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Focus Groups Reveal Bad News For Romney, Obama

Memo Pad

Focus Groups Reveal Bad News For Romney, Obama


CHARLOTTE — At a Tuesday afternoon forum at the National Democratic Institute, pollsters Stan Greenberg, Peter Hart, Whit Ayres, and Jon Cohen discussed the future of opinion research — and shared some results from their polls and focus groups that should deeply trouble President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Ayres, who co-founded the Republican messaging and polling group Resurgent Republic with Romney adviser Ed Gillespie, said that his research shows that voters are “really fearful — even if they are working — about the economy and what it means for them and their children.” In his opinion, all questions that don’t directly deal with the economy are “irrelevant,” and because of this, “if the election were held today, Mitt Romney would win.”

Hart, chairman of the liberal-leaning Hart Research Associates, agreed that President Obama’s numbers on the economy were poor. He vehemently disagreed with Ayres that they are the only relevant factor in the race, however. Throughout the campaign, Hart has conducted several focus groups to see “what’s going on in the pit of [voters’] stomachs” — and the results are not pretty for Romney.

In one focus group, the participants were asked which presidential candidate they would rather go to a ballgame with. 9 said they’d go with President Obama, while 3 said Romney — but, according to Hart, they only picked him because he’d take a limo, or buy all the food. Not exactly the endorsement Romney would prefer.

Hart also asked a group “What would Mitt Romney be like as your next door neighbor?” Some of the responses included “snobbish, I’d feel uncomfortable around him,” “I wouldn’t feel like I was good enough for him,” and “he’s got some cool elevators for his cars.”

Perhaps most damaging for Romney, Hart’s research shows that 36 percent of voters have a more negative opinion of Romney due to his refusal to release more than a single year of his tax returns.

As one member of the focus group put it, “I understand that his personal life is his personal life…but if he’s made millions and millions of dollars from tax loopholes, is he going to do that for the rest of us?”

“They all need to start walking in everybody elses shoes, not millionaires who have prize horses who run in the olympics,” the woman continued. “They need to worry about how someone is going to put milk on their table.”

According to Hart, these anecdotes are a major issue for Romney. “We care about the human being who is going to be president,” he argued. Still, as Ayres noted, President Obama will be fighting a steep uphill battle unless he can convince Americans to adopt his economic message.

Greenberg has a suggestion on how the president can do so: focus on the middle class. As he pointed out, 60 percent of voters self-identify as being a part of the middle class, but their dream of being able to work hard and leave their children better off than they were is being crushed.

In his focus groups, Greenberg has found that voters think that they were in trouble before the financial crisis ever hit; American jobs have been disappearing and American debt has been growing for years, and voters are more interested in hearing a concrete plan of action than debating “how did President Obama respond to the crisis.” If Obama can show voters that he has a real plan to deal with the issues that matter to them, then they will likely reward him with a second term in office.

For more on the political power of the middle class, see Stan Greenberg and James Carville’s recently published book, It’s The Middle Class, Stupid!

Henry Decker

Henry Decker was formerly the Managing Editor of The National Memo. He is currently an Online Associate at MRCampaigns.

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  1. Elisabeth Gordon September 6, 2012

    “As he pointed out, 60 percent of voters self-identify as being a part of the middle class, but their dream of being able to work hard and leave their children better off than they were is being crushed.”

    Well if Robme gets in we’ll be crushed like bugs….

    1. gamanami September 6, 2012

      Not to worry….RobRyan’s robbing twosome has been found out….Clinton did his math..and presented the true story…Democrats should and will WIN….

      1. Joan Maurer September 6, 2012

        From your mouth to God’s ear.

        I read republican blogs and continue to be fearfull. The truth does not seem to be taking hold. It does look as though if you have enough money you can ignore theose pesky fact checkers.

        It is vital that every ones votes and helps ensure their neighbor can too. We are all in it together.

        1. Dominick Vila September 6, 2012

          I noticed the same thing. The saddest part is that most of the people that endorse the Tea Party agenda will be hurt by it, and would benefit from President Obama’s policies. I suspect there are many reasons for their apparent indoctrination, ranging from ignorance, to ideological convictions, to social matters that should be irrelevant at a time of great economic instability.

      2. binky354 September 7, 2012

        You really should look at some more sites and see other fact checker’s information. Clinton didn’t exactly tell the truth. Do some research.

        1. Wolf Lacey September 7, 2012

          I read the Fact Checks and the first thing I noticed was the nit-picking and the second was the attempt to discredit Clinton rather than fully explain their accusations. I will no longer watch them for they ARE partisan.

        2. Bill September 7, 2012

          What did he lie about? Backup your assertion!!!

    2. Dominick Vila September 6, 2012

      The “creative destruction” embraced by venture capitalists such as Mitt Romney, may impress the neocons; I doubt it will impress mainstream America once they realize that the approach used by venture capitalists in their quest to accumulate wealth is to profit from the misery of others.

    3. Carole Forrester September 6, 2012

      I just couldn’t help laughing at the name you gave the candidate, ‘Robme.’ What a shadow that has cast on him. Ha!Ha!Ha!

    4. binky354 September 7, 2012

      You won’t be crushed like a bug; The American people and future generations are being crushed by the policies of borrowing and spending more than we can take in. This is how households go bankrupt too.

  2. shopper September 6, 2012

    I keep readng so many just hateful comments from those who claim to be Christians yet don’t want to help anyone but themselves. It makes me wonder if they even attend church or are just parroting all the false things that are being said. When told about the lies from R/R that have been told, they ignore the truth. Are there really that many people who can’t do their own research and thinking? What has happened to the education that people used to get? We were taught to think for ourselves and try to work with others.

  3. nomaster September 6, 2012

    It seems as Willard the Rat man is trying to hide his head in the sand like the osterich. Does he blink or does he not? Well Ryan the Rat coaches for his master he too comes off quite shallow in the light of truth and deception.

  4. Carole Forrester September 6, 2012

    Hilary Clinton should be the next president of the United States of America. America needs sixteen years of good Democratic rule. Let us all pray for this to be a reality. This would show the Republicans that they cannot tamper with the dreams of the middle class.

  5. Charles September 6, 2012

    If Robme and Lyon get in we will be back in the robber barron days of the 1800’s. The rich will have it all and we will live in company housing and shopping in company stores. If you get hurt or sick you will be thrown out to fend fore your self.

  6. binky354 September 7, 2012

    I truly don’t understand people. I’m a middle-class grandmother, well, I was a middle-class grandmother before half my 401K was lost and before gas and groceries got so high. I would love to be Romney’s neighbor. Romney is a compassionate man and he and his family would be the first to help me if I were in need and I’m talking personally, not spending your tax dollars to do it.

    Romney has and will release the requisite tax returns. But why keep insisting that he release more. Do you not know he’s wealthy and mostly from his own efforts, not from money he inherited? Was Kennedy or Kerry or Clinton required to release several years of tax returns? No.

    Obama had all of his records sealed and spent millions to keep them sealed. Why?

    The Obama’s contributed something like .1% of their income to charity while Mitt Romney contributed something like 16% to charitable organizations. Yet, some people want to criticize his wealth as if they’re envious. I find that pathetic.

    “I understand that his personal life is his personal life…but if he’s made millions and millions of dollars from tax loopholes, is he going to do that for the rest of us?” — For Christ Sake, Romney didn’t put the loopholes into the tax code. Over years Congress can take credit for the tax loopholes. Romney would be pretty stupid to not take advantage of the loopholes provided by Congress. Do you think John Kennedy, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and any other wealthy individual don’t take advantage of the loop holes? Your issue is with Congress (D & R) for making the loopholes, not with Mitt Romney for taking advantage of them. And anyone can take advantage of loopholes. If you invest you savings in certain US Bonds, you don’t have to pay federal tax on the interest earned. So if you get $100 together, go invest in I-Bonds. I got $5,000 saved and put that into I-Bonds; they’ve done quite well. But, I don’t have a big screen tv and I don’t get a new car every year. I shop at the discount grocery stores rather than the big name stores such as Kroger or Ingles. It’s your priority of what you want to do with your disposable income.

    I have little sympathy for people who envy, but don’t work hard for what they want, who buy more toys or house than they can afford, and yet blame someone else for holding them down.

    1. Jacqui September 7, 2012

      You really think Romney & his family would help you if you were in need? Keep dreaming.

      1. binky354 September 7, 2012

        Yes, I do. Your remark shows you have no clue about what kind of family the Romney’s are. You’ve only listened to the left and done no reading for yourself.

  7. yars111 September 7, 2012

    Things are really hard on everyone. that is true.But I think we are better of than 4 years ago.We had dark cloud over our heads on terrorist issue, and our troops were dying in iraq almost everyday, when they shouldn’t have been there in first place.The reccession is not only in America. Look at Europe for example, They are worst of than the U. S. My gosh. T his president couldn’t had fixed the damage he met, when he took over in a 4 years term Rome was not built in a day time.

  8. yars111 September 7, 2012

    Well, we are all suffering right now.That’s true, but I Feel that we are better off than 4 years ago .This president knew it was gonna be a big problem ahead, when he took his oath.What he didn’t know was that the problem was even bad off than he expected.But he fought hard to make it work. Look at Europe for example, and compare. The reccession there is worst than the U.S. At least there is no more dark cloud over our heads on terrorist issue, And our troops are not dying everyday from Iraq.when they shouldn’t had been there in the first place,My gosh Barrack has done more in 4 year term than any republican president. Let’s give him a chance. Rome was not built in a day time.

  9. embo66 September 7, 2012

    Talk to me on Monday, after the positive, engaged vibe that was the Democratic convention has a chance to sink in.


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