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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some swing voters say the most important elements to preserve in Democrats' massive social spending package are the ones that would lower prescription drug costs, reduce pollution and make childcare or pre-K free or more affordable.

Yes, but: Considerably less popular among Trump-to-Biden voters: Extending the expanded child tax credit to 2025.

Driving the news: These were among the biggest takeaways from our latest Axios Engagious/Schlesinger focus group.

Why it matters: Democrats are weighing two competing approaches to trimming President Biden's original $3.5 trillion spending bill: Scale back the agenda to focus on a few big-ticket items, or spend much less on everything but keep many new programs.

  • These persuadable voters had some clear favorites.

How it works: The two focus groups conducted Tuesday included 12 men and women who live in key swing states and voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but flipped to Joe Biden in 2020.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking and talking about current events.

The big picture: Participants' answers underscored the trouble Democrats are having in getting Americans to connect the political debate to the actual menu of programs that are at stake.

  • Only four knew what the president was trying to push through Congress, and just one knew the plan name of "Build Back Better."

Details: All 12 participants supported having Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs, and 11 favored expanding Medicare to cover vision, hearing and dental.

  • Eleven supported clean energy and climate provisions and 10 said they were for universal pre-K and expanded child care.
  • But just four favored extending the pandemic-era monthly checks of up to $300 per child. The larger checks, started this spring under the American Rescue Plan, would otherwise run through the end of this year.

Between the lines: Despite the popularity of many of the programs, just three of the 12 said they want to see all of these items pass.

  • "We don’t need all of those things. Some of those aren’t cost effective, they’re kind of ridiculous,” said Jamie K., 36, from Michigan. Extending the child tax credit would be "throwing more money at people that we don’t really need to throw" and "if we just raised the minimum wage, people could survive."
  • Shifa M., 24, from Texas, said the child tax credit "is just going to promote people to stay at home and not go to work because they’re getting this free money handed to them.”
  • Three voters said they know someone who's choosing not to work because of the child tax credit.
  • "They’re going to take advantage of it, and they’re going to take on more kids," said Jeff H., 53, from Georgia.

What they’re saying: “Democrats risk alienating Trump-Biden voters next year if they extend the child tax credit beyond 2021," said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups.

  • "The party’s clean energy, Medicare, and childcare/pre-K proposals are much more popular."

The intrigue: Looking ahead to 2024, the focus group participants said given two hypothetical alternatives they would prefer President Biden stay the course and seek a second term, despite his sagging popularity, than pass the baton to Vice President Kamala Harris.

  • Only one said they could articulate Harris' role in the administration.
  • Asked about a hypothetical matchup between Harris and Trump, three said they'd vote for Harris, four said they'd go back to Trump, one said neither and four were undecided.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on financial inclusion

On Monday, November 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and executive editor Aja Whitaker-Moore discussed how the public and private sectors are expanding access to capital and services for those who’ve been excluded from the financial system, featuring Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Women’s World Banking president and CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian.

Sen. Tim Scott explained how he came to understand the importance of financial literacy, what the U.S. government can do to promote financial inclusion, and the primary issues that underbanked populations face.

  • On the role of financial literacy in setting up for future success: “Financial literacy has so much to do with your future success and your present opportunities, and having not learned those lessons early in life, I wanted to make sure that a part of my focus is on making sure that Americans today, no matter what their income, they have access to financial literacy.”
  • On helping credit worthy individuals have access to more financial opportunities: “We think about those folks who today are credit worthy, but they are credit invisible, so we want to make sure that more of your information finds itself into the credit scoring agencies’ hands, so that if you’re credit worthy, you have access to more products within the portfolio because you’ve earned it.”

Mary Ellen Iskenderian illustrated which populations are most impacted by divides in economic opportunity, how to reach women and help them gain better access to financial resources, and the rise of digital technology in banking.

  • On how the pandemic impacted economic inclusion for women: “I think one of the really seminal, important takeaways...was just how women in every geography, every age, every economic segment have really been disproportionately affected by both the health aspect of the pandemic...but also in the economic part of the pandemic. We saw unemployment rates across the globe 2 percentage points higher everywhere for women than for men.”
  • On disparities in access to digital banking: “So much of financial inclusion, financial outreach, to underserved populations today is being done through cell phone technology. But still, we’ve got a 15% gender gap in ownership of smartphones in particular.”

Axios VP of Finance and Accounting Abby Clawson hosted a View from the Top segment with TransUnion president and CEO Chris Cartwright, who conveyed ways to help more Americans become full participants in the financial ecosystem.

  • “There are a variety of non-loan financial activities that we believe should be included in the modern credit reporting system in order to expand access to that system for the tens of millions of Americans who currently don’t have it.”

Thank you TransUnion for sponsoring this event.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.