Sep 11, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Change voters still want change: the lesson of an Ohio focus group

People who voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump still want the change they voted for in 2016 — and they're open to giving Democrats a chance.

Why it matters: These are the quintessential swing voters who can decide an election. Last week I traveled to Canton, Ohio, to sit in on an Engagious focus group of six Obama-Trump voters and six Mitt Romney-Hillary Clinton voters. Turns out they're not too happy, and their dissatisfaction could benefit Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

Between the lines: On paper, Obama-Trump voters think America is moving in the right direction, citing things like new trade agreements and low unemployment rates. But they told a different story when asked to elaborate:

  • They think President Trump has failed at "draining the swamp." They think the Trump administration is corrupt. They don't think the GOP tax law has helped them and their families. And they're not feeling the "booming" economy.

Take Dustin Gardner, a 30-year-old Obama-Trump voter who said he's still living paycheck-to-paycheck and would vote for Clinton if given a do-over.

  • "He's backed out on so many of his promises," Gardner, who works at O'Reilly Auto Parts, told me. "Like trying to bring back the jobs to America, that would've been fantastic. There's a lot of manufacturing jobs, but the wages just aren't there."

Another sign of trouble for Republicans: When the focus group was asked to raise their hands if they thought the presidency has lost its dignity since Trump took office, 10 of the 12 raised their hands.

  • Romney-Clinton voters aren't impressed by the jobs growth and other signs of a strong economy, either. “I don’t think it’s booming for most people," said one. "I think the people that are extremely wealthy are benefiting the most, and for me, it’s not [beneficial].”

Other highlights:

  • The Romney-Clinton voters wanted Democrats to control Congress. The Obama-Trump voters were neutral on the idea.
  • Almost everyone expected Democrats to move forward on impeachment if they take back control in 2019.
  • They know more women are running for office than ever before, but they don't really care about having equal representation in Congress. One Romney-Clinton voter said, "I don’t care whether you’re male, female, or chimpanzee. I care about your competency and what you’re going to do.”

The bottom line: These swing voters helped Trump take the White House in 2016, and they'll help decide the future of his presidency — especially if their votes lead to a Democratic Congress.

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