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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups find swing voters "very troubled" over pulling George Washington's name from a public school or Dr. Seuss titles from the shelves — but fine with "canceling" My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell or "Mandalorian" actress Gina Carano.

Why it matters: Conservatives accuse progressives — and vice versa — of trying to cancel anyone who doesn't meet their purity tests. But these voters whose political loyalty is up for grabs see two distinct claims: legitimate versus frivolous.

  • "They're able to separate true outrage from manufactured outrage," said Engagious President Rich Thau, who moderated the discussion.
  • "They're able to separate attempts to redefine what's culturally acceptable, from people who are in the business of getting attention for themselves and then believing people are critical of them."
  • 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.

The big picture: 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 Joe Biden in 2020.

  • Five of the 13 said America is "under assault" by progressive activists who want to "cancel things they deem offensive."
  • All 13 said cancel culture goes both ways — with liberals trying to cancel conservatives and conservatives trying to cancel liberals.

Between the lines: None of the 13 felt that they personally had been canceled by anybody — and several were vague about how to define terms like "woke" or "cancel culture."

  • "This is a conversation that's alien to their daily lives," Thau said. "This is a media conversation. This is something that happens to others."
  • But when posed with seven different cancel-culture scenarios and asked whether they were "very troubled" about the treatment of the supposed victims, these voters had quite different takeaways about whether each was a legitimate concern or not.

By the numbers: Zero of 13 felt "very troubled" by Carano's being fired by Disney after comparing being a Republican in 2020 to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Ten of 13 were "very troubled" by a since-suspended plan in San Francisco to rename schools named for Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Other scenarios fell somewhere in between.

  • Only one sympathized deeply with Lindell, who lost major retailers after questioning the legitimacy of the election results and making a movie about election fraud. Two sided with Fox hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
  • Three worried about liberals' boycott of Goya Foods after its CEO had praised then-President Trump at an event. Five said the same about boycotting "Harry Potter" J.K. Rowling for voicing fears that transgender rights could impinge on women's rights.
  • Eight of 13 strongly opposed the decision to end publication of six old books by children's author Dr. Seuss because of concerns about offensive imagery.

What we're watching: Eleven of the 13 voters disagreed with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent declaration that corporations should "stay out of politics" — an idea he quickly walked back.

  • Some participants actually laughed out loud, while others said corporations should have the same rights to expression as individuals.
  • "You can't tell a corporation to stay out of politics and then say, 'But I still will accept your money,'" said Daniel V. from Nevada.
  • "Everyone has a right to voice their opinions," said Jamie G. from North Carolina. "It's wrong of him to try and silence that from any American."
  • The group was split on Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new voting restrictions.

Go deeper

Focus group: Red flags for Biden infrastructure plan

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.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
1 min ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

42 mins ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Seven people, including one child, have been killed in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.