President Obama’s discussion of clean energy was one of the issues that received the strongest support among swing Democrats and Independents during his State of the Union address, indicating it shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the most important planks to run on in 2012 campaigns.
During his speech, Democracy Corps ran a focus group that consisted of 50 swing voters. They used devices to register approval or disapproval continuously throughout the speech.
The President generated strong, positive responses on energy, education and foreign policy, and he made impressive gains on a range of economic measures.
Swing voters, even Republicans, responded enthusiastically to his call for a “Buffett Rule” that would require the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. He also received high marks for wanting to change the tax code to encourage “insourcing” instead of “outsourcing,” among other economic proposals.
His stated support for clean energy received high, sustained ratings from swing Democrats and independents, but it was one of the few subjects where swing Republicans diverged with a negative reaction.
But support of clean energy was so high among Independents and Democrats that Obama gained 22 points on the issue, one of his biggest gains on the evening.
Voters strongly endorsed his appeal to end subsidies for oil companies and instead focus those resources on expanding clean energy in America.
After being pummeled by Republicans on Department of Energy loan guarantees to Solyndra and other renewable energy companies – although the President defended the program
in his speech – he doesn’t aggressively promote clean energy legislation.
Although he called for a Clean Energy Standard and renewal of the production tax credit (PTC), he hasn’t been stumping for it as he is for the Buffet Rule or Payroll Tax Cut.
These results show that rather than keeping a relatively low profile on this hugely, important area, he and the Democrats would do well to make it a central issue in their campaigns this year.
Despite the heated partisan polarization in Washington, for the most part, Obama generated a unified response across the partisan spectrum.
In most speeches like this, there are significant sections where Democrats and Republicans completely diverge. But for the most part, there was unanimity across party lines. As one participant noted, “What he said tonight appeals to everyone. If any of it comes to pass it would be fantastic for the country.”
Participants across the political spectrum agreed that Washington is broken and that progress on the important issues would be difficult until Congress addresses the corrupting influence of lobbyists and special interests.
This was not the easiest audience for Obama; although slightly more participants voted for him than McCain in 2008, it was a significantly Republican-leaning group (44% Republican, 32% Democratic). At the outset, these voters were split 50/50
on Obama’s job performance, but afterwards his job rating rose 8 points and his personal standing jumped 16 points, to 66% favorable.