Working America: Front Porch Focus Group Report. AFL-CIO
100 Days into the Trump Era, Working-Class ‘Searchers’ Who Voted for Him Are Having Doubts, Open to Appeals.
Everyone who is canvassing this year (2017) should read this report! Here is the summary:
Face-to-face conversations with 976 working-class swing voters in Ohio reveal half of Trump swing voters differ with him on one or more issues, shows the importance of direct outreach
We have come away with evidence that many of Donald Trump’s swing voters can be moved with a progressive message. This conclusion summarizes the lessons we learned during our 100 Days canvass, and offers some thoughts on how progressives can reach out to working-class voters.
Working-class swing voters are open to progressive ideas — if they hear them. Our canvassers found that with door-to-door contact and a persuasive message, we can cut through the rightwing megaphone that has all but drowned out progressive voices in so many working-class homes.
When talking to voters, tell them something they don’t know. Don’t tell them that what they know is wrong. This classic insight helped shape our outreach efforts. Our canvassers found that it didn’t work to dispute Fox News’ talking points on well-worn issues such as the ACA.Rather, offering new information about Trump’s policies broke through and showed just how out of step they are with the needs of working people.
We can’t assume that the 2012 Obama voters who swung to Trump in 2016 will automatically swing back if he disappoints them. Trump’s working-class base may already be eroding in his first 100 days, but their declining support for Trump won’t inevitably lead to growing support for progressives. We saw in our canvass that many Trump swing voters are deeply disenchanted with politics. That’s why they cast a ballot for him in the first place. If Trump fails them — and progressives don’t offer an authentic alternative — they are very likely to give up on politics in upcoming election cycles.
This canvass focused on swing voters, but to win in 2018, Democrats will need to do better with both swing and base voters. A perfect storm hit Ohio Democrats in 2016. Base turnout dropped at the same time that swing voters abandoned them. In Ohio’s urban counties, where the base is strongest, Hillary Clinton received 162,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012. And in the nonurban counties, where so many swing voters live, Clinton got 272,000 fewer votes than Obama. Given those numbers, progressives can’t afford to ignore either base or swing voters.
Ultimately, to win in Ohio and elsewhere, progressives need to reach out at all times to our base — to communities of color, millennials and women — as well as the white working-class voters open to a progressive agenda. That is how we’ll take back vital battleground states and elect a Congress and a president who truly represent the interests of all working families.
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