Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

December 2, 2016 11:56 AM

Leading Up to the Election

During this campaign, Peter Hart conducted a series of focus groups for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The following are excerpts from the reports and analysis of a number of these focus groups as prepared by Peter and Corrie Hunt.

The first of these focus groups was held in Aurora, Colorado in January 2015. Hart and Hunt reported:

“This group harbors an underlying anxiety and sense of frustration: they feel like no one in Washington is looking out for them and they are pessimistic that things will improve. The distrust of career politicians in the group was palpable, with all in agreement that politicians are out for themselves and not the people who elected them. This resentment feeds directly into voters’ feelings about and expectations for the legislative session of 2015, and the political season of 2015.”

On June 20, 2016 a focus group was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“These eleven and blue-collar and working class are all living on the edge financially and report that they either make just enough to meet their basic expenses or only have a little left over for extras after meeting basic expenses.”

“The mood is bleak and the outlook pessimistic for these blue-collar workers.”

“Fear and disaffection has turned these blue-collar voters inward, and they have become protective and wary of foreign entanglements in the Middle East.”

“Blue-collar workers see potential strengths for Trump in the same qualities that others criticize as shortcomings or weaknesses.”

“Blue-collar workers are not connecting with Clinton or her agenda.”

“Donald Trump has the highest ever negative feeling thermometer score for a presidential candidate, and he may appear to be taking on more water than any nominee could carry. But for this moment and with this group of voters, he remains competitive….For now, Hillary Clinton is ahead, but how the blue-collar vote goes will tell us whether election night will be a nail biter…”

On August 25, 2016 a focus group was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“We went to Milwaukee because it is the frontline of many of the issues and challenges in America this election season….Politically, Wisconsin is at the center of the action, with a contested Senate seat that could swing the overall Senate balance; and the home of Wisconsin’s own member of the Republican establishment, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is balancing an uneasy alliance with the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.”

“Voters are holding their noses this election season.”

“They have strong views, but they are not high-information voters.”

“Lack of trust is an important element.”

“Behind this election are the questions of who is going to improve the economy, take on the powerful elite, and change the culture in Washington.”

The final focus group of the series was held on October 25, 2016 in Charlotte, NC.

“After a historic and tumultuous primary season and general election campaign, little has changed from the perspective of voters. The single unanimous viewpoint that emerged from a session of late deciders…was “I do not like either candidate.” It is both sad and dispiriting – yes, there are passionate supporters of both Donald Trump and Hillary, but the truth is that as this focus group and the polls show, people are voting more against rather than for a candidate.”

“Trump’s “embarrassing” behavior has alienated late-deciding voters.”

“While the contrast with Donald Trump has benefited Clinton in the past month, she has a lot of work to do to win over late-deciding voters.”

“Many of these late-deciding voters are only considering Clinton because of Trump’s deep flaws. Several say that Trump may have lost their vote, but Clinton still has not won it. "

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