As the Democratic Party rebuilds itself for the 2018 and 2020 elections, Democratic strategists have been preoccupied with a pressing question: why did so many voters who backed Barack Obama in 2012 switch to Donald Trump four years later, and what can be done to win them back?
Top Democratic pollsters have conducted private focus groups and polling in an effort to answer that question, and they shared the results with me.
One finding from the polling stands out: a shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favour the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.
Priorities USA, the super PAC that is working to restore Democrats to power, conducted focus groups of Obama-Trump voters in Wisconsin and Michigan — two states that Trump snatched from Democrats — in late January and polled some 800 Obama-Trump voters nationally at around the same time. The pollsters also conducted focus groups with so-called drop-off voters — people who voted for Obama in 2012 but didn’t vote in 2016 — in the same states and polled 800 drop-off voters nationally.
“Clinton and Democrats’ economic message did not break through to drop-off or Obama-Trump voters, even though drop-off voters are decidedly anti-Trump,” Priorities USA concluded in a presentation of its polling data and focus group findings, which has been shown to party officials in recent days.
The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems....