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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Results from D-Corps Focus Group — Obama’s Speech Moves Swing Voters to Support Reform

With his speech before Congress and the nation tonight, Barack Obama was effective in cutting through the misinformation and partisan bickering over health care and reaching swing voters, many of whom entered the evening harboring real skepticism about his plan. Obama succeeded in reassuring voters of all political stripes on some of their biggest concerns about reform while also energizing supporters and avoiding the kind of polarization that could drive away independents and Republicans. Moreover, the reaction of Republicans in the audience, including the heckling of the president by Rep. Joe Wilson, generated a strong backlash among focus group participants who expressed deep frustration with Republicans for putting partisan politics ahead of solving the nations’ problems.
Democracy Corps conducted dial testing of the speech with 50 independent and weak partisan voters in Denver, Colorado, followed by focus groups with voters whose support for Obama’s health care plan increased after seeing the speech. The dial group participants were evenly divided among those who initially supported and initially opposed the plan, with an almost equal division between Obama and McCain voters.
These swing voters reacted strongly to Obama’s message. Support for Obama’s plan jumped 20 points, from 46 percent before the speech to 66 percent after. Importantly, Obama also achieved one of his principal goals of boosting the intensity of support. Prior to the speech, just 2 percent of these swing voters supported the plan strongly while 26 percent opposed it strongly; by the end of the evening those numbers were virtually reversed, with 28 percent supporting the plan strongly against just 8 percent strongly opposed. The president was also extremely successful in moving the needle on areas where progressives have struggled over the last few months, making great strides in reassuring voters on issues like the deficits and taxes, seniors and Medicare, choice and control, competition and costs, and government intervention

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