On June 20, a focus group of 11 Pittsburgh blue-collar and working-class voters was brought together by pollster Peter Hart of Hart Research to discuss the 2016 presidential election. The session was the fifth in the “Voices of the Voters” project for the 2016 election cycle, conducted by Hart for the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The group was intentionally weighted towards Donald Trump, with five of the 11 voters saying they would definitely or probably vote for Trump, four saying the same about Hillary Clinton, and one undecided voter who was leaning toward either Trump or Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
While many Republicans have been “wringing their hands or distancing themselves from Trump,” he still remains competitive among these voters, Hart and Corrie Hunt note in their analysis. “As these participants see traditional politicians at fault for our country heading toward imminent disaster, they are willing to take a chance on a candidate that represents something (or anything) different.” Trump’s “harsh criticism of the status quo and big ideas for change” resonates with them. One woman who leans toward Trump explained: “He just makes me feel very comfortable, safe, and I like to listen to him. I think he has common sense. He speaks my language, just the way he is.”
Many of the voters in the group had positive impressions of current President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, but do not connect with Hillary Clinton and do not feel that “their cause is her cause,” citing a “lack of trustworthiness,” according to Hart’s analysis. The focus group’s discussion showed that “how the blue-collar vote goes will tell us whether election night will be a nail biter or one that allows the Democrats to win the presidency with enough coattails to regain a Democratic majority in the United States Senate.”
The “Voices of the Voters” project aims to provide a qualitative sense of what voters are thinking and feeling, and what issues are important to average citizens. Sessions for this election cycle have also been conducted in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Colorado. To read an analysis of the session from Peter Hart and Corrie Hunt, click here. See below for a full video of the focus group session.
Pittsburgh focus group on June 20, 2016
About the Speaker
For more than 40 years, Peter D. Hart has been one of the leading analysts of public opinion in the United States. Since 1971, he has directed Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which has conducted more than 6,000 public opinion surveys that have included interviews among more than five million individuals. Hart Research also has undertaken more than 5,000 focus group sessions. Mr. Hart currently serves as Chairman of Hart Research and Senior Counselor to the McGinn Group.Mr. Hart built his reputation on his successful work in politics, with Hart Research working for 54 U.S. Senators and 45 Governors, more than any other polling firm. His firm’s client list reads as a Who’s Who of American Politics, representing major American political figures including the Clintons, Humphreys, Kennedys, Mondales, and Rockefellers. He is quoted and cited regularly in major media outlets, and has been described as “the uber-pollster,” (David Brooks, New York Times), “the best in the business,” (Andrea Mitchell, NBC News), “truly one of the deans of the political and Democratic polling communities” (Charlie Cook, National Journal), and one of 150 national leaders who shape federal government policy (National Journal).Over the last 20 years, Mr. Hart has shifted his focus towards public policy, cultural and social issues, and strategic consulting work for corporations. Corporate clients have included Boeing, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, AT&T, and Tiffany and Company. His work in the non-profit field includes research for Habitat for Humanity, the ACLU, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Internationally, Mr. Hart has conducted studies in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Over the past decade, he has taught courses on the role of public opinion research at Duke University’s Sanford Institute of Public Policy, the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, and at UC Berkeley.Mr. Hart appears frequently on major television programs that discuss public policy issues, including Meet the Press, The Today Show, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. His focus groups on presidential elections for the Annenberg Public Policy Center are often shown in their entirety on C-Span. In 1989, along with Robert Teeter, Mr. Hart was selected by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal to conduct their public opinion polling. 2009 marks the 20th year of this relationship.