Mar 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Focus groups: Wisconsin swing voters blame GOP for failed border bill

Trump and Greg Abbott

Trump speaks with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a tour of the border in Eagle Pass, Texas. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Wisconsin swing voters largely blame Republicans — and specifically Donald Trump — for Congress' failure to pass bipartisan legislation to help improve border security, according to our latest Engagious/Sago focus group.

Why it matters: Interviews with voters who backed Trump in 2016 and flipped to President Biden in 2020 suggest that Biden's State of the Union speech last week left them feeling that Trump's GOP is more responsible for Washington's lack of action.

Context: The border plan negotiated by Republican and Democratic senators became dead on arrival after Trump, the GOP's presumed presidential nominee, said he opposed it — and made clear he wanted to campaign on the chaos at the border.

  • In response, Biden vowed to tell voters "every day between now and November" that Trump and congressional Republicans were responsible for refusing to fix the crisis.
  • That includes during the State of the Union, where Biden again challenged Republicans to pass the bipartisan border bill.

Between the lines: "With the State of the Union, Biden successfully got swing voters mad at Trump for tanking a congressional deal on immigration," said Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the panels.

  • "The problem for Biden, though, is these same voters still trust Trump more to fix the border mess."
  • All 13 participants in the focus group expressed concern about the situation at America's southern border; some said illegal immigration has hurt Wisconsin.

Zoom in: Axios sat in on two Engagious/Sago online focus groups Tuesday night. The groups included six Wisconsinites who identified as independents, four Democrats and three Republicans.

  • A focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, but the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events.
  • Participants watched a three-minute excerpt from Biden's State of the Union speech in which he talked about immigration.

What they're saying: Nine of the 13 voters said they were upset with Trump for blocking efforts to find a solution to the country's immigration problem.

  • "I think [Trump] wants to come in and try to show everybody that he saved the day by passing a bill — and so he's sabotaging Biden's opportunity," Hannah H. said.
  • "He should have no say right now. He's not in office of any sorts," Brandon M. said.

And yet, most participants thought Trump would do a better job than Biden at securing the border.

  • "[Trump] seems to be more action-oriented. .... Good or bad, he just seems to be able to get more things done," Mark J. said.

The bottom line: If the election were today, most of the participants said they'd choose Biden over Trump.

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