November’s presidential election will feature something not seen in American politics in more than forty years: a Democratic candidate who enjoys some of his strongest ratings on national security. Swing voters in a new set of focus group are generally impressed with the job President Obama is doing in keeping the country safe. Yet his success has not erased old doubts or stereotypes about his party on these issues.
Obama’s strong image comes in large part from the success of the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden, along with a string of other security-related accomplishments. The Democratic Party, by contrast, continues to carry image liabilities on national security that stretch back a half century. But while there is a gap between Obama and his party on national security, there is a mirror gap for Republicans. The record of President George W. Bush has dented their strong brand on national security and leaves real doubts about what Republicans would do if they once again controlled the White House.
A new Third Way-Greenberg Quinlan Rosner report outlines key findings encouraging Democrats to welcome the debate on national security and highlighting ways Democrats can use Obama’s success to improve the party’s brand and make real gains during this election year.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, in conjunction with Third Way, conducted four focus groups: two in Cincinnati, OH on January 26; and two in Tampa, FL on February 2. The groups were composed of moderate/conservative Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans. This research is inherently qualitative in nature, and so these results are suggestive rather than definitive; yet general consistency in responses across the four groups gives us confidence in the findings presented here..