Dec 16, 2019

Focus group: These Obama/Trump voters are just Trump voters now

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SAGINAW, Mich. — Some swing voters here who voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump are firmly in Trump’s camp now — and they're sick of impeachment.

Why it matters: The two-plus hour conversation revealed major warning signs for the Democratic Party in a crucial swing county that will be a pivotal area to win in 2020.

  • This was the biggest takeaway from our Engagious/FPG focus group last week, which included 10 voters who flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.
  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, these responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial counties.

Why Saginaw matters: Trump won Saginaw County by just over 1% in 2016, and Obama won by nearly 12% in 2012.

The big picture:

  • These voters hate the fact that House Democrats are moving toward impeaching the president. They call it a distraction from the issues that would actually improve their lives, like preserving Social Security, cracking down on illegal immigration, and keeping jobs in the U.S.
  • "I think she's wasting a lot of [taxpayer] money on a ghost chase," said Chad Y., a 43-year-old Obama/Trump voter, of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The money she's spending on that could go to help the homeless or go towards health care."
  • Another participant, 73-year-0ld Michael G., said Democrats' focus is in the wrong direction. "Instead of working on policies and things that will help the people, they are just working to basically preserve their own position ... [T]hey don't really care about you and [me], I don't think."

Between the lines: These voters aren’t sick of Trump's antics like other swing voters we've talked with, and they don’t feel a sense that things need to get back to "normal" — because Trump is their new normal.

That's reinforced by the fact that:

  • They have virtually zero trust in the media's coverage of him.
  • Their support for Trump will grow, they said, even if the country enters a recession or a full-blown trade war with China.
  • And they credit Trump with making health care more affordable, thanks to — they said — his GOP tax law, which some said has saved them more in taxes so they can now reallocate that money to pay for prescription drugs.

Their responses were strikingly at odds with several other groups of Obama/Trump voters we've spoken with this year.

  • In past focus groups this year around the upper Midwest, we've heard voters say they wish Michelle Obama would run for president; they've soured on Trump's personality; and several of them have indicated they would vote for Obama over Trump in 2020 if he were allowed to run for a third term.
  • But swing voters in our focus groups from Ohio, Iowa and now Michigan have revealed a common disdain for impeachment.

What they're saying: "He's proven what he's promised over and over to us," said 38-year-old Mary D.

  • "Let him finish out the last four years. Why not? He's done good this far," said 55-year-old Karen M.
  • Others in group said they like Trump's "I-don't-give-a-s--- attitude," as one man put it.
  • Heidi L., a 66-year-old Obama/Trump voter, said she likes that "nobody bought him his presidency. He did it all himself with his own money and nobody's trying to buy him to do this or that."

While only two participants said they are definitely voting to re-elect Trump next year, the entire group said they're not excited by any of the 2020 Democrats, and no one signaled an interest in supporting a Democratic candidate.

The bottom line: The only way these folks are "swing" voters anymore is in their willingness to either sit out the next election or vote for a third-party candidate.

Go deeper

Focus group: Pennsylvania swing voters unhappy with McConnell's impeachment comments

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's public comment that he will not be an "impartial juror" in President Trump's Senate trial has alienated some swing voters here — even though they support Trump and are fed up with impeachment.

Why it matters: These voters told us they think all 100 senators on both sides of the aisle have a responsibility to be impartial under the Constitution. (Their oath requires them to promise "impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.")

Go deeperArrowJan 13, 2020

Focus group: Pennsylvania swing voters stand with Trump on Iran

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Pool

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Swing voters here are standing behind President Trump's decision to launch an airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but if it leads to all-out war they'd question the president's wisdom and handling of national security.

Why it matters: Their comments suggest these voters back Trump on the Iran strike more solidly than the public at large — though some are weary of foreign wars and made it clear they want them to end.

Go deeperArrowJan 10, 2020

Freshman House Democrat explains why she'll vote to impeach Trump

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst who was elected to the House in a swing district during the 2018 midterms, laid out her reasoning for voting to impeach President Trump this week in a Detroit Free Press op-ed on Monday.

"But in the national security world that I come from, we are trained to make hard calls on things, even if they are unpopular, if we believe the security of the country is at stake."

Why it matters: Some polls indicate voters in that Michigan, a key battleground in 2020, aren't convinced by House Democrats' argument for impeaching Trump — so Slotkin's decision could be important, especially as Cook Political Report rates her seat as a toss-up for Democrats.

Go deeper: These Michigan Obama/Trump voters are just Trump voters now

Keep ReadingArrowDec 16, 2019