The state of the American economy looms over the public creating long-term pessimism about the state of the country, making the economy, wages and jobs the biggest factor in people’s vote in the last national election and the next. People are very aware of improvements in the macro economy and in the labor market, but they are even more aware that new jobs pay less and people have not seen a raise in a very long time. They continue to struggle to deal with prices, piece together multiple jobs and have restructured their lives to survive financially, even as they watch CEO compensation, Super PAC spending and inequality soar.
That is the starting finding of this new survey for the Economy Media Project and Democracy Corps. And since people have barely heard from President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and liberal economists on this new economy – Republicans are more trusted on the economy by a lot and conservatives are at parity with liberals on the intellectual arguments. Without progressives really attacking the core economic problems, austerity is still preferred to investment and full-employment spending.
That is true, despite an American public very focused on what jobs pay and helping working families, very critical of the top 1 percent and CEOs, determined to see something done about inequality and supportive of long-term plan to invest in new industries and rebuild the country. But this new survey shows that the average voters and even the growing progressive base of minorities, Millenials, and the unmarried have yet heard an economic narrative to rally around, but they clearly want to. The stakes are high and so are the opportunities at this pivotal moment.
The State of the Economy
The economy is the largest contributor to an abiding pessimism about the country as a whole, with about two-thirds saying the country is headed in the wrong direction for decades. The economic cloud hangs over the nation’s politics, as both Senate and House battleground polls demonstrate where 55 percent of voters in Senate battleground states said “their position on the economy, creating jobs and improving wages” was the biggest factor in their vote.
There is some improvement in the perceptions of the macro economy, but the proportion giving a warm or favorable rating has barely hit 30 percent. But much more powerful are feelings about “the state of your personal finances,” which are unchanged in the past year, indeed since the crash.
Perception of Macroeconomy Has Improved, but No Change in Personal Finances
The personal labor market has improved to some extent over the last 18 months, reflecting overall unemployment data. Fewer people are losing their jobs and fewer are receiving reduced benefits, a restructuring that has begun to set in.
The behavioral changes to manage this long-term stagnation are producing what may be permanent changes in economic and social adaptations. While somewhat fewer report struggling with prices at the grocery store, more than half still report making big changes to buying habits due to rising prices. With jobs paying less, 36 percent report they are working more hours or took second job to make ends meet. A quarter still face the loss of health insurance, which may relate to unsettled attitudes about the Affordable Care Act that are still more negative than positive. And 31 percent have moved to multi-generational home to deal with cost of living. That is unchanged and dominant among Millennials and Gen X’ers.
Most Micro Economic Indicators Have Not Changed
This grinding micro personal economy continues to take a big toll with the growing parts of the electorate that have rallied to Democrats in recent years – African Americans and Hispanics, Millennials and unmarried women are very economically vulnerable and open to a government role on the economy and social insurance. Among this Rising American Electorate, 69 percent changed their grocery-buying habits, 65 percent are more likely to have taken a second job, 46 percent have fallen behind on their mortgage, and 38 percent moved to a multi-generational household.
The lack of progress on these everyday economic experience leads many to question whether an economic recovery is actually even occurring—48 percent say “The national economy is recovering and more people are getting work” against a nearly equal 47 percent who report that “There is no economic recovery because individuals aren't seeing any improvement.”
The New Economy Changes What the Main Economic Problems Are
This economy that produces sub-par job growth, few income gains and increased inequality is changing what people see as the main economic problems to be addressed. And that is everything if you are building an economic narrative and message and building an agenda. The public is pretty smart it seems about this new economy.
The problems fall into four substantive areas: the character of new jobs, inequality, lack of U.S. jobs, and a real concern about government spending and deficits.
Topping the list is the character of new jobs, above all, jobs that do not pay to live on and everything that follows from that. This understanding and grouping emerged in the focus groups that we conducted for the EMP and other non-profits over the last year, but they also tested in electoral surveys as the strongest economic message when combined together. Jobs that do not pay enough to live on leave people at the edge financially, threatened by inexplicable expenses like child care and student debt, and leaves women determined to get equal pay.
Character of New Jobs and Inequality at Center of New Economic Consciousness
Inequality has emerged as a huge concern as well – and indeed, the two top responses in the inequality cluster of problems test as highly as the two top problems in the cluster around the character of jobs. The public is paying a lot of attention to the United States becoming an unequal country of only rich and poor and shrinking middle class.
Interestingly, the focus on economic inequality tends to be highest among the college-educated; the non-college educated and working class are singularly focused on jobs not paying enough to live on, and everything that follows from that. People in the East are most highly concerned about the character of jobs theme, while in the GOP Conservative Heartland focus primarily on government spending and deficits and regulation.
Following the character of new jobs and inequality is the notion that there is a lack of U.S. jobs, due to trade agreements and outsourcing that undermine U.S. jobs and pay, and too few new jobs and industries being created here at home. Trade agreements and outsourcing on its own tops the list of concerns (along with jobs not paying enough to live on and the United States becoming unequal), particularly among likely 2014 voters, independents, and older women.
There is also a real concern about high government spending and budget deficits, as well as growing government regulations that keep businesses from hiring. One third of voters rate government spending as one of the top problems to address with the economy, though this is primarily driven by white voters, men, conservative Republicans, and white Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.
The concern about the changing character of work dominates the consciousness of the Rising American Electorate in particular. For them, equal pay for women is the number one economic problem to be addressed. Fundamentally, this is the economic agenda of the Millennial Generation and the minority populations, with concern about making ends meet. But the issues of making ends meet are also of big concern among college-educated women, who are growing in numbers and are increasingly part of the Rising American Electorate and are key to any progressive or Democratic majority.
The Character of Jobs is at the Heart of Problems with the Economy for the RAE
The Economic Debate
The public understands that the country faces huge new economic challenges, and yet, they do not at this point turn presumptively to Democrats to address them, nor do they embrace liberal and progressive arguments centered on these issues. Despite Democrats holding a five point partisan identification advantage, people believe by a 43 – 38 percent margin that Republicans are better than Democrats on the economy, a 10 point deficit based on the presumptive partisan orientation. The public really has pulled back from Democrats on the economy.
The progressive-liberal economic approach centered on creating full employment, raising incomes at every level, and public investment stands only at parity with a conservative approach that stresses reductions in the size of government and level of spending, cutting taxes, and making entrepreneurship easier. Conservatives are not dominating this space, but liberals must begin to win these debates in order to have a real impact on policy change.
There is no overall difference in these economic approaches when tested unbranded (“Speaker A” and “Speaker B”) versus branded (“Progressive Speaker” and “Conservative Speaker”), but branding does impact some key groups. Both statements are at parity among independents when unbranded, but they favor the conservative approach by 15 points when branded as such. The Rising American Electorate favors the progressive-liberal approach by 24 points when branded, compared to just two points when unbranded.
That the public does not embrace liberal economics needs is a huge problem – and needs to be addressed. Perhaps there is not enough focus on the character of work and markets, and perhaps the public does not trust government to pay enough attention to small business and changes in the labor market.
Economic Debate at Parity
The country splits evenly on key elements of the economic debate that you would expect progressives to win. People are divided on (and increasingly unsure about) whether rising middle class incomes or a better environment for businesses will have a more beneficial impact on the economy. It is possible that the stagnation of incomes has robbed the purely middle class argument as an economic tenet to support key income producing policies. It is possible that the progressive argument has to address what is happening with independent contracting and free-lancing and small business. Perhaps a third of people are employed in such jobs, and small business has become even more a way out of this grueling economy, but only conservatives are speaking to that aspiration.
Middle Class Statement Does Not Dominate Entrepreneurship and Small Business
We know that austerity brought by gridlock suppressed economic growth and increased unemployment. We also know that austerity threatens further recession and deflation in Europe, yet the public remains very cautious about investing and spending increases to achieve full employment that will raise wage levels. The country may require a much higher level of spending and tolerance for inflation to really bring the economy back, but progressives are not even in the debate as they approach increased spending and investment.
By a 17 point margin, voters favor austerity over more spending, saying that the biggest economic problem our country faces is not a lack of investment to grow the economy, but too much government spending and interference in markets. This is particularly true among white non-college voters (46 point margin), white seniors (40 points), independents (21 points), and white unmarried women (19 points).
Austerity Still Prevails Over Full Employment Spending
But keep in mind, there is overwhelming and rising support for a plan to invest in new industries and rebuild the country and create jobs over the next five years. It is fair to say that people do want to embrace that big a national economic vision, but progressives have not yet built the intellectual framework to support.
Rising Support for a Plan to Invest in New Industries
Inequality is another matter. The public knows who are the villains of the piece, view the problem as central, and are not put off by arguments in favor of entrepreneurs, job-creators and markets. And they have pretty good ideas on how to begin addressing the problem, starting with investing in education, taxing the top 1 percent so they pay their fair share, and raising pay, starting with raising the minimum wage.
This is rooted in a public distaste for a whole range of bad actors that voters feel play a central role in the current economic dispensation. CEO’s of large businesses earn intensely negative ratings as the result of being seen as irresponsible, disloyal to employees, and as primary beneficiaries of the system that has collected wealth in the hands of the top one percent. They are viewed negatively by almost every demographic group in the electorate, including white working class voters and independents. Barely a plurality of Republicans gives them favorable ratings (39 to 30 percent). But the Rising American Electorate is particularly averse to CEO’s of large companies; 51 percent rate them unfavorably, and there is strong intensity behind these numbers – 36 percent feel very unfavorable.
CEOs of Large Businesses and Campaign Arm Viewed Very Negatively
The public’s concern about growing inequality also trumps a worry about punishing entrepreneurs and keeping businesses from investing. Despite a slight overall softening from 2013, this remains a deep concern for voters that carries strong intensity. Of the 55 percent majority that list inequality as a bigger concern, 43 percent feel this way very strongly. Millennials and younger women, self-ascribed moderates, young non-college voters, and those in the West are particularly concerned about reducing the growing inequality in this country.
Concern for Inequality of Rich and Poor and the Middle Class Trump Concern for Business and Markets
This survey also tested four approaches to building a plan to address inequality, and there is powerful support for three of them: investing in education, making sure the top 1 percent pay their fair share in taxes, and increasing middle class incomes, starting with raising the minimum wage. Each produces a similar level of overall and intense public support; nearly half give very favorable ratings to each, and six in ten or higher support each plan overall. It is important to note that the notion of reducing the power of corporations and the financial sector, while supported overall, fares much less well than the other approaches, suggesting the context for the populist argument is going after the wealthy elite rather than the financial sector as a whole.
Public Says Address Inequality with Education, Taxing Top One Percent, and
Raising Minimum Wage to Get Better Paying Jobs
Inequality is on the public agenda, and voters come to this debate with distinct priorities informed by their understanding of the new economy. The public is ready for the debate to be joined and for the country to address them with interventions to bring reform.
With this pre-election survey of the public’s feelings on the economy in hand, it should not be surprising that voters punished Democrats when voting on the economy and many of those struggling chose not to vote – an election with the lowest turnout since the 1942 midterm election during World War II.
The economic message articulated by the president during the last rallies before the election spoke about the economic progress that Democrats and the administration had achieved. These were his remarks at a rally for Governor Dan Malloy in Bridgepoint, Connecticut:
“You think about when I came into office, we were seeing the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. Unemployment was about 800,000 per month we were losing jobs. And over the past four and a half years, America has created more than 10 million new jobs. We've created more jobs than Japan, Europe, and all the advanced countries combined. (Applause.) Over the past six months, our economy has grown at the fastest pace in more than 10 years. There’s almost no economic measure where we are not doing better now than when Dan took office or when I took office.”
When the president held his press conference after the wave election, he remained firm, even though he acknowledged that people were not yet feeling the gains.
“This country has made real progress since the crisis six years ago. The fact is, more Americans are working. Unemployment has come down. More Americans have health insurance. Manufacturing has grown. Our deficits have shrunk. Our dependence on foreign oil is down, as are gas prices. Our graduation rates are up. Our businesses aren’t just creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s. Our economy is outpacing most of the world. But we’ve just got to keep at it until every American feels the gains of a growing economy where it matters most, and that’s in their own lives.”
There were some progressive commentators after the election who regretted that Democrats did not spotlight the economic progress and argue we need to give the president a majority in Congress to “keep things going.” Another critic argued that progressives do not really know how to produce wage grow and so Democrats may as well take credit for the macro economy and attack the Republicans for offering no more than European austerity.
With the public aggrieved about the new economy and demanding big changes in direction, Democrats and progressives will only get heard when they join the economic debate with a very different voice.
The survey of 950 2012 voters including 698 likely 2014 voters nationwide was conducted from October 16-21, 2014 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Economy Media Project and Democracy Corps. Voters who voted in the 2012 election or registered since were selected from the national voter file. Likely voters were determined based on a combination of vote history and stated intention of voting in 2014. Unless otherwise noted, margin of error for the full sample= +/-3.2 percentage points at 95% confidence. Margin of error for likely 2014 voters= +/-3.4 percentage points. Fifty percent of respondents were reached by cell phone, in order to account for ever-changing demographics and trying to accurately sample the full American electorate.''
Survey of 1,000 likely 2014 voters (unweighted 2200) in the most competitive Senate races in the country conducted by GQR for Democracy Crops from September 20-24, 2014 and a survey of 1,105 likely 2014 voters in the most competitive Congressional seats across the country, conducted by GQR for Democracy Corps from October 4-9, 2014.
 This data reflects the total of those who have felt a personal impact or an impact on someone in their family.
GOP Conservative Heartland: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming.
Remarks by the President at Rally for Governor Dan Malloy at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, November 2, 2014.
Remarks by the President in a Press Conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington, D.C., November 5, 2014.
Jonathan Capehart, “The falling jobless rate and spineless Democrats,” Washington Post, November 7, 2014; John Marshall, “Forget the Chatter, This is the Democrats’ Real Problem,” Talking Points Memo, November 10, 2014.
“How do these jobs stack up to the cost of living?”
Americans are living in a new economy—one in which jobs do not pay enough to live on what they used to—and barley keep up with prices at the grocery store, student loan payments, and childcare expenses. Voters have moved to a post-recession understanding of how pay and prices balance out in their household budgets. Because their understanding of the economy is no longer situated in the temporary reductions of the recession but a seemingly permanent assessment about jobs, they now have very different assumptions about life chances, opportunity, income, and equity.
There are emerging perceptions and understandings about how the economy now operates that can be fairly described as a New American Economy – with very different assumptions about life chances and equity. These conclusions are very tentative, based on two working class groups in Columbus, Ohio, and two groups in Orlando with young college women and Latino voters. This is the summary of a longer report, which we will distribute soon, but we wanted to circulate this material now.
The New Economy: 5 Tenets
1. People believe that American jobs have been fundamentally restructured to pay less; America is producing jobs “you can’t live off.”
This may be the biggest change in the perception of the economy and it dominates all other reactions. In the past, people talked about jobs paying “less” as a consequence of the Great Recession, but this change in the character of jobs is just given.
When they heard reports of the new jobs being created, the discussion was totally about what those jobs pay: they have had to replace “one career job” with two or more “disposable jobs”; “you have to work twice as hard to make half as much as you used to”; “how do these jobs stack up to the cost of living?”
Sacrifice has become part of the routine: “After we pay our bills we make sure that our children eat but there’s times my husband and I can’t afford it and we eat peanut butter, potatoes, or rice. We make sure our children are eating 4 food groups but we can’t.”
Because jobs don’t allow you to make ends meet, you have to cobble together several jobs to make a full time income; two jobs may not be enough, so one parent must work two jobs while the other works one job and cares for children.
The pay leaves them on the edge: one woman says, “I can’t afford to lose right now” because she is right at the edge.
2. People sense there is a macro recovery under way and things are getting better. However, they universally describe the economy as “uncertain” and their feelings as “concerned” and “worried.”
People know of others who have gotten jobs or sold a house, and they have heard credible reports of the economy improving. That produces less anger in reaction to elites over-interpreting positive economic news, like the monthly jobs number.
Nonetheless, the improvements have not reached them yet, which leads to this kind of qualifier: “the housing market is supposed to be on an upswing again.”; “you want to be optimistic for the future.”
Their first reactions to the economy included these terms: “pretty scary”; “worried”; “concerned” ;“not good” ;“it’s starting to balance out a bit, but we never know…it’s a roller coaster.”
3. They have restructured their households and families to deal with this new economy, which feels permanent, not just an adaptation during the Great Recession.
People talk about working full or part-time in retirement or postponing retirement.
More people have moved in with family members, sharing intergenerational housing. This includes parents taking in adult children, but also 20-somethings taking in their parents who have lost jobs or fallen on hard times.
Couponing and penny-pinching is given, but there is also some talk about neighbors sharing big-ticket necessities like lawn mowers that are difficult for one family to afford.
4. With their households on the edge, they are consumed by the costs of childcare and student debt. Both of these reactions seem to have a new intensity – from women moving totally into the labor force as jobs pay less and as young people have turned to college as an economic strategy.
Childcare: “[childcare is] more than my mortgage payment but I can’t not do it because the money that I bring in pays for electricity and food…it’s…just a complete vicious circle.”; “If we want…to keep the American Dream alive and have a middle class America then we have to do something to make child care more affordable.”
Working just to pay off student debt: “You are working just to pay off your student loans so it’s almost, it’s a double edged sword. ”; “That’s paying your bills. That’s paying your rent… you’re never getting ahead.”; “I’m working as a bartender not by choice… I make more money doing that than any position I could get in my degree so I pay my student loans as a bartender.”
5. They have downsized and adapted their expectations for a good economy – now just means having “a few extra dollars after payday.”
The new signs of an improving economy are humble. They say they will know they are doing better when they are “able to save more” or get “yearly pay raises” or when “I can pay my bills.”
They describe the job and income situation as a “serious problem,” not a “crisis” – suggesting they have adapted to the new economy.
They refuse to give up on the American Dream, but there are few rags to riches discussions.
1. Education has become more important in this new economy – as a personal strategy and as a macro strategy to produce a stronger economy. This includes investing in math and science education, job training, and making education more affordable.
There was near universal agreement that education is the most important investment we can make in our economy: “Without technology and education we’re doomed. We have to increase those.”; “I think our children are our future, they need to be smart and well educated for our country to get better.”; “I feel like if they… put more money into education, that it will benefit the country as a whole more. We’ll be able to compete more for jobs with other countries.”
This is simultaneously a personal strategy, as the women in particular pursue education.
2. Making work pay has emerged more central as a policy response. There was very strong support for a make work pay package—including making sure women get equal pay, expanding paid family, maternity, and sick leave for families, and making childcare available and affordable.
3. With families restructured and weighted down by debt, people remain responsive to conservative arguments on debt and spending.
“When you’re in debt you owe lots of money to people they’re going to come to collect it… like, the government’s in that much debt.” And, “what happens when we spend more than we’ll ever pay back? If I borrowed or charged us $450 million dollars on my credit card I’m going to lose my house, my car, everything. Is China going to repossess our country and then move their overpopulated people here? Where will we go? They own us.”
4. But information about rapidly falling deficits stops them and allows a shift to jobs and growth. This is the statement that shifted the debate: In May of this year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal budget deficit is declining this year compared to the last few years. The deficit has been reduced by 60 percent over the past two years and will be cut in half again over the next two years, which economists consider a normal level.
5. Addressing inequality is critical, but the starting point and emotion is on political inequality á la Stiglitz and Reich. People are consumed by the lack of jobs that pay and the fate of the middle class, but they look right at the top when focused on the rigged political battle that favors the rich and connected. They are animated about the political inequality – the use of lobbyists and money to rig the game for those at the top. That is the entry point to making change.
“[The top 2 percent are] holding us hostage and then they’ve got the money to buy the politicians to get what they want.”
“The general concept of our elected officials being there to support their constituents and the people that have elected to put them in office and unfortunately I think the reality is that too many times they’re placing their votes with people that line their pockets from special interest groups.”
“The problem is you have corruption on these high levels where you have these people who are, you know, laundering money or they’re giving themselves these multi-million dollar annual bonuses and they’re cutting wages or they’re cutting jobs or they’re outsourcing jobs.”
6. People desperate for an end to political dysfunction. People are very conscious of the political dysfunction in Washington that keeps government from doing anything to address the country's problems – indeed, making it harder. That is not unrelated to calling people to use government to effect change. Their postcards at the end of the group were very revealing:
“We are not as divided in our opinions as our elected representatives! 2. With good old American political compromises our problems are solvable. 3. America’s citizens are often more patriotic than congress.”
“I think the government needs to work together to get things accomplished that benefit America and not special interests.”
“If both political parties could work together, we might actually be able to accomplish something.”
1.The economy is still very difficult for voters at the pocketbook level. This economy is still very painful for people. In focus groups with swing voters who watched the President’s speech with us, participants were very graphic about their personal financial situations and economic outlook. They are very much on edge financially, which is their dominant context because they live it every day. Every speech needs to start from a place that understands this is not theoretical or ideological, but tangible and painful for people.
You can’t survive on one income. You can’t buy gas.
I work 7 days a week to afford my house, my car.
Often times I worked 5 jobs, never saw the kids. They raised themselves. A majority of politicians don’t understand the hardship.
2. The President can highlight economic progress without taking credit. For the first time since 2009, the President was able to highlight good economic news without shutting voters down; these voters in Denver applauded it. In past exercises, we have found that when President Obama takes credit for progress on the economy in these times, voters react badly and view him as out of touch. The President thread a very careful needle in this speech and it worked. These voters are open to the President’s celebration of good economic news, as long as the President does not take credit for it. The way President Obama framed current economic growth was through business, not government – businesses hiring again and jobs coming back to America was news these voters were willing to celebrate. We should not underestimate voters’ responses—this was a major turning point.
3.Voters are aware of, and concerned about, the decline of the middle class. One of the biggest shifts came when President Obama talked about a decade of stagnation, and the need to reignite the middle class and restore the basic middle class bargain. All respondents (including Republican-leaning participants) responded to this. But the President lost the Republicans in our audience when he said that the government works on behalf of the many, not just the few. They came back, however, when he returned to the values of free enterprise.
4. Voters support a growth agenda rather than an austerity agenda.Voters showed strong support for growth and jobs when the President asserted that “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” The electorate is ready for a growth agenda that creates good, middle class jobs, and this was clear in their responses to specific policy items. Every time the President mentioned investment, our swing voters in Denver were very receptive—investment in manufacturing, science, and infrastructure all got positive support. One of the strongest responses came when the President talked about not cutting funding for education, job training, Medicare, and Social Security benefits. On that point, independents and unmarried women responded most sharply, climbing above the Democrats’ line. The only group to respond negatively were the Republicans in our audience, who proved outliers on many of these issues.
5. Voters are looking for a balanced approach.Taken in the context of the sequester, there is significant support for President Obama’s balanced approach rather than the Republicans’ cuts-only approach to deficit reduction. Voters, especially unmarried women, responded with deep concern to the potential budget cuts. And the President got broad support when he talked about replacing reckless cuts with smart savings. He also won the voters in our audience when he talked about getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. This balanced approach was met with a great deal of approval from our audience, who fully grasped the contrast between closing loopholes for the wealthiest versus cutting retirement benefits for those who cannot afford it.
6. There is strong support for further and more progressive tax reform.There is strong support for reform, including closing loopholes and instituting the Buffett rule, to make sure the wealthiest pay their share. At the end of the speech we saw big shifts in support for the President in supporting the middle class and handling the economy.
7. Raising the minimum wage is a good start.Given the on-going stagnation and difficulties at the middle and bottom of the income spectrum, voters are looking for policies that will grow the economy from the bottom up. Raising the minimum wage produced a strong result among all groups except Republicans. Democrats reacted very favorably, as did independents and unmarried women. When the President proposed linking the minimum wage to the cost of living all groups, including Republicans, spiked.
8. Unmarried women are more engaged and are the most engaged on economic issues affecting them. When we have conducted similar exercises in the past among unmarried women, their movement on the dials presaged their level of engagement and openness to voting for Democrats. During the 2012 campaign, they were more tentative and more closely aligned with independents. In sharp contrast, unmarried women in our group in Denver moved in close concert with the Democrats, and climbed even higher than the Democratic line at several key moments—including when the President talked about his growth and investment agenda, not allowing the painful sequester cuts to hit programs like education and job training, not cutting entitlement benefits for those who need it most, and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected.
9.Republicans are on a path different from all others on economic and budget choices.The President’s call to raise taxes on the wealthiest instead of making reckless cuts to education received strongly positive responses from all groups except the Republicans in our audience. On these measures, all of the dials rose while the Republican line dropped. In several key places in the speech, Republican lines moved in the opposite direction of all other lines: “consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before”; “this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few”; “deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan”; “by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans”; “the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs”; “no one who works full time should have to live in poverty -- and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.” The point is not that Republicans were less receptive to the President’s speech than those who voted for him. We expected that. The striking observation is that these Republicans were unquestionably moving in the opposite direction as everyone else in the room. There is a difference between the points at which the Republican lines moved in unison with, just several octaves below, Democrats and independents, and the points at which all lines moved up while Republican lines dropped.
10. Voters are receptive to smarter government that invests in broad-based growth.This is not 2010, when voters looked to punish the President for a lagging economy, the health care law, or high spending. While their trust in government has eroded, voters seem very open to the President’s call for smarter government that tackles big issues. For now, voters seem ready to support both his short-term plan and his long-term vision for restoring the economy.
As the country approaches the next self-imposed crisis deadline of the prolonged budget battle, politicians in Washington and state capitals across the country would do well to take note: swing voters have no appetite for the severe cuts that will result from the sequester, and they have little patience for the crisis-to-crisis approach to fiscal governance that has defined the last two years. And now, as they are poised to experience painful austerity measures induced by Washington, these voters give clear signals about what the policy priorities should be moving forward. They are also very clear about who should be the priority in any budget deal—the middle class, seniors, and working families, rather than the wealthiest and elites with access to the halls of power.