Worth Discussing

Preview: Focus Groups with Independents and Seniors 65+

October 15, 2012
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For members of the press, the call will be Monday, October 15 at 3:00pm. To RSVP please contact Katie Loperfido at loperfido@jdafrontline.com.

Later today, Resurgent Republic will release findings from four focus groups with Independents and seniors 65 and older conducted after the Denver presidential debate. All voters in these focus groups supported President Obama in 2008 and are not strongly affiliated with either candidate today. The following are key excerpts from both voting subgroups:

Obama Independents
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 8, 2012
Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (Glen Bolger)

Romney Holds Serve Among Obama Independents. When considering the first presidential debate, President Obama offered little to convince these swing voters they should buy back in, and Governor Romney filled the void by coming across as presidential and prepared to take office.

  • There was a high level of awareness of the first presidential debate, and all participants were surprised and disappointed by President Obama’s performance. More than half of the participants in each group said they watched at least some of the first presidential debate, and even those who hadn’t were well aware of what happened due to the news coverage. Asked if the debate had changed their opinions of either candidate, voters in these groups described Obama’s performance as subpar at best. The women’s critiques of President Obama were especially harsh, with one woman saying Obama “didn’t have an answer for anything” and another that he “allowed Romney to run roughshod over him.” Reactions were similar in the men’s group, with one man saying that Obama seemed like “a kid who was supposed to give a speech but forgot to practice.”
  • Mitt Romney came across as presidential to these voters during the debate, and as a result, they are more likely to view him as qualified to be president. Standing on the same stage and on equal footing with the president almost always helps the challenger, and this debate was no exception. Participants described Romney as confident, prepared, and having a firm grasp on the issues, presenting a clear contrast with the flustered and, as one woman said, “rambling” counterpart. Even more important politically, the Mitt Romney they watched on the debate stage was a positive divergence from the caricature drawn by a barrage of negative advertising these voters have seen.

Seniors 65+
Tampa, Florida
October 9, 2012
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates (John McLaughlin)

The state of the Medicare debate among seniors in Florida. These voters perceive President Obama as better able to handle Medicare, but this sentiment is not as strong when compared to previous elections in large part due to Obamacare. Yet conservatives should be aware of the challenges that remain when talking about Medicare. Here are four key observations on the Medicare debate based upon our focus groups in the Sunshine State:

  • Including TV ads, direct mail, and phone calls, participants in our groups have heard a lot about Medicare during the presidential race. They seem to have been contacted evenly by the Obama and Romney campaigns, and the messages that have registered include the $716 billion in Medicare cuts from Obamacare and Congressman Ryan’s “voucher” plan.
  • There was little awareness that the reforms proposed by Congressman Ryan do not affect seniors or those near retirement. When reminded, participants were receptive of this fact, but also had concerns regarding what Medicare would look like for their children.
  • Those who oppose Obamacare should communicate how the law personally affects seniors. Referencing the $716 billion in cuts is not the same as communicating how the reduction negatively impacts those on the popular Medicare Advantage program or increases the likelihood that doctors will refuse to treat Medicare patients (a scenario familiar to several of our participants). The former argument succeeds in putting President Obama on the defensive, but the latter message is more persuasive with seniors. This is also why arguments against the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) are effective. Seniors comprehend how giving an unelected board of bureaucrats unprecedented authority to manage Medicare hinders their choices and quality of care.
  • Seniors are reluctant to believe Congress will let Medicare go bankrupt. This is the most significant long-term challenge for those proposing Medicare reforms. The men were more likely to acknowledge the insolvency problem than the women, but when pushed, both groups largely feel Congress will eventually come up with a solution. To be clear, this is their top-line impression and explaining the spending and demographic trends can sway their opinions.

For members of the press, the call will be Monday, October 15 at 3:00pm. To RSVP please contact Katie Loperfido at loperfido@jdafrontline.com.

Filed under: Political Climate, Independent Voters, and President Obama