RR Blue Collar Catholic Memo

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RR Blue Collar Catholic Memo Powered By Docstoc

TO:          Interested Parties

FROM:        John McLaughlin and Haley Barbour

DATE:        April 26, 2012

RE:          The Most Pressing Concern for Blue Collar Catholics is Improving their
             Financial Security

As part of our Target Voter Series, Resurgent Republic sponsored four focus groups among Blue
Collar Catholic voters in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. These respondents all
voted for President Obama in 2008, but are undecided on the generic presidential ballot today.
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, the groups were split between those whose religious
beliefs are culturally based (participants in Cleveland) and regular churchgoers (participants in
Pittsburgh). Not surprisingly these voters tend to lean left. Some had union ties and others support
public sector involvement in social justice programs, especially the voters in Pittsburgh. The
participants also strongly identify as working class. They did not have a college degree, and the
annual household income for the majority of participants was less than $60,000.

Key Findings
Even considering their religious beliefs, these voters’ personal fiscal and pocketbook concerns
overwhelmingly shape how they view the direction of the country and the health of the economy.
By nature, these Blue Collar Catholics lean left, but they are not strongly tied to President Obama
and are likely up for grabs this November. Whoever appeals to this target demographic will do so
by connecting with their personal sense of suffering and the issues they care about, primarily their
desire for quality, family-supporting jobs.

Additional key findings include:

   •   These voters are personally and severely affected by the economic downturn and their
       primary concern is their own economic well-being.

   •   Working class voters believe they are carrying the country while the rich and poor play by
       different rules.

   •   President Obama holds moderate support among these voters, but he does not garner
       strong loyalty among these participants who voted for him in 2008.
The Economy and Political Climate
1. These voters are personally and severely affected by the economic downturn and their
   primary concern is their own economic well-being. They hold a pessimistic, negative
   outlook on their personal financial situation, and they view the national economy as dismal.
   Everything from the price of gas, unemployment, job insecurity, cost of health care, cost of
   college, and personal debt contribute to their pessimism on the economy and political
   environment. There was hardly any mention of positive economic indicators, like the rising
   stock market or any improvement in the unemployment rate. Nearly all of these voters feel
   financially insecure, and even three participants said they are going to lose their job in the
   coming weeks. There is great sensitivity to cost of living expenses, most notably rising
   gasoline costs. Some feel as though their income only goes far enough to cover transportation
   costs. One male voter in Cleveland did express some optimism for his financial situation, but
   it was at the expense of others. He said, “Where I work, there have been cut backs, so I get a
   lot of overtime. It’s good for me.”

2. Universally, the participants believe the “real unemployment” is significantly higher
   than reported and that “quality jobs” are not being created. One female voter in
   Pittsburgh began this discussion by asking, “Is the reduction of unemployment an
   accomplishment? Not when you know five people who are unemployed.” These groups feel
   the national unemployment rate is not realistic and believe there are many unemployed who
   “fall off the rolls.” In both Cleveland and Pittsburgh, there was consensus that the real
   unemployment rate is closer to 14 or 15 percent. In describing his desire for a quality job, one
   Cleveland male said, “You are not going to find a job making the same money you used to. If
   there is a $20 an hour job out there, the line is out the door.”

3. Working class voters believe they are carrying the country while the rich and poor play
   by different rules. They see themselves as hardworking people who pay the lion’s share of
   taxes and have little to show for their work in terms of career advancement, financial security
   or a better quality of life. Conversely, they see the poor and unemployed as taking advantage
   of their hard work by collecting welfare. They see the rich as not contributing their fair share
   of taxes and getting richer at their expense. Describing her feeling of being caught in the
   middle, one female voter in Cleveland said, “My fear is that this is the new normal. You work
   hard and don’t get paid for it. You don’t get a raise.”

4. Personal anxiety due to financial insecurity is a more pressing concern than the national
   debt. There is universal agreement that the level of federal spending, deficits, and debt is too
   high and remains out of control. Moreover, President Obama increasingly owns the deficit and
   debt among these voters, while he escapes sole responsibility regarding the economy. One
   Cleveland woman said about Obama, “He keeps adding to the deficit and there is no end in
   sight. We have to control it.”

   When comparing the national debt to their personal situation, their own financial insecurity is
   the more pressing concern. Nearly all of these voters have been forced to “cut back” during
   tough economic times, and several participants had to take on additional work to make ends
   meet. For the most part, they find it difficult to articulate how the national debt affects them
   personally. Even so, they strongly believe the federal government would be better off if it

   operated like a family budget. If the participants have to live within their means, Washington
   should too. One Pittsburgh woman said Congress should operate “just like you do in your
   home budget.” Her recommendation is to have Congress determine “what money is going out
   and what is coming in. They don’t do that. They use money that comes in to pay for
   something new.” In addition, there is real resentment at endless borrowing from China.
   Similar to the frustration voiced about the outsourcing of jobs, the fact that so much of the
   nation’s debt is owned by China strikes at the heart of their concern that America’s standing
   in the world is on a steady decline.

President Barack Obama
1. President Obama holds moderate support among these working class voters. Part of this
   sentiment is that these voters are more likely to identify as Democrats, yet they also believe
   President Obama is doing the best he can considering the challenges he inherited when taking
   office. They do not hold him responsible for the current state of the economy and give him the
   benefit of the doubt in comparison to Congress. The challenge for President Obama is the
   most common arguments these voters give in defense of his presidency are not linked to his
   job performance. While they believe the President is trying, these participants do not express
   strong loyalty to President Obama or believe his policies have made things better.
2. These participants view the auto bailouts as a net positive even while voicing concern
   over the details. Unlike the economic stimulus, several respondents approve of the auto
   bailouts and give President Obama some credit for this policy. They also differentiate between
   the auto bailouts, which they feel helped the working class and saved jobs, and the bank
   bailouts, which are seen as only benefiting Wall Street executives. In general, this
   demographic is receptive to policies that boost the manufacturing industry and prevent
   companies from sending jobs overseas. However, these voters did express concern that the
   federal government still owns stock in General Motors and question the wisdom of the federal
   government picking winners and losers in the marketplace.

Health Care Reform
1. At best, the participants are mixed toward ObamaCare, expressing concern over rising
   premiums and support for adding coverage of preexisting conditions. Just as the rising
   cost of food and gas shapes their opinion on the economy, their perspective on health care is
   primarily determined by the financial impact on their bottom line. When asked for a topline
   impression of the Affordable Health Care Act, a Pittsburgh man found the title quite ironic.
   “It’s not too affordable. I can’t afford it, and I make a decent living. But still, it will cost me
   $650 to $700 a month, right out of my paycheck. That’s not affordable.” Several respondents
   gave examples of how premiums have increased since health care reform was passed. Despite
   frustration over costs, the participants approve of covering preexisting conditions and
   providing coverage for children ages 26 and under. Yet it is clear that those benefits are
   secondary to their overwhelming concern about the cost of health care. Several participants
   cited examples of employers not hiring new workers, not extending hours for part timers,
   dropping health care or raising costs to workers all as a result of ObamaCare.

2. In addition to their concern about the rising cost of health care, the participants hold
   very little affinity for the individual mandate. Participants strongly object to being forced
   by the federal government to purchase health care, and many worry that such a policy will
   impact their current health care coverage. One Pittsburgh woman said, “They want it to affect
   everybody. I have health care and pay reasonable rates. I don’t feel like I should be forced to
   take what they want. If I don’t need it, I don’t think I should be forced.”

3. When focused on the details, support for the religious mandate weakens, although the
   primary concern for these working class voters is improving their own financial security.
   The participants are generally uninformed about the religious mandate ObamaCare imposes
   on religious organizations that are morally or conscientiously opposed to birth control,
   abortion, or sterilization. Many of the participants were not aware that the Catholic Church
   would be forced to provide insurance coverage for procedures that are in direct conflict to its
   teachings. After having the issue more clearly explained, including that many religious
   hospitals are self-insured, the participants support for the measure weakened. This issue was
   more relevant with the regular churchgoers in Pittsburgh, but overall, it is another example of
   how their own financial insecurity is their dominant concern. The impact of this debate is
   likely to take place outside of the news headlines and with a demographic not living paycheck
   to paycheck.

1. To these working class voters, the rising cost of gasoline is more pressing than the debate
   about domestic energy production. All these voters know is the cost of gasoline is going up,
   and they cannot afford it. Other than that, the participants had little knowledge or awareness
   of an “all of the above” energy policy. Some people had heard of the Keystone Pipeline, but
   were not attune to the details. A few people thought President Obama rejected the Keystone
   Pipeline because it had “something to do with the environment.” As one woman in Pittsburgh
   said, “I have a small economical car, and it costs too much to fill up. It costs $40. Sometimes I
   don’t have it, so I put in $5.” When forced to fill up the tank in such small increments, few
   debates in Washington seem personally relevant.

2. While it wasn’t a topic of conversation in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh groups did support
   energy production from coal and hydrofracking. Not surprisingly, respondents in
   Pittsburgh support the use of clean coal technology and believe the industry is vital to the
   livelihood of many in the community. These voters want to hear about the use of clean coal as
   part of a broader energy policy. Several other respondents noted how the increase use of
   hydrofracking creates jobs and additional income for those who hold leases on mineral rights.
   They are closely following this debate, including any potential impact on the environment,
   and it is mostly perceived as a net positive.

The Target Voter Series is a project of 24 focus groups among Obama Independents who are
undecided on the generic presidential ballot. The focus groups took place in 11 battleground states
among six key demographic groups (Suburban Women, Young Voters, Seniors, Independents,
Hispanics, and Blue Collar Catholics). This is the final memo of our six-part series.

Cleveland, Ohio
March 20, 2012
Cultural Catholics Split by Gender
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
April 3, 2012
Regular Churchgoers Split by Gender
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates