Aug 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida swing voters: Bring on the search warrants

Illustration of President Trump with a giant gavel over his head
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Florida swing voters in our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups said the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago was justified — and that it would be a "serious crime" if former President Trump did take classified documents from the White House.

Why it matters: Trump's GOP allies are almost universally echoing his unsubstantiated claims of law enforcement overreach or politicization. The aggressive rhetoric may be boosting Trump's base support and fundraising, but it's not cutting through for this mix of Democrats, independents and Republicans who once backed him.

Details: Eleven of 12 participants said it was appropriate for the FBI to execute a signed search warrant at the home of the former president — and that it would be a serious crime to take documents from the White House in an unauthorized fashion even if that person previously held the office.

  • None said they would support Trump if he ran again.

How it works: Engagious/Schlesinger conducted two online focus groups on Tuesday night with 12 Floridians who voted for Trump in 2016 then Joe Biden in 2020.

  • One is now registered as a Republican, four as independents and seven as Democrats.
  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events.

What they're saying: "Just because he was president doesn't mean he should get a pass," said Sharelle H., 35. "I feel like he should be made an example of because he's human and a citizen just like all of us."

  • Lilly L., 36, said the FBI "must have had a really good reason to go inside his home" and "wouldn't do that out of the blue."
  • Chris W., 49, said when it comes to Trump's handling of sensitive documents, "He has a kind of cavalier attitude with things like that. ... I wouldn't be surprised if he has a stash of a bunch of files. ... I don't trust the guy."
  • Luis H., 37, said he thinks Trump was "hiding stuff about Jan. 6."

Flashback: In July, 10 of 14 Wisconsin swing voters said Trump should be prosecuted for his attempts to overturn the 2020 election and role in the attack on the Capitol; 10 of 13 Arizona swing voters said the same in June.

  • "In supporting the FBI raid, these Florida swing voters resemble the overwhelming majority of Trump-to-Biden voters we interviewed in Arizona in June and Wisconsin in July who want to see Trump prosecuted for Jan. 6," said Rich Thau, president of Engagious and moderator of the focus groups. 

The big picture: These focus group participants weren't just sour on Trump. Nearly all said they'd prefer Democrat Charlie Crist to incumbent Ron DeSantis in this year's governor's race and none said they wanted DeSantis to be the next president.

  • Many took issue with DeSantis' stances on social issues, including the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill and abortion restrictions.
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