Here come Rhonda, Rex Resentful

It’s never too early to try identifying the next big demographic that will play a significant role in the outcome of the next round of elections.

Think about archetypes from past elections, like soccer moms, NASCAR dads, waitress moms, office park dads, security moms and the ever-incendiary angry white men.

These creative demographics are likely to become even more important in future elections as big data and precise online targeting allow campaigns to home in on microtargets.

My initial targeting for 2014 will be to focus on what I refer to as “The Resentfuls” — Rhonda and Rex Resentful (if you need cutesy) — the newly graduated couple that cannot find full-time jobs, has a combined $35,000 in student debt and is underwater on the town home Rhonda’s parents helped them buy with a downpayment.

Rhonda and Rex are in a really, really bad place, and likely susceptible to political entreaties.

Let’s look at the college graduate angle first.

Since the recession hit, getting a job has been tough. Real tough.

CBS News reports that “one-half of recent college graduates cannot find full time jobs.”

Let’s try and put some real numbers behind that. It’s estimated that between 1  million and 2 million new graduates matriculate each year from all degree-conferring institutions. For purposes of rough math, let’s just say 1.5 million. That means that 750,000 Resentfuls are added to the electorate annually. Multiply that by the six years since 2007, and you’ve identified at least 4 million suffering souls.

They believed the promises of college. They went to class, studied, did their homework and graduated.

And then, nothing.

But it doesn’t stop there. Many even of those who got jobs are likely resentful. Economists tell us that almost one-half of new grads in jobs are underemployed in jobs that historically didn’t demand a degree. And the median salary for new grads is only $27,000 — $3,000 less than before the recession.

Furthermore, economist are predicting that wages for The Resentfuls will be depressed for at least the next 10 to 15 years because of the lagging economy.

Stir in the fact that 55 percent graduate with student loan debt averaging $20,000, and you’ve got a witches brew of trouble.

Rex and Rhonda also two-timed as underwater homeowners.

Not only has the promise of a college degree lost its shine, but the even-loftier promise of homeownership is mocking The Resentfuls.

The two greatest totems of post-World War II life in America are being chopped down. And we’re living it.

Let’s look at some fresh data from the Orlando, Fla., area, an acknowledged swing voter area, to get a sense of the challenge many American voter-
homeowners are facing.

Florida real estate was always a sure thing, right? And Orlando, in the shadow of the ever-prosperous Disney and Universal empires, would be some of the best turf in Florida, right?

Well, today, 41 percent of the mortgaged homes in the Orlando area are worth less than the money still owed for them.

Sure, realtors promise that Florida prices generally, and Orlando’s prices specifically, are moving back up, but will it be enough to stave off resentment?

You didn’t purchase a home in Orlando to be only a little underwater, or to be even. You hoped that your biggest investment would give you some positive net worth. Imagine if you own homes in many less hopeful real estate markets.

The trick for campaigns will be whether they can zoom in on The Resentfuls to start a dialogue promising relief. Some of these targets are obvious.

For example, in the Orlando area, 60 percent or more of the homes in zip codes 32808, 32811 and 34758 are underwater.

Other targets will take more digging. But we’ll find them.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.