Democratic Message Problems

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It seems that President Obama’s car-in-a-ditch metaphor is more clever than it is effective. Check out these results from recent message-testing by Democracy Corps, the polling firm of James Carville and Stan Greenberg:

For some, going back to four years ago does not look so uninviting right now:  “I was doing a heckavah lot better under Bush.”

“Who wouldn’t want to go back to 6 or 8 years ago?  There was less unemployment back then.  I’d rather go back.  I’d go back to 8 years ago.  I would rather go backwards than forwards right now.” White non-college female.

Because a “go forward” framework implies that Democrats and Congress have made progress those voters do not feel, the message re-enforces the Republican framework for the election – a referendum on the Democrats’ performance on the economy.  In the experiment described above (where voters read the two Republican messages and the two Democratic ‘go forward, not back’ messages), votes shifted to the Republicans not only on which party can best handle the economy but also on the congressional vote.  The 5 percent who shifted to the Democrats was exceeded by the 7 percent of voters who moved to the Republicans – a net negative 2-point worsening of the race.