We hear a lot about the economic populism that Donald Trump supposedly tapped into and that Democrats must reclaim to win. But what does that look like on the ground? Working America canvassed 355 likely midterm swing voters in Ohio, asking them about Trumpcare, a range of economic policies to support middle-class and lower-income families, Ohio politicians, and where they’re getting their political information. The resulting report offers a wealth of information.
Opposition to Trumpcare was strong, with just 39 percent of Trump swing voters in favor of passing it, while “Overall, 60 percent of Ohio swing voters we spoke with chose it from a list of 11 policies as the one that would have the most negative impact on their family.” Beyond that, voters’ top three issues off that list were stopping outsourcing, addressing the opioid crisis, and paid family leave. Expanding overtime, passing paid sick days, ending employee misclassification, making it easier to save for retirement, and making it easier to unionize also drew significant support, and “though these policies are less likely to motivate voters in 2018, some of them could be persuasive for swing voters.”
But Working America’s findings suggest that Democrats’ problem isn’t just the content of the message, it’s getting it out there:
In Ohio’s 2016 race for the U.S. Senate, the two top candidates and their supporters spent an estimated $90 million, with a huge share going to TV ads and other paid media. And yet 53 percent of the swing voters we surveyed did not know or had no opinion of Sen. Rob Portman, one of the candidates in that race. […] And exit polls show that Ohio voters in 2016 reported receiving far less direct contact from campaigns at their doors than they had in 2012. Without that face-to-face contact, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to counter the right-wing noise machine.
Democrats may have policies that people support, but if the cable news networks are busy reporting on scandals, faux and real, and people are tuning out political ads, you need another way to get through to them. There’s also the problem that:
Both Clinton and Trump voters are more than twice as likely to blame “all politicians” for the state of the economy than any other group, including Republicans, Democrats or Wall Street. Thirty-seven percent of Trump voters and 34.1 percent of Clinton voters blame “all politicians” for the state of the economy. And those numbers rise even higher for third-party voters (43.5 percent) and people who didn’t cast a ballot in 2016 (61.5 percent).
A sense that “all politicians” have betrayed them may help explain why some Obama voters from 2008 and 2012 swung to “outsider” Trump, and why so many Democratic base voters didn’t turn out.
We have our work cut out for us in 2018, but collecting information like this now and planning accordingly could help us get there.