Each of the focus groups — held in Iowa, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania — included 10 to 12 registered voters with mixed educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. A group in Phoenix featured only suburban women, while separate groups in Orlando were limited to seniors and suburban men. Forty-seven percent of participants voted for Trump in 2016, while 49 percent supported his then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton or third-party alternatives, according to Wes Anderson, a Republican strategist who ran the focus groups along with former Trump campaign pollster Adam Geller.
The results of the focus groups were shared by an America First official on Monday. They were conducted as congressional Democrats and Republicans sell competing narratives related to impeachment in the hopes of capturing voters who remain deeply divided over the process itself. A new NPR/PBS poll released Tuesday, for instance, found that independents are evenly split — 45 to 45 — over whether the evidence presented so far makes them more or less likely to favor impeachment.
Some participants supported the president, but turned out for Democratic congressional candidates in last year’s midterm elections. Others voted blue in the previous four elections, but are so dissatisfied with the current 2020 Democratic field they could see themselves supporting Trump.
“We screened out people who said, ‘I am committed to voting for the Democrat’ or ‘I am committed to voting for Trump,’” Anderson said in an interview.
In a focus group conducted after House Democrats took their impeachment inquiry public, participants were asked if they thought Trump should be impeached. Not a single person raised their hand, including a woman who later expressed broad disgust with the president’s behavior. (A POLITICO reporter viewed video clips and readouts that were pre-selected from more than 30 hours of footage gathered from the sessions — including some that contained anti-Trump comments from participants, who were all disclosed only with first names and last initials.)
“I don’t like everything that he says. I think he’s an ass. I think he can be a sexist. I think he degrades women in how he talks to them, and African Americans, and everyone else. But at least he’s being up front with us,” said Jennifer S., a Clinton voter from Pennsylvania.
Others described the impeachment process as “a waste of time” or too complicated to digest. Two people in the Pittsburgh group perceived impeachment as an admission by Democrats that their party lacks electable candidates heading into the 2020 presidential contest. (So far, match-up polls have found a mix of potential outcomes in states Trump carried when he first ran for office.)