If the president's speech seemed full of vague generalities and not the inspirational partisan battle cry you might have wanted, that's because the sp
January 28, 2010

If the president's speech seemed full of vague generalities and not the inspirational partisan battle cry you might have wanted, that's because the speech wasn't really aimed at us, but at independents. And in that light, it was a resounding success.

From Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling firm:

Democracy Corps conducted dial testing of the speech with 50 independent and weak partisan voters in Nevada, followed by focus group discussions with voters who shifted toward approval of Obama’s performance in office. This difficult audience for Obama was a heavily Republican-leaning group (46 percent Republican, 20 percent Democratic) that split their votes in 2008 (52 percent Obama, 46 percent McCain) but had moved away from him over the past year, with majorities expressing disapproval with his job performance and unfavorable views of him on a personal level.

Obama saw a substantial, but not overwhelming, spike in his overall numbers with his personal favorability rating and job approval both increasing by 16 points. But his speech drove much bigger shifts among these initially skeptical swing voters on several key issues.

Most important, Obama managed to decisively reverse the view that he was too close to Wall Street. In a Democracy Corps survey from just before the Massachusetts election, we found that a 49 to 41 percent plurality said Obama and Democrats were more concerned with bailouts for Wall Street than creating jobs for regular Americans. Entering the evening, swing voters in this group agreed with a 48 to 16 percent plurality saying Obama “puts Wall Street ahead of the middle class.” But after the speech, the number disagreeing with that statement jumped a remarkable 50 points, to 66 percent. Moreover, Obama saw a 38-point increase in support for his banking reform plan and a 40-point increase in the percent saying that he “stands up to special interests.” Obama’s strong words for the banks clearly resonated and generated some of the strongest scores on our dials of the night from Democrats, Republicans and independents.

[...] For these voters whose attitudes shifted from disapproval to approval of Obama’s performance as president, one consistent question remained: can he deliver? Unlike most attributes that shifted during the speech, “promises things that sound good but won’t be able get them done” remained very high (78 percent pre-speech to 74 percent post-speech). The “shifters” in these post-speech focus groups are waiting for results, and they pointed specifically to passing health care reform and job creation initiatives as critical reforms that must be delivered. While they see the Republicans as obstructing every Obama initiative, they nonetheless expect Democrats to pass major legislation with their large majorities.

Among their findings:

* While everyone had a strong negative response to the banking bailout, the Democrats hated it even more.

* The strongest positive response was a 99 from both Democrats and independent on the idea of removing tax breaks for businesses who outsource jobs.

* There was an 80% positive response on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

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