As reported by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times, Democracy Corps conducted dial testing during the 2015 State of the Union address with white swing voters and follow-up online focus groups of two groups critical to the Democrats in 2016 – white working class voters and white unmarried women. These dials suggest that key demographics:
- Appreciate the President’s empathetic narrative in identifying with the tough times that millions of Americans continue to endure
- Balk at Obama’s assessment of a recovered, ‘strong’ economy and his confidence in its direction
- Endorse the President and Democrats’ forward-looking, middle class-focused economic agenda, including bold plans for free community college, closing tax loopholes, investing in innovation and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, paid sick leave, and affordable childcare
Swing voters respond to the idea that, like the Erler family whom the President cites frequently, this nation faced a monumental struggle, endured tough times, and has clawed its way back. But, they do not accept the idea that the State of the Union is strong – that the nation’s economy is robust and that they are sharing in it. They don’t think middle class economics has worked yet.
Nonetheless, these voters embrace the President’s agenda for middle class economics in the future. In particular, the President’s proposals to take on issues facing working families hit home. This agenda appeals greatly to voters across party lines, resonating especially well among white unmarried women and white working class voters, groups which are among the main strategic targets for Democrats for the next several years and who share a set of priorities for middle class prosperity.
Voters’ main concerns with this agenda regard its potential cost implications and the reality that a gridlocked government makes it unlikely many of these policies will come to fruition. Moving forward with a bold and aggressive agenda that calls for real reforms on waste in government and closing loopholes for special interests that can help middle and working class families turn the page to a new economic prosperity will be crucial in attracting these voters in 2016.