As President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, a group of 50 swing voters armed with dial meters recorded strongly favorable reactions to his proposals on taxes, renewable energy, overcoming partisan divisions and defending the middle class, according to the pollsters who supervised the study.
The group, made up of Democrats, Republicans and independents, including both McCain and Obama voters from 2008, gave the president significantly higher marks after the speech than before on whether he will stand up for the middle class, whether he can be trusted on energy policy and on measures of empathy, such as whether he shares voters’ values and “makes me hopeful,” said Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg.
Such focus group reactions are “greater than what you see in real life” because people assembled in a conference room and instructed to watch a speech pay considerably more attention than the average viewer, noted Greenberg, who has conducted such studies for each State of the Union speech dating back to the Bill Clinton administration. Still, the reactions provide a rough gauge of the speech’s overall impact, he said.
“The most surprising” aspect of the reaction was “the lack of polarization” among the voters, he added. The speech has provoked a highly partisan reaction in Washington, but among the swing voters in the study, “the Democratic, Republican and independent lines” from the dial meters “tracked through most of the speech,” Greenberg said. “He captured people broadly.”