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Swing Voters Tell Us What Really Happened Last Night


Swing Voters Tell Us What Really Happened Last Night


While Mitt Romney performed well in the first presidential debate in Denver, the reactions of a group of 45 swing voters watching in Denver suggest that the underlying political fundamentals have not changed.

Working in partnership with the Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund, Democracy Corps asked those voters — including 16 unmarried women — to watch and respond as Romney dueled verbally with the President. Dial testing and post-debate discussion showed that the Republican nominee improved his personal appeal and gained ground on some issues.

Yet the Romney converts in the group were chiefly undecided voters who had been leaning Republican already — former McCain voters who had not yet warmed to this year’s GOP nominee. This wasn’t the game-changing moment that his campaign needs.

It is important to recognize that while we recruited swing voters for the WVWVAF-Democracy Corps focus group, most of the participants in the group reflected the remaining swing voters in much of the country. There were nearly twice as many Republican-leaning participants as Democratic-leaning participants—22 percent Democratic-leaning versus 42 percent Republican-leaning.  These participants voted for McCain by a nine-point margin in 2008.

Romney improved his personal appeal score in the group by 27 points, moving the needle most on “taxes,” the “economy” and being a “strong leader.”  In the dial tests, he impressed voters with his five-point economic plan, his promotion of small business, and his newfound commitment to bipartisanship.

“Romney cleared up a few things for me that I’d seen in commercials and hearsay,” said one participant. “It makes a lot more sense now.  The debate helped say he does know what is going on.”

And the President also had his moments.  His best moments in the dial tests came when he referred to the “Clinton model” and the former President’s job growth success, coupled with tax fairness.  Among unmarried women in particular, Obama’s promotion of community colleges and defense of Obamacare won him significant traction. “I like the whole community college aspect about Obama,” said one unmarried woman. “He has my best interests in heart.”

While Romney’s support grew, so did Obama’s. And all of Romney’s gains came from Republican-leaning undecided voters.  He did not move a single voter away from Obama.

Only 42 percent of the voters in this group concluded that Romney won the debate, no larger than the Republican lean of this small sample.  Nearly four in ten voters (38 percent) say neither candidate won the debate.

For all the data, see our numbers and analysis at Democracy Corps.

Photo by: Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America



  1. joxer_daly October 5, 2012

    Wow. Have to admire your capacity to write it as you want to. The figures show a gain of 17 points in Romney’s vote, but you try to put that down to the number of Republican-leaning Undecideds in the Group; he won over 90% of the Undecideds who moved.

    Before the debate, Obama was four points ahead – after, he is 11 points behind.

    At the same time, your numbers also show the pre-debate favourability rating of both candidates as pretty much tied 42:44.

    The shifts to Romney are really significant – Strong Leader +36, Taxes +28, Economy +15 and Energy Independence +25. I’m guessing you bet most people won’t click to the next page, for the detail.

    And re the winner – even if 38% say neither won, the bottom line is that your figures show that of the people who had a view, Romney beat Obama 2:1.

    1. sdays October 15, 2012

      I have to say I’m not sure those numbers are right on either because when I am polled I lie and say I’m voting for who I’m not nor do I tell them the real party I’m with, just so they get a unclear picture or shall I say so they think something that isn’t so – and we can laugh on election night when things are so Far off or the win is by sooo much more than they thought. It’s like playing poker – NEVER show your hand.

      1. jnagarya October 15, 2012

        Pointlessly “clever”.

        Do you play head games with your “friends” also?

        1. sdays October 15, 2012

          There are enough of us doing this so as not to get a Real count on things – maybe they will stop doing these polls – and just Wait for the votes to come in and stop Playing Head Games with the public trying to find out which way things are going so they can alter and manipulate things and lie to the Voters. Not sure it’s Pointless – but it Is clever, when someone thinks they have a handle on you and they DON”T

          My Friend don’t try and manipulate me – so Head Game – Yes if you are playing Poker you don’t show your hand – you just Win (Without Talking)

      2. BradLewis October 15, 2012

        I’ve never went as far as you but if the questions seem loaded I also will give misleading answers. With the denied voting rights and now employers threatening employees I don’t understand the lack of outrage among Americans.

  2. das_1939 October 15, 2012


    We are dumb-founded at President Obama’s pathetic debate performance. I could have done better than our president. What happened? Did you guys tell OBAMA to take crap from Gov.Romney? How could he put up with Mitt Romney’s pack of lies? It’s high time to call a spade a spade. Not in a sugar-coated form but straight to his face as David Axelrod said today in “Face the Nation”—‘he is dishonest’. I am adding he is a pathological liar.

    He cannot walk away unscratched from what he has been preaching for the last two years on campaign trail. It’s all in the tape. Sen. Kennedy said that Mitt Romney is not a prochoice or prolife but he is a multi-choice candidate. There are 100 example of him to be on both sides of the topic. He doesn’t have any core or moral value. He is an opportunist and switches the way wind blows. In this case the extreme right-wing wind. All through his political career he has been changing color frequently whenever it serves his interest. Nothing else. He is not and never been on the side of working Middle-Class.

    What he said about 47% is not a slip of tongue or a word or two. He spoke more than 100 words to describe 47% as free-loaders. It is his core belief and life long conviction that came out his heart and soul. He insulted and humiliated hard working people who are toiling every day to stay above the fray. It would be very unwise and stupid of people if they befooled by Romney’s Crocodile tears. Trust me I am from Massachusetts.

    Sunil Das

    1. Psychareus October 15, 2012

      Thanks so much for your posting. It certainly feels authentic. Yes, all these demoralizing comments of Romney’s are right there on video, but talking heads prefer to argue numbers that mean nothing out of context. I don’t understand why these are not replayed in the ads. Money is important, but if the ads that are on were creative enough, they needn’t cost so much. I was very upset by the President’s performance. I couldn’t believe it. The only thing I thought was perhaps he really didn’t believe that Romney would come in with all those highly disprovable lies in front of a national audience, and Romney did! Just lied with impunity and on subjects that should have been countered by truth, and against Romney’s latest attempt to appear moderate. It seemed that the President didn’t learn anything about the Republicans, who have been determined to get him out of office from the beginning, so why he might have thought Romney would tell the truth, so that he could present his side — I have no idea — how naive can he be? Please God he will get hold of himself, and get back to the truth.

    2. bellagram08 October 15, 2012

      I was really confused by that first debate, but I imagine the President was even more confused. I expected better from Obama, but I can’t imagine how totally weird it was to prepare to argue against the policies Romney had been spouting for 18 months and defend his own, only to have Romney do a 180. The President had to stay calm and be *Presidential*. While I am sure he wanted to call Mitt a LIAR, he really could not do that. That behavior would have played to his base, undecideds may have thought he was a bully. I would bet that the president will be fully prepared for which ever Romney shows up tomorrow.

  3. Psychareus October 15, 2012

    Women voters seem to have swung away from the president, although they had been responsive and faithful. The reason for that, I believe, is that in neither the Presidential nor Vice Presidential debate did anybody focus on women’s issues. I am a psychotherapist and specialize in women’s issues. In the Vice Presidential debate, the only recognition of women’s issues was last, got brief treatment from the moderator (a woman), and was framed as an abortion question – once again compartmentalizing women’s interest in abortion, and leaving out our stake in the economy, – jobs, Social Security, Medicare – in women’s health in general, and how that will be repealed and cut from a Romney-Ryan platform, how more women will be impacted, as women live longer than men, have less financial means, how poor women inhabit more nursing homes without any insurance, how many more women live longer disabled and how those of us who are mothers are terrified about the future of our middle-aged children. WOMEN ARE NOT JUST INTERESTED IN THE ABORTION ISSUES, ALTHOUGH WE CHERISH OUR RIGHT TO PRIVACY IN REPRODUCTIVE DECISIONSIN THE CONSTITUTION, WE ARE ALSO INTERESTED IN THE LIFETIME WOMEN’S ISSUES, WHICH REQUIRE SOME HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT! WE ARE ALSO CONCERNED FOR ALL THE WOMEN RAPED WITHOUT ANY HELP FOR CONTRACEPTION – contraception being one of the things to be denied in the Romney-Ryan budget. For God’s sake, why is that so hard to understand, if you don’t think of women as just baby popper-outers. Women have other functions. Many of us are bread-winners and care-givers at the same time and are worn out with all the duties expected of us. This is 2012 – for many of us reproduciton is over, we are deep in the same issues as any other worker or professional person.
    Some of us are old, sick and without families to help care for us, financially or healthwise. In Ohio, thanks to Kasich, nursing homes will no longer be an option to many of us. No more Passport program. Women and girls are looking at a desolate future where nobody cares about us other than their interest in taking away what few rights we have. I am so angry that President Obama did not speak up for women, because nobody else will. Let’s hear it for young, middle-aged, and old women, not defined by our ovaries and uterus. PLEASE.

    1. sdays October 15, 2012

      I would say Vote for Rommey then – And See how that works for ya. OR Stand behind Obama, those are your two choices or don’t Vote at all and that is still a vote for Rommey, we can’t be so selfish that we only think about ALL of our own issues, at least they touched on womens issues unlike Rommey and his liers, you at least know Obama is Real.

    2. Patricia Poggi October 15, 2012

      I am also a psychotherapist working primarily with poor women who desperately need a safety net away from violent relationships and abusive families. I am also elderly and am concerned about the issues that elderly women face as they are less and less able to care for all their needs. I want the Democrats to talk about all these issues women face. How can any woman feel secure voting for the anti-choice candidates?

      1. Psychareus October 15, 2012

        So good to connect with you, even though you are so far from Ohio! I don’t undersand why the President’s camplaign and debate strategy are less involved with energizing his liberal base, which is substantially female of all ages. Even people who don’t consider themselves “liberal” or “feminist,” nevertheless wholly support so-called liberal causes. They are “progressives,” in terms of values, ifnot labels. In the last debate they ignored us entirely! I have heard that women are maintaining support for Obama in Ohio, at least, but we haven’t had the appreciation or encouragement that I would hope. It is encouraging to hear from you – we have to stick together!

  4. sdays October 15, 2012

    When the American people allowed the US courts to pick their President and didn’t Get Out Raged – allowed them to start a War without cause (to them) and to hide (and there is proof of this) ballots in TX by the Bags Full – That was the Green Light for the Republican Party to do what ever they wanted to because they just found out that the American people are NOT willing to die for their causes just make a lot of noise, and then get over it, it goes away – haven’t you notice how much more brazen they have gotten with their lies and deception – the American people are the weakest in the World, they let their Government do ANYTHING to them


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