Some North Carolina swing voters who had lost faith in President Biden are expressing a renewed affinity for his leadership, according to our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups.
Why is this important: If this trend continues, it could benefit Democrats midterm in November.
The big picture: Democrats’ passage of the Cut Inflation Act, sharp declines in gasoline prices after spikes earlier this year and cooling inflation (ahead of this week’s unexpected reading) give to Biden which amounts to a second chance.
- In speeches, social media posts and campaign ads, Biden and his party have highlighted provisions in the bill that raise taxes on big business, cut prescription drug costs and fight climate change – insisting that this will reduce inflation and the deficit.
- The landmark legislation passed just weeks before the president delivered something else his grassroots voters have been waiting for: student loan debt forgiveness.
Drive the news: Seven of 11 North Carolina residents who participated in two online focus groups conducted by Engagious/Schlesinger said they felt better about the way things were going after these developments.
- Two of the others said that where they live prices are still high and they haven’t felt any real relief yet.
- All 11 said they had no regrets about voting for Biden. None have said they will back former President Trump in a notional rematch in 2024.
How it works: The groups were made up of eight independents, two registered Democrats and one registered Republican, all of whom backed Trump in 2016 and moved to Biden in 2020.
- Although a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters think and talk about current events.
What they say : Jennifer L. said she got “a little nervous” during Biden’s presidency because “he wasn’t really accomplishing the things he set out to accomplish.” Now, thanks to readily available COVID tests and falling unemployment, she thinks “things are looking up and getting better.”
- “We are seeing some relief from gasoline prices. I feel like [Biden] better understands what is happening and its impact on the people he represents,” said Marie B.
- Kayla L. mentioned student debt relief and agreed that lower gas prices are personally helpful because her husband drives 45 minutes to work each way. “We’re starting to see what he promised us, at least a little bit,” she said.
- Rachid O., who says he drives a lot for his job, thinks the president “is more committed than before”.
- Theo G. cited Biden’s success in reaching a deal on the Cut Inflation Act with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) as one of the president’s key strengths. “It seems like he’s able to bring people together…and then make changes.”
Between the lines: The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Trump’s reappearance in daily headlines turned many of the GOP attendees away.
- It has helped reposition Biden in their eyes as an alternative to a power structure they actively don’t want, rather than a status quo leader who has failed to live up to their early hopes.
- Some attendees said they would vote for Democrat Cheri Beasley over Rep. Ted Budd (RN.C.) in the state U.S. Senate race — simply because Trump endorsed Budd. “I would probably be more inclined not to vote for them. It would kind of heighten my suspicions about this candidate,” Stephanie M.
The bottom line: “One of the hardest things to do in politics is to win back supporters who have lost faith in you, but for the first time under Biden’s presidency, we are hearing the sounds of a budding rebound,” said Rich Thau. , president of Engagious, who moderates the discussion groups.
But, but, but: Biden’s approval rating remains underwater in North Carolina. And some of the attendees said they are still feeling the effects of inflation in their counties.
- If economic conditions worsen before November, that could translate to votes for Republicans.