• Focus Groups

Focus Group Report: Heading into Midterms, Democrats Were Motivated by Republican Attacks on Rights and Democracy

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 By Bryan Bennett
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Welcome to NAVIGATOR – a project designed to better understand the American public’s views on issues of the day and help advocates, elected officials, and other interested parties understand the language, imagery, and messaging needed to make and win key policy arguments.

Key takeaways

  • Democrats are acutely worried about abortion, extremist Republicans, and political division.
  • Some see economic improvements, while others feel pessimistic.
  • Discussing the “middle class” further reveals pessimism about economic inequality.
  • Democrats see their own party as looking out for “regular people,” while Republicans look out for the wealthy.
  • But knowledge of Democrats’ economic policies is extremely limited.


On October 20, 2022, GBAO conducted three focus groups online with Democratic and Independent voters who varied across demographics—age, education, and race.

Democrats Generally Unhappy About The Direction Of The Country; Concerns About Division, Abortion Rights, And Extremist Republicans

There Is Some Limited Optimism About The Economy “Improving” Or A Sign Of “Biden Having Some Good Ideas”

Many Feel Younger People Have It Harder Now Than Their Own Or Their Parents’ Generations

Most Use Personal Indicators Rather Than Macro Ones To Determine How The Economy Is Doing

Democrats See Their Party As Focused On Investing In Everyone, Particularly “Regular,” “Average” People

The Democratic Approach Is Like “A Dog” – Loyal, Caring; The Republican Approach Is Compared To A “Snake,” “Vulture,” Or “Pig”

However, Few Democrats Can Describe Legislative Victories Like The Inflation Reduction Act, And Next To No One Can Name Its Components

Inflation Reduction Act Components

People Are Surprised And Like The Inflation Reduction Act; Even If Some Don’t See Themselves Reflected In The Programs, They Assume The Economy Will Benefit

Democrats Also See The Republican Approach As Looking Out For The Wealthy

The Middle Class Is Not An Income Definition, But A Sign One Can Afford The Basics Plus Some Extras

Now, People See Middle Class As No Longer Able To Afford These Things, Spurring A Discussion About The Phrase Itself

“Working Class” Sounds Like A Job Category, Like Blue Collar Or Service Jobs, But For Others, It’s Interchangeable With “Middle Class”

Unprompted, Many Cite Corporate Greed As Driving Economic Challenges And Inequality

“Middle-Rigged” Message Mostly Positive And Democratic; However, Some Wonder If It Unfairly Excludes Some Groups

There Is Clear Support For Student Loan Forgiveness, Even Among Those Who Paid Off Their Loans And Wish They Had The Benefit

Despite These Results, More Were Motivated To Stop Republicans Than Because Of Excitement About Democrats’ Agenda

Abortion Continues To Be A Huge Driver For Democrats

Most Worry About Republicans Being “Batshit Crazy” On Democracy And Rights

About The Study

GBAO conducted three online focus groups on October 20, 2022 with Democrats and Independents in three states: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arizona. Some quotes have been lightly edited for brevity. Qualitative results are not statistically projectable.

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About Navigator

In a world where the news cycle is the length of a tweet, our leaders often lack the real-time public-sentiment analysis to shape the best approaches to talking about the issues that matter the most. Navigator is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates by conducting research and reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press. Navigator is a project led by pollsters from Global Strategy Group and GBAO along with an advisory committee, including: Andrea Purse, progressive strategist; Arkadi Gerney, The Hub Project; Joel Payne, The Hub Project; Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List; Delvone Michael, Working Families; Felicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute; Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO; Jesse Ferguson, progressive strategist; Navin Nayak, Center for American Progress Action Fund; Stephanie Valencia, EquisLabs; and Melanie Newman, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

For press inquiries contact: press@navigatorresearch.org