Talking Trump: St. Louis GOP Voters Focus on Policy and Personality

How do Republicans in the Midwest perceive Donald Trump’s strengths and weaknesses? On March 22, 2016, a week after the Missouri GOP primary, Peter Hart gathered a dozen voters in St. Louis to discuss Trump’s candidacy.

The group included five people who voted for Trump in the primary; the others either voted for his Republican opponents or are waiting for the general election.

“To be competitive, Donald Trump must have this group’s votes,” wrote Hart and Corrie Hunt in their analysis. But almost everyone in the group expressed concerns about Trump as president, wanting him to act “more presidential,” tone down his rhetoric and attitude, and prove he can work well with others. Notably absent from their critiques was any mention of Trump’s policies — the group’s complaints focused solely on his personality, not his policy. On policy and ideology, they mostly found common ground.

The focus group is part of the “Voices of the Voters” project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. The goal is to provide qualitative insight into what issues are important to average voters, and what they are thinking and feeling about the ongoing race for the presidency and the state of the nation. The St. Louis group is the fourth conducted since the start of the 2016 election season, which have also been conducted in Ohio, Indiana, and Colorado.

An analysis of the session from Peter D. Hart and Corrie Hunt can be found here. See below for a full video of the session:

March 22, 2016 St. Louis, Missouri focus group

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.