WASHINGTON, D.C. — Navigator Research released findings from a series of focus groups with undecided voters in 2022 in Virginia, Arizona, and Ohio, sharing their views on the economy, education, and more. Despite broad pessimism about the direction of the country, focus group participants said there were several signs of progress made under the Biden administration.
Importantly, the focus groups pointed a way forward for President Biden to address inflation, with participants expressing receptiveness to the argument that inflation is about corporate profiteering greed as well as temporary supply chain issues. As one Biden voter in Virginia put it: “These corporations, all they want to do is profit, and they don’t care about us. They don’t care about paying us what we’re worth. They don’t care about jacking up the rent, jacking up the energy… It’s just greed… COVID happened, things changed, the economy changed, but I just think it’s just [that] they’re greedy. They’re greedy, and they don’t want to stop making mega bucks off of us.”
View the full findings here.
“These focus groups, along with other recent polling on inflation, are unquestionably warning signs for the Biden administration and congressional Democrats moving into 2022,” said Bryan Bennett, Senior Director of Polling & Analytics at the Hub Project and advisor to Navigator Research. “But they also lay out a plan for how the President and the Democratic Party needs to go on offense: they must meet the public where they are, acknowledging both that inflation is a real pain point for most Americans and that corporations are squeezing consumers and artificially driving up profits, which is convincing for two-thirds of Americans. They also need to do a better job of communicating their accomplishments like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and get the Build Back Better Act done.”
The main issues of concern for the majority of focus group participants were inflation and the rising cost of goods, with many citing the rising costs of gas and groceries as areas where they’re feeling economic hardship. When pressed to think through some things that were positive, several participants pointed to our recovery from the pandemic, vaccine distribution, rising wages, and other economic indicators like the stock market and passage of the infrastructure bill. One Ohio Trump voter said: “Numbers of people being vaccinated are going up, so I guess that’s a positive.”
There was strikingly little awareness of the Build Back Better agenda, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, or President Biden’s other accomplishments beyond vaccines; however, many participants were open to supporting Biden’s legislative agenda once they heard the specifics, including among a number of Trump voters. In all three groups, participants had heard little to nothing about Build Back Better, with some saying things like “I have no clue,” or a Trump voter in Virginia asking for a hint about what it was. One Arizona Biden voter shared having heard about universal pre-K, while another Arizona Biden voter said they had heard about vaccine mandates for government contractors when asked about what Build Back Better was.
When prompted on the specifics of what the plan could include, such as universal pre-K, expanded Medicare for seniors to include hearing coverage, Medicare being able to negotiate directly for lower drug prices, investments in mitigating climate change and green jobs, and that it would be paid for by increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Trump voters showed openness to the plan. One Virginia Trump voter said “There’s a whole bunch of stuff that I would love in it” while another Trump voter from Ohio said “I’m for the things you just mentioned. I didn’t know all that there.”
Critical race theory was not well understood, but most had heard of it and had varied perspectives. Participants had different levels of awareness on critical race theory ranging from having just heard the term to knowing that it would involve what children would learn about race in classrooms. Among those who had more about critical race theory than others, viewpoints were diverse. A Virginia Biden voter said that “you can teach about history because you don’t want to repeat it… but at the same time, you should not put a negative tone on it to make a certain person… feel bad about themselves as they are now,” while another Biden voter in Arizona had a different perspective: “I think that’s something that should always be talked about.”
About Navigator Research
The Navigator Research project is designed to act as a consistent, flexible, responsive tool to inform policy debates. By conducting research and providing reliable guidance to inform allies, elected leaders, and the press, Navigator helps top leaders in Washington and grassroots leaders around the country shape the debate on the issues that matter most. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.
About the Focus Groups
These groups were conducted virtually by GBAO on November 9, 2021 with voters in three states who voted for President in the 2020 election, but who are not extremely motivated about voting in 2022 and are undecided about how they would vote: Virginia (a mix of Trump voters and Biden voters), Ohio (Trump voters), and Arizona (Biden voters). Qualitative results are not statistically projectable.