Focus groups: Voters’ views on the withdrawal from Afghanistan



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Some swing voters say they are deeply disappointed with the execution of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Yes, but: They don’t think former President Trump would have handled it any better than President Biden, and the issue is far less important to them than bringing the pandemic under control.

The big picture: These are some of the main takeaways from the latest edition of Axios Engaged / Schlesinger focus groups. The September 14 sessions involved 10 swing state voters across the country, who supported Trump in 2016 but switched to Biden in 2020.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters in crucial states think and talk about current events.

Why is this important: The chaos, deaths, uncertainty, images of the US withdrawal and the instantaneous rise of the Taliban grabbed the headlines. They also created a major crisis for a president who ran on the basis of his foreign policy credentials, skills, and instinct for calm and order.

  • The political question is how damaging the exit from Afghanistan will be for Biden and his party, as the mid-terms of 2022 approach when Republicans could take over one or both houses of Congress.

Details: Nine in 10 said they agreed with Biden’s decision to step down but were unhappy with the way she was executed.

  • Seven in 10 said the level of chaos was not inevitable, and that more planning would have been required for its execution.
  • Only 1 in 10 said they thought Trump would have handled the situation better.
  • All 10 voters said the pandemic would be a bigger problem for them than Afghanistan as the midterm elections approach.

What we are looking at: Voters said their perception of Biden took a hit following the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It shook their confidence in his leadership and forced them to re-engage in daily news coverage – something they had exhausted during the Trump era.

  • Voters said they rejoiced in being able to largely ignore the news – until now.
  • Stephanie C. of North Carolina, 38, said she now intends to monitor more closely the president’s handling of international affairs.
  • “I was pretty much devastated by how everything turned out,” said Elisa S. of Florida, 53.

The bottom line: “The only bright side for Biden is that they don’t think Trump would have handled the pullout any better,” said Rich Thau, chairman of Committed, who facilitated the focus groups.

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