say they are very satisfied with their current job. Three-in-ten are somewhat satisfied, and the remainder say they are somewhat dissatisfied (9%) or very dissatisfied (6%). Job satisfaction varies by household income, education and key job characteristics. And the way people feel about their job spills over into their views of other aspects of their lives and their overall sense of happiness.

About six-in-ten (59%) of those with an annual family income of $75,000 or more say they’re very satisfied with their current job, compared with 45% of those making $30,000 to $74,999 and 39% of those making less than $30,000.

Certain types of employees are more likely to express satisfaction with their current job. People who work in management are particularly likely to say they are very satisfied (62%), compared with, for example, those who work in manual or physical labor (48%). In addition, those who work in full-time jobs (52%), salaried positions (58%) and permanent positions (53%) are particularly likely to say they are very satisfied with their current job.

When asked about their satisfaction with the kind of work they do, employed Americans with high family incomes again say they are the most satisfied (65% of those making $75,000 or more say they are very satisfied, compared with 49% of those making $30,000 to $74,999 and 51% of those making less than $30,000). Permanent, full-time and salaried employees are also more likely than their counterparts to say they are very satisfied in this area.

Similar patterns are reflected when Americans are asked about satisfaction with their family life and personal financial situation, as well as their overall happiness.

For example, about six-in-ten adults (61%) with a family income of less than $30,000 per year say they are very satisfied with their family lives, compared with eight-in-ten adults whose family income is $75,000 per year or more.

There is also a difference by education. Though 71% of Americans overall describe themselves as very satisfied with their family lives, that figure is lower among those with less than a high school education (64%) than those with at least a bachelor’s degree (75%).

About a third of Americans (32%) say they are very happy with how things are going these days in their lives, while 51% describe themselves as pretty happy and 14% say they are not too happy.

Large differences in happiness emerge when comparing those with high levels of education and income and those with low levels. For example, adults with less than a high school education are more than twice as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree or more education to say they are not too happy with their lives (23% vs. 9%).24 And those with low family incomes, of less than $30,000 annually, are three times as likely as those with family incomes of $75,000 or more to say they are not too happy (21% vs. 7%).

Those who are unemployed and looking for work are less happy with their lives, even when controlling for family income. Unemployed Americans who are looking for work and report a family income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as those who are employed and report the same family income to say they are not too happy with how things are going in their lives (26% compared with 14%).
Americans are divided over whether their jobs give them a sense of identity or just provide a living

In addition to job satisfaction, the survey explored what American workers’ jobs mean to them – are their jobs central to who they are, or are they mainly just a source of income? About half (51%) of employed Americans say they get a sense of identity from their job, while the other half (47%) say their job is just what they do for a living.25 And about half (51%) of all U.S. workers say they view their job as a career, while 18% see it as a steppingstone to a career and 30% say it’s just a job to get them by.

The same factors that underlie job satisfaction are linked to deeper attitudes about work. Workers with a postgraduate degree are the most likely to say their job gives them a sense of identity (77%), while 60% with a bachelor’s degree, 48% of those with some college education and about four-in-ten (38%) of those with a high school diploma or less say the same. Similarly, employed adults with a bachelor’s degree or more education are nearly twice as likely as those with less education to say their job is a career (70%, compared with 44% of those with some college experience and 39% of those with no college education).

Those at the top of the income scale are the most likely to see their job as part of their identity and as a career. Some 60% of those with an annual family income of $75,000 or more say they get a sense of identity from their job, compared with 37% of those with a family income of less than $30,000. And 75% of employed adults in the top income category ($75,000 or more) see their job as a career, compared with 49% of those in the middle ($30,000 to $74,999) and only 17% of those in the lowest income category (less than $30,000).

Roughly six-in-ten or more of those who are self-employed (63%) or who work for a nonprofit organization (65%) or the government (67%) say they get a sense of identity from their job, while only 42% of those who work for a private company say the same. Salaried and full-time employees are also more likely to say their job gives them a sense of identity than hourly and part-time employees, respectively.

At the same time, half or more of Americans who are self-employed (63%) or who work for a nonprofit organization (56%) or the government (66%) see their job as a career, while 44% of those who work for a private company say the same.

There are also some significant differences by industry. For example, 62% of adults working in the health care industry and 70% of those working in education say they get a sense of identity from their job, compared with 42% of people working in hospitality and 36% in retail or wholesale trade. And 66% of those working in a STEM profession or teaching say their job gives them a sense of identity, while 43% of those working in manual/physical occupations and 37% of those working in retail or service jobs say the same.26 Employees of the same industries and occupations that are most likely to report that their job provides them with a sense of identity (health care, education and STEM/teaching) are more likely than others to say their jobs are careers.

Job characteristics are also linked to these attitudes about work. A quarter of part-time employees see their job as a career, while 22% consider it a steppingstone and 52% say it’s just a job to get them by. But among full-time workers, 58% view their job as a career, 17% say it’s a steppingstone to a career and 24% say it’s just a job to get them by.

Younger workers are significantly less likely than middle-aged and older workers to view their job as a career (26% of those ages 18 to 29) and more likely to describe it is a steppingstone to a career (41%). If this age group follows the path of older adults, many of those “steppingstone” jobs will indeed lead to careers.

Among young adults, though, there is a sharp divide by education. Those with at least a bachelor’s degree are about twice as likely as those with less education to say their job is a career (41%, compared with 21% of those with some college experience and 22% of those with a high school diploma or less). These groups with lower education are more likely to say their job is just to get them by.

The share of U.S. workers saying their job gives them a sense of identity has dropped somewhat since the question was first asked by Gallup in 1989. Then, 57% of employed adults said their job gave them a sense of identity, compared with 51% today.
Most Americans overall feel their jobs are secure

Americans’ confidence in their job security remains high after reaching a low in the early 1980s. Today, 60% of employed Americans say it is not at all likely that they will lose their job or be laid off in the next 12 months. An additional 28% say it is not too likely, 7% say it is fairly likely and 5% say it is very likely.

Even so, a segment of the U.S. workforce expresses a high level of vulnerability. Among workers with less than a high school diploma, about four-in-ten (39%) say it’s very or fairly likely they may be laid off within 12 months. By comparison, only 11% of those with a high school diploma, 10% of those with some college education and 7% of those with at least a bachelor’s degree say the same.

Similarly, those in the lowest family income bracket of less than $30,000 annually are four times as likely as those with family incomes of at least $75,000 and three times as likely as those with incomes between $30,000 and $74,999 to say they’re very or fairly likely to lose their job in the next year (24% vs. 6% and 8%, respectively).

Certain types of workers are more likely to feel their jobs are insecure. For example, 23% of temporary workers say they are very or fairly likely to lose their job in the next 12 months, compared with 8% of those who describe their jobs as permanent positions.

People who work in manual or physical occupations such as maintenance workers, farmers and construction workers are more likely than those in other popular occupations to say they may be laid off in the next year (for example, 16% of these workers say they’re very or fairly likely to lose their job, compared with 8% of those working in management). Those who work in small companies of less than 50 employees (16%) are more likely than those working in larger workplaces to say they are very or fairly likely to lose their job.

While relatively few workers say it’s likely that they will lose their job in the next 12 months, a sizable minority (37%) of those who are not self-employed say it would be possible for their employer to outsource their job to a worker outside of the U.S. This is up somewhat from 2006, when 31% believed this would be possible.

Those without a college degree and those with low family incomes are more likely to say their jobs could be outsourced. About four-in-ten workers with a high school education or less (39%) or with some college experience (40%) say this, compared with 32% of those with at least a bachelor’s degree. Workers with a low level of family income (less than $30,000) are more likely than those with family incomes of $75,000 or more to say it would be possible for their employer to replace them by hiring someone outside of the country (41% vs. 33%).

Relatively few U.S. workers believe that their jobs could be replaced with technology. Some 15% of workers who are not self-employed say their employer could use technology to replace the job they are currently doing; 85% say this wouldn’t be possible.

This is in line with previous research that found that, while 65% of adults predict that robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans within 50 years, 80% of workers expect that their own jobs will still exist in their current forms in the same time period.

Workers with a high school diploma or less education are more likely than those with higher levels of education to say it is possible that their jobs could be replaced with technology (20%, compared with 13% of those with some college experience and 11% of those with at least a bachelor’s degree). And those with a family income of less than $30,000 annually are more likely than those with an income of $75,000 or greater (23% vs. 9%) to say their job could potentially be replaced.

Though workers who are paid by the hour (19%) are more likely than salaried employees (9%) to say their jobs could be replaced by technology, there are no statistically significant differences between full- and part-time workers.

People who work in management professions (5%) are less likely than those in other popular occupations to say it’s possible that their job could be replaced by technology.
Full-time workers much more likely than part-timers to have job benefits

According to the Pew Research survey, a majority of workers report that they have access to health insurance (68%), paid sick leave or vacation (67%) and a 401(k) or other retirement program (59%) through their employer. Census data show that the share of workers with employer-provided health insurance and access to employer-sponsored retirement plans have fallen in recent decades. (See Chapter 1 for more details.)

Across the board, these benefits are more common among workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, but around half or more of workers with less education still report access to these employer-provided benefits. The youngest and oldest segments of the workforce – those who are 18 to 29 or 65 and older – are less likely to be offered each benefit.

Full-time workers are at least twice as likely as part-time workers to say that their employer offers each of these benefits to them. For example, 69% of full-time employees can access a 401(k) or other retirement program through their employer, compared with only 26% of part-time workers.

In general, those who work for the government (including federal, state and local) are the most likely to say they have access to these benefits (for example, 87% say they have access to health insurance). Private company and nonprofit employees are somewhat less likely to say their employer offers health insurance coverage (74% and 72%, respectively) and self-employed workers report a much lower rate (25%).

About four-in-ten (41%) American workers also say their employer provides tuition reimbursement for skills training or additional education. While those who are highly educated, those with high incomes, and full-time and government workers are more likely to have access to tuition reimbursement than their counterparts, 18- to 29-year-olds are just as likely to say they are offered this benefit as middle-aged workers.

These estimates of workers’ access to employer-provided benefits are similar to those found by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Majority of full-time and part-time workers are satisfied with their work schedules

Full-time and part-time workers were asked about their work schedule preferences. Full-time workers were asked if they would prefer to be working part time, and part-time workers were asked if they would prefer full-time work. For the most part, both groups are satisfied with their current schedules.

About a third of part-time workers (36%) say they would prefer to be working full time, while 64% say they would not. Men who work part time are more likely than women to say they would prefer to work full time (41% vs. 31%). Similarly, part-time working parents of children under the age of 18 living in their household are more likely than non-parents to say they would prefer to work full time (44% vs. 32%).

Among part-time workers, those with family incomes of less than $30,000 (51%) are more likely than those with higher incomes to say they would prefer to be working full time, with about half falling into this underemployed group. By contrast, 36% of part-time workers with a family income between $30,000 to $74,999 and an even smaller share (14%) among those with a family income of $75,000 or more say they would prefer a full-time job.

Most full-time workers report that they prefer that schedule (80%, compared with 20% who say they would rather work part time). There are relatively few demographic differences in this group. Women who work full time are more likely than men to say they would rather work part time (25% vs. 16%), but parents with children under the age 18 living in their household are just as likely as non-parents to say they prefer their full-time work. While those with lower family incomes are somewhat more likely to prefer part-time work than those with high incomes, there are few differences by education.

One-in-five adults who are not currently working say they are actively looking for a job. Men (23%) are more likely than women (18%) to fall into this category. And the youngest Americans are much more likely than the oldest segment of the population to be job hunting. About half (49%) of 18- to 29-year-old adults who are not employed say they’re looking for work, compared with 38% of those ages 30 to 49, 17% of those ages 50 to 64, and only 2% of those ages 65 and older. Adults who are not employed and have at least a bachelor’s degree (13%) are less likely than those with less education to be looking for work.