Good news for the Democrats: Despite the good will that President Reagan enjoys among the populace, his Republican Party hasn't shed its image as the party of the rich. The link is so vivid that it remains the largest obstacle to party realignment. Moreover, voters don't buy the Republicans' trickle-down approach to economic growth; they think it is "upside wrong."
Bad news for the Democrats: While voters still consider Democrats the party of the average person, that association is weakening. The Democrats are supposed to be for the little guy, but they've fallen down on the job. The deck is now stacked in favor of the rich and the poor, and the guy in the middle -- the one who has to "eat hot dogs to make the mortgage payments" -- gets lost in the shuffle.
These findings come from a dozen focus group sessions that pollster Stanley Greenberg conducted among Democrats, Democratic "defectors" and Democratic-leaning independent voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. It was underwritten in part by the National Education Association. Focus groups -- lengthy discussions with 10 or so like-minded voters -- are not scientific, but they are used as a tool to elicit deep-seated beliefs.
Other findings, which will be presented this week to the Association of Democratic State Chairs meeting here:
Sacrifice is not the mood of the moment. Each group was asked to respond to President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The most common reply was: If we're self-sufficient and not dependent on government assistance, we're already doing plenty. Don't ask for more.
Big Unions aren't the baddest guys on the block. Asked which "big" they disliked more -- business, labor or government -- participants named government almost every time. And when asked to complain about "special interests," practically no one named labor unions.