Voters See No End in Sight to Economic DeclineJuly 8, 2011
Resurgent Republic sponsored a series of focus groups in June in four battleground states: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado. We measured voter sentiments on the current state of the economy, increasing the debt ceiling, and the debate over Medicare. We also probed voter opinion regarding President Obama’s handling of the economy and whether voters believe President Obama has put forward the right policies to spur job growth.
Independent voters’ growing disapproval of President Obama’s policies has been well documented by Resurgent Republic dating back to April 2009. The majority of Independents in this focus group series represent a specific segment of swing voters: Independents who voted for Obama and still somewhat approve of his job performance. These voters comprise President Obama’s last line of electoral defense.
Of the 41 registered or self-identified Independents in our groups, 31 supported President Obama in 2008 and 26 approve of his job performance today while 12 disapprove and 3 are unsure. All are undecided on the 2012 generic presidential ballot. In addition to swing voters, this series included separate focus groups with Hispanics, Soft Republicans, Strong Republicans, and Tea Party voters.
Current State of the Economy
In both language and emotion, focus group participants were overwhelmingly pessimistic about the economy.
Each voting cohort – Independents, Hispanics, Republicans, and Tea Party voters – described the economy in highly negative terms, volunteering adjectives like “depressing,” “unstable,” “upside down,” “scary,” “frightening,” “terrifying,” and “hurting.”
These voters pushed back on any language that downplayed the economic crisis or asserted a gradual improvement is underway. Instead of the economic crisis being a “bump in the road,” one voter said it was more like a mountain and another questioned if the country still remained on the road. To these voters, the economic struggle is personal and a daily threat to their families and quality of life.
Unlike our focus groups conducted last June, these voters see no end in sight to the adverse economic conditions plaguing the country.
In our focus group series last June, we concluded, “despite overall disapproval, Independents returned to a somewhat optimistic belief that that direction of the country will soon get better.” One year later, these Independent voters uniformly expressed pessimism and could not see a light at the end of the tunnel. When given an opportunity to point to any reason for optimism, they largely remained silent. One Independent female in Pennsylvania stated, “I hope it’s coming, but there’s nothing to point to.”
Unemployment, underemployment, and declining home values are conditions that directly affected many of these voters or people they know. High gas prices solicited voter ire in all the groups, although Independents and Republicans differed on whom they hold primarily responsible for the increase, with Republicans blaming Obama and Independents citing oil companies. Both the Republican base and Tea Party voters were highly motivated on economic and spending issues. All respondents in these groups disapproved of how President Obama is handling the economy, using descriptions like “inexperienced” and “in over his head.”
Voters found the presentation of economic figures since President Obama took office persuasive and factual.
All respondents reviewed the trend line of President Obama’s economic record since taking office. Despite their uniform belief that the economy was in very bad shape, these statistics magnified their pessimistic outlook. The following figures were most sobering: 2.5 million jobs lost, an increase in the national debt from $10.6 trillion to over $14 trillion, the amount of debt per person, debt held by China, borrowing 43 cents on the dollar, record annual deficits, and the rise in gasoline prices.
After pondering the magnitude of these economic figures, many of the Independents and Republicans had a similar reaction. One senior Independent female in Florida concluded, “It’s a punch in the face.” A Republican female in Virginia despondently said, “I just want to cry.” Multiple participants across the groups noted that the jobless rate was actually bleaker than reported since national unemployment (9.1 percent at the time) does not account for the many who are underemployed or those who have abandoned the job market.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA-08)
June 21, 2011
Independent Men (under 55) / Independent Women (under 55)
Conducted by The Tarrance Group
Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA-02)
June 23, 2011
Strong Republicans / Tea Party Voters
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates
Orlando, Florida (FL-08)
June 29, 2011
Independent Men (55+) / Independent Women (55+)
Conducted by American Viewpoint
Denver, Colorado (Denver Suburbs)
June 30, 2011
Soft Republicans / Hispanics
Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies
Read the full report: Voters See No End In Sight To Economic Decline; Debt Ceiling Debate Galvanizes Opinions Of President Obama's Job Performance