Top Five Dial Testing Takeaways from Dubuque Swing Voters

Dialsmith is the technology partner and dial testing services provider for the Swing Voter Project—an ongoing, national study being conducted by Engagious and Focus Pointe Global. The project features monthly focus groups set in key battleground districts across the Midwest and Florida. The first group was conducted this past March with new groups to be held every month through the 2020 Election. Full summary reports and video clips from each group can be found on the Swing Voter Project page, but if you want to know what the top dial testing takeaways from the most recent swing voter focus group, you’ve come to the right place.

Our latest stop on our swing voter focus group road tour took us to Dubuque, Iowa, where the presidential primary season officially kicks off in less than three months. Unlike our previous focus groups, this was a smaller, more intimate group of 5 swing voters: four who voter for President Obama in 2012 and then President Trump in 2016, and one who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and then Hillary Clinton in 2016. While the format for this group was more like a roundtable discussion, participants still answered a series of scale-based, discreet choice and moment-to-moment questions using our Perception Analyzer dials. The dial testing revealed some expected results as well as a few surprises. Here are our top takeaways from the Dubuque group:

Takeaway #1: Trump scores low on healthcare but “Medicare for All” not the answer

Similar to what we’ve seen in earlier swing voter groups, these Iowa swing voters don’t think the president has done enough to make healthcare more affordable for them and their families. On a scale from zero (“not at all satisfied”) to ten (“very satisfied”), Obama-Trump voters scored the president’s efforts a 4.5 out of 10. The Romney-Clinton voter scored the president’s efforst a 2.0 out of 10.

While these swing voters are not pleased with the current state of their healthcare, they are not buying into the idea of eliminating private health insurance and replacing it with “Medicare for All.” On a scale from zero (“totally oppose”) to ten (“totally support”), Obama-Trump voters’ support for “Medicare for All” scored a 4.5 while the Romney-Clinton voter gave it an even lower score of 3.0.

Takeaway #2: These swing voters are troubled by the Trump-Ukraine allegations

An interesting moment with the group came when they were given a statement to read about the Trump-Ukraine allegations and then asked a question to rate using the dials. The statement read:

The allegation against President Trump is that in a July 25 telephone call, he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to “look into” allegations of wrongdoing by Joe Biden, a potential 2020 competitor, and Biden’s son Hunter. A week or more before the call, Trump had directed the withholding of $391 million in military and security aid that Congress had approved to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. (Ukraine’s leaders reportedly found out about the withholding of funds in early August; the money was ultimately dispersed to Ukraine on September 11.) President Trump, in that July 25 call and through other actions, was allegedly using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.

Based on the follow-up dial results, participants in the group found these allegations troubling. They were asked to rate how they feel about these allegations on a scale of zero (“not at all troubling”) to ten (“very troubling”). Obama-Trump voters scored it a 6.8 and the Romney-Clinton voter scored it a 10.

Takeaway #3: Obama-Trump voters confidence in Trump is fading

There are some standard dial questions we ask to each swing voter group. Two of those questions have to do with the president and future elections. Typically the dial scores on these question have shown voter loyalty with Obama-Trump voters continuing to back Trump and Romney-Clinton voters continuing to back anyone but Trump. So, the responses to this months questions were notable in that the typical voter loyalty seems to be fading.

The first dial question asked:

Imagine I gave you $100, and told you to place a $100 bet on the outcome of the 2020 election. Which candidate or party do you expect to win in November 2020, and how confident are you in your expectation?

Participants answered on a scale from zero (“Totally confident the Democratic nominee will win”) to ten (“Totally confident President Trump will win?). Obama-Trump voters scored this 4.0, indicating that, on average, they are not confident that Trump will win the election.

The second dial question asked:

I want you to think for a moment about an adult in your life you can talk to about anything, including politics, and do so comfortably, without feeling at all awkward. On a scale from zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend that person vote for President Trump in 2020?

Participants answered on a scale from zero (“Not at all likely”) to ten (“Very likely”). Interestingly, Obama-Trump voters scored this 3.8/10, indicating that, on average, they are more likely to not recommend voting for President Trump in 2020.

Takeaway #4 Obama-Trump voters are happy with current state of the economy but not optimistic it will last

The group answered a series of dial questions to gauge their impression of the economy. The first question asked the participants to rate how they feel the economy has performed since Trump took office. They rated on a scale of zero (“Gotten much worse”) to ten (“Gotten much better”). As you can see below, Obama-Trump voters give the economy pretty high marks.

But when asked about how likely it is that the US economy will enter a recession sometime within the next year, the response was less positive. On a scale from zero (“no chance it will enter a recession”) to ten (“it’s already in a recession”), the Obama-Trump voters in the group scored it a 7.0. They also indicated they have become less confident in President Trump’s handling of the economy over the last several months, scoring the President’s recent handling of the economy a 4.8 on a scale from zero (“Less confident”) to ten (“More confident”).

Takeaway #5 Trump’s trade war could cost him votes

The dial results from this group indicate the president could be vulnerable on his trade policies. When asked if President Trump’s actions on trade will affect how they vote in the next election. On a scale from zero (“Have no impact on my vote”) to ten (“have a significant impact on my vote”), Obama-Trump voters scored this a 6.8.

They also rated how much they support or oppose the tariffs the Trump Administration has placed on the imports of certain goods, on a scale from zero (“totally oppose”) to ten (“totally support”). The Obama-Trump voters scored this 4.8. Additionally, Obama-Trump voters believe the Trump Administration’s trade policies have been bad for Iowa farmers, scoring it a low 1.8 on a scale form zero (“Very bad for Iowa farmers”) to ten (“Very good for Iowa farmers”).

If you’d like to download the full summary from the Dubuque swing voter group and/or view video highlights, visit the Swing Voter Project page. You can also view the full series of dial testing results from the democratic debates on this YouTube channel.

If you’d like to chat with our team about how can help you find out what voters are thinking about anything from campaign speeches and ads to public policy messaging, please let us know. And please stay tuned for our top dial testing takeaways from next month’s Swing Voter Insights group as our team heads back to Michigan.