As the the Wall Street Journal reports, the YG Network today released the results of focus groups of middle-class Swing and Tea Party participants, which we commissioned as part of a larger effort to develop and advocate for YG Network’s next-generation conservative agenda.
Not surprisingly, far from having their minds on the day-to-day maneuvering within the nation’s capital, middle-class Americans of both Swing and Tea Party categories are overwhelmingly focused on the continuing challenges facing themselves and their families. They are concerned not only for their own economic wellbeing and happiness, but that of their children, as well as for the security and health of their parents who are, or soon will be, dependent on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, participants “in both [the Tea Party and Swing] categories expressed concern about the rising costs of higher education, with college loans saddling many of these middle-class households with insurmountable debts.” On the question of “whether Washington should focus on deficit reduction or economic growth, even the tea party groups split over which priority to pursue. ‘I can’t choose,’ said one participant in Palm Beach. ‘I think both should happen.’ In a similar vein, both groups think Medicare needs to be reformed, but there was general opposition in both sets of focus groups to any benefit cuts. Instead, they favored some form of enhanced competition.’”
The focus groups were conducted between June 24th and July 1st by McLaughlin & Associates, and included participants from four areas of the country: Phoenix, Ariz.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Manassas, Va. In each city, one group consisted of swing respondents and the second group consisted of Tea Party respondents. The Virginia groups were composed of women only. (Click here to read YG Network’s memo summarizing the findings, and click here to view a more detailed presentation.)
“By now, we all know the sad reality: middle-class families continue to feel the pain of a lagging economy, struggling daily with challenges such as a lack of opportunity, wage stagnation, and rising costs for everything from food, to gas, to childcare and higher education,” said YG Network’s John Murray in his memo today. “But in the face of these very real problems, Washington liberals continue to offer little more than false hope. Case in point: President Obama and his allies are busy promoting their same tired, broken-down agenda—relying on cynical re-packaging and re-branding efforts in the absence of any useful ideas. The need has never been greater for the YG Network’s conservative vision that cares about solving problems and producing results.”
At many points during these focus groups, the resentment felt by middle-class participants—Tea Party and Swing alike—as they weighed their predicaments against those of both the poor and the wealthy/elites, proved not only palpable but genuinely emotional. Almost all participants were pessimistic about the direction in which our country is headed. Almost all agreed that their children would be worse off than they are themselves, and many seemed on the verge of giving up altogether on the idea that Washington might get its act together. Universally, the underlying values folks are seeking right now—and which they see as sorely lacking in Washington and among political, business and cultural elites—are caring and fairness. There is an urgent demand for leaders who understand what these forgotten Americans are going through, who demonstrate with actions and not simply words that they care, and who seek solutions that are fair to the hard-working middle- class families who represent the backbone of our country.
But as the Wall Street Journal also notes, “despite their deep pessimism about the direction of the country, all but two of the 70 focus group participants favored a more upbeat narrative about the future of the country, believing ‘the middle class can achieve their aspirations’ through ‘smart reforms.’” In the weeks and months ahead, YG Network plans to continue engaging middle-class Americans in order to understand the scope of families’ challenges and incorporate them into solutions that meet this urgent demand and put middle-class families first.