Apr 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Focus group: Red flags for Biden infrastructure plan

Illustration of a a tower of red and blue building blocks forming a tower and many of the blocks are missing

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Some swing voters say President Biden needs to better explain who'll pay for his $2 trillion infrastructure plan — and they'll only back bipartisan legislation that's paid for by corporations, not the middle class.

Why it matters: These takeaways from our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups offer crucial context for an administration basing much of its legislative strategy on polls showing Americans notionally favor spending on roads, bridges, job training and broadband access.

  • The two April 13 sessions included 13 women and men — from a mix of the most competitive swing states — who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but Biden in 2020.
  • While focus groups are not statistically significant samples like polls, their responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking and talking about national priorities and expectations for Biden.

The big picture: Democrats say they want bipartisan support for Biden's American Jobs Plan but they'll push to pass infrastructure spending legislation on party-line votes using the budget reconciliation process if Republicans won't join with them.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said Republicans won't support Biden's proposal.
  • Eight out of the 13 swing voters said infrastructure in America is in need of immediate attention. But 11 said getting bipartisan support for infrastructure legislation is very important to them. And 12 said it's very important that the bill be paid by corporations rather than middle-class Americans.
  • None said Biden is doing a good job of explaining to the public how he'll pay for his plan. None wants the federal government borrowing money to pay for it.

What they're saying: These swing voters used words like "highways," "bridges," "transportation" and "broadband" to describe how they'd define infrastructure.

  • "Part of it is creating more jobs … I agree with spending it toward that," said Luis R. from Florida.
  • Some said housing also could be considered infrastructure. Several balked at a price tag of $2 trillion or more.

The bottom line: Engagious President Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups, said swing voters "need these three assurances: Both parties in Congress will support the final infrastructure bill; it won’t be financed by more borrowing, and wealthy Americans and large corporations will pay the tab — not them."

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