Stories

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

Illustration of valentines heart candies with messages written on them, like TRUMP 4 EVER, MAGA and I HEART TRUMP
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.