Blue-Collar Voters in Ohio Are Willing to Consider Governor Romney Posted on October 1, 2012 | Focus Group

Resurgent Republic sponsored two focus groups in Cleveland, Ohio among blue-collar voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 and are not strongly affiliated with either candidate today. Conducted by The Tarrance Group, the respondents did not have a college degree and a majority had household incomes less than $60k. The focus groups were split by gender.

By definition, these are some of the most difficult voters for Governor Romney to win this November. They are being asked to admit their vote decision in 2008 was a mistake, and many were not yet ready to take this step. Yet this demographic group remains closely contested because they are still willing to consider Governor Romney as an alternative with five weeks remaining to Election Day. The following are key highlights from our focus groups:

  1. Blue-collar voters in Ohio hold a negative outlook regarding the national economy, but express general optimism about the future. When asked to describe the current national economy, participants used words that were very negative to neutral – including "weak," "disastrous," "tumultuous," "struggling," "better than before but not great," and "taking little steps at a time." Despite their overall disapproval, several respondents were more likely to say the national economy is either staying the same or getting better, rather than still getting worse.

  2. Yet the economic pain felt by blue-collar workers during the recession is still very real today. While they say the national economy might slowly be getting better, they acknowledge their own financial situations are worse off. Political rhetoric about the number of jobs created does little to improve their outlook because they feel forced to accept lower quality jobs. They spoke about this sentiment in detail:

    • A tradesman with three decades experience has earned the least amount of income in his career during the past five years.

    • Another blue-collar worker earns less money today than when he was an apprentice 15 years ago.

    • A dental technician for 20 years is struggling to find dependable work.

    • Another blue-collar worker is thankful for his temporary job, but his pay was cut in half.

    The women made it clear they feel left behind and that the middle class is no more. While their parents might have been middle class, they do not feel that way about their own situation. When economic policies are discussed that aim to help the middle class, they feel instead these policies should help others move back into the middle class.

  3. When considering President Obama's job performance, blue-collar voters give the president credit for trying to make things better, but concerns remain about his health care law. In talking about the economy, one blue-collar woman said, "It is going to take time to get it straightened out, like cleaning your closet." She went on to talk about how things get messy when you need to pull everything out of your closet, but that is a necessary step before putting things back. They're frustrated with the mess, but they don't place the blame on President Obama. Beyond the auto bailout, however, these voters could volunteer few policies on how President Obama has directly cleaned up the mess.

    Yet health care reform is not a message President Obama can use to win undecided blue-collar voters in Ohio. As one woman noted, "I haven't talked to anybody who said their health insurance has gotten better." The details of the law have largely faded from memory, but their concern over the rising cost of health care has not. There's a general belief that the law will result in higher health care costs, or at least not bend the cost curve down, and an understanding that businesses will be reluctant to hire full-time workers due to the cost of benefits.

  4. Voters in both groups plan to watch at least part of the upcoming presidential debates and hope to see an unfiltered view of the candidates. Both groups came in with a general cynicism about politics, and the barrage of political advertising over the past several months has reinforced this opinion. They view the presidential debates as an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates and get the information they feel is needed to make a decision.

    The nonstop cycle of political advertisements has limited somewhat their recall of specific messages. In terms of memorable events, both groups were familiar with Governor Romney's 47 percent remark, which aired the week prior. There were markedly different reactions between the men and women to this quote. The women found the statement offensive and noted that teachers and the elderly fall into this group. Many also identified themselves with the 47 percent whether they pay federal income taxes or not. When asked what they'd like to hear from Governor Romney during the debates, they want him to talk about how he would represent all Americans. In contrast, several of the men admitted that this was a thought they had before, and while it was poorly worded, they were not as troubled by Romney's statement.

    "I just don't know enough about Romney to want to not stay the course on the plan we are on now," said a blue-collar man. Any reluctance to support Governor Romney is due in large part to a desire for more information regarding his policy proposals, so these voters remain open to being convinced and believe the presidential debates will allow them to fairly size up both of the candidates. If Romney closes strong and articulates a clear vision for improving our national economy, many of these voters would be willing to vote for him.


All voters in these two focus groups supported President Obama in 2008 and are not strongly affiliated with either candidate today.

Cleveland, Ohio
September 26, 2012
Groups separated by gender
Conducted by The Tarrance Group

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