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How Americans heard Donald Trump’s First Speech to Congress

President Donald Trump’s first speech to the joint session of Congress left many in the room pleasantly surprised.

Trump’s optimistic – at times conciliatory – tone built some much-needed consensus among political leaders and media pundits, who otherwise responded down traditional party lines.

But what did everyday Americans think of Trump’s performance?  What version of the unpredictable president did voters across the ideological spectrum see and hear?

Luntz Global held a focus group in Los Angeles with a group of 21 voters (11 voted for Trump, nine voted for Clinton, and one did not vote for either) who watched the speech in real time and registered their reactions on handheld dial technology.  On a zero to 100 scale, they turn their dials according to how persuasive and impactful the message is.  The more persuasive and impactful, the higher the score.  The less persuasive, the lower the score.  50 is the baseline, or “neutral.”

The group was still deeply divided on specific issues – healthcare, immigration, and the border wall.  But there were also moments when Trump’s message resonated more with Democrat-leaning voters than Republican-leaning voters.  Those scenarios led to contentious arguments between the participants, as the CBS video clips above will show.

But the dials also reveal points of consensus – when the red and green lines climb simultaneously.  Many in the group – including Clinton voters – said the speech made Trump sound more “presidential.”  That’s how we identify the most effective phrases, positions, and even specific words that work.  And it’s how we know this speech was, as a whole, a success for the White House.