President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night should “help him a lot” in his fight for re-election this year, according to longtime Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, citing results of a focus group of swing voters held during the speech.
The themes the president laid out during his annual televised address to a joint session of Congress cut across party lines and provide a “powerful framework for having an election,” Greenberg says in a briefing with reporters held after the president’s speech.
Reaction from 50 swing voters in Denver, Colo., show that Obama’s populist defense of the middle class and their priorities in his State of the Union scored with voters, according to Greenberg’s polling organizations, Democracy Corps and Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner.
The president generated strong responses on energy, education and foreign policy, but most important, he made impressive gains on a range of economic measures, the pollsters say in a memo released after the news briefing.
These swing voters, even the Republicans, responded enthusiastically to his call for a “”Buffet Rule”” that would require the wealthiest Americans to pay more taxes. As one participant put it, “”I agree with his tax reform — the 1 percent should shoulder more of the burden than the other 99 percent. He [Obama] talked about being all for one, one for all — that really resonated for me.”
These reactions by voters make it very clear that defending further tax cuts for those at the top of the economic spectrum puts Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail well outside of the American mainstream, the pollsters say.
These voters overwhelmingly liked what they heard from Obama– even those who voted against him in 2008 appreciated the address, the pollsters say. But they continued to show deep skepticism that the president would be able to translate these words into actions.
The more Democratic participants mostly blamed Republican obstructionism while the more Republican participants insisted that Obama might talk a good game, but his actions in office did not reflect the words in this speech. However, participants across the political spectrum all agreed that Washington is broken and that progress on the important issues would be difficult until Congress addresses the corrupting influence of lobbyists and special interests.
This was not the easiest audience for Obama; although slightly more participants voted for him than McCain in 2008, it was a significantly Republican-leaning group (44 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic), the pollsters say.
Within the focus group, Obama’s approval rating jumped 8 points, to 58 percent. Further, his personal standing jumped 16 points, to 66 percent favorable.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.