Jul 15, 2019

Focus group: Trump's immigration edge

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WARREN, Mich. — The majority of a group of 12 swing voters we spoke to here said they think President Trump is handling the immigration crisis "professionally and responsibly.”

Why it matters: By all accounts, immigration is and will be one of the most important issues of the 2020 presidential election — and it could help Trump win over even some voters who haven't always supported Republicans.

  • That was the main takeaway from the latest Engagious/FPG focus group I watched here last week, which included nine people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in '16, and three who flipped from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

Why Warren matters: This town is a small blue area in a red county. It narrowly went for Clinton 51.9% to Trump's 42.7%, but Trump won Macomb County by 48,351 votes. Warren was one of the most divided areas in the county.

Immigration came up many times when these swing voters were asked to discuss their top issue heading into the presidential election. Their responses sounded a lot like the "America First" message President Trump has been championing.

  • And the room got really animated when discussing their opposition to 2020 Democrats proposing to give health care to undocumented immigrants. "Why would you want to give it to another person from a different country for free?" Larry S. asked.
  • "Give them free benefits, this that and the other thing. That is ridiculous," said Rhonda H. "They’ll come from anywhere and get a house and a car, too."

What they're saying: "We need to focus on Americans and not the immigrants," said Paul T.

  • "We shouldn’t give away our birthright like candy," said Shawn M. "Meaning that all they have to do is cross the border illegally, pop out a kid, and they’re a U.S. citizen. Two illegals do not a citizen make," she added.
  • "I don’t want to be a jerk," said Rhonda H. "I feel terrible for these people, but there are people in this country who are struggling to survive. We need to focus on the United States."
  • Others mentioned veterans or homeless people in the U.S. who they thought she be prioritized over immigrants. "Veterans ... need more help. So that kind of, that doesn't make me happy that they really haven't done more" for them, said Kathleen R.
  • A few others bemoaned the "endless supply" of migrants who make their way to the U.S. "There’s no end in sight," said Patricia B., a Romney-Clinton voter. "It’s just a frustrating, endless amount of people."
  • Larry S., an Obama-Trump voter, said he's noticed an increase in "foreigners" among Michigan's population. "We’re helping everybody else, so they’re coming here for free and we're babying them," he said. "It’s time that we stop. We gotta think about us first."
  • Even those who disagree with the president's way of handling it found agreement. "His stance on immigration is a little too far for me, but I tend to agree with it," said Anthony O. "His grandparents came from Italy 'the right way,' so to see people not following the rules … I have a problem with that."

Eight of these participants, including one Romney-Clinton voter, agreed with this statement: "When we give migrants food, clothing, toiletries, and shelter, all we’re doing is encouraging more of them to come to the U.S., and we don’t want that."

Go deeper: Trump isn't matching Obama deportation numbers

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Focus group: Trump's vulnerabilities with Minnesota swing voters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

EDINA, Minn. — President Trump's absence of a plan on health care and on Social Security — compounded with voters' economic anxiety about a looming recession — could make him vulnerable with some swing voters here come 2020.

  • That was the main takeaway from our Engagious/FPG focus group last week, which included 7 people who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and 4 who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

Why it matters: These voters don't feel that Trump is talking about the issues they care about most.

Go deeperArrowAug 12, 2019

Focus group: It's still the economy, stupid

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

WARREN, Mich. — Some swing voters here told us that even though they hate President Trump's behavior, they'll place more importance on the state of the economy — and their personal financial situations — when deciding how to vote in 2020.

Why it matters: This highlights the challenge for Democrats who relish the opportunity to label Trump as "lawless" or a "divider-in-chief." Every incumbent president since FDR who has avoided a recession in the lead-up to an election year was re-elected.

Go deeperArrowJul 19, 2019

Focus group: Minnesota swing voters want stronger gun control

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

EDINA, Minn. — After three deadly mass shootings in one week, some swing voters here are ready to ban assault weapons and institute federal background checks on all gun purchases.

  • That was one of the main takeaways from our Engagious/FPG focus group on Monday, which included 7 people who flipped from Barack Obama to Donald Trump and 4 who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.

Why it matters: While this is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters want the government to respond to the mass shootings that have shocked the nation. But there's still a long way for Congress to go before solutions like these are implemented.

Go deeperArrowAug 7, 2019