What focus groups say about Joe Biden’s call


For many Joe Biden supporters this American election, beating Donald Trump has often seemed matters above all. The motley coalition of liberals, moderates and conservatives supporting the Democratic candidate is unusually large. In August, 62% of Biden contributors told YouGov their vote was primarily a vote against Trump, rather than for Biden.

This feeling has declined somewhat since the summer. YouGov asked the question again in October, after the first televised debate, and saw a marked change in the numbers. The share of Biden supporters who said their vote was mostly an anti-Trump vote fell to 54%, down 8 pts. The share of supporters who said their vote was mostly a vote in favor of Biden jumped to 44%.

So what did voters notice and like? A place to look for clues is in focus groups, such as those organized by pollsters. Peter Hart and Nicole McCleskey.

“I think [Biden’s] an honest and sincere person, ”said Alex, a former Trump voter turned supporter of Biden, during one of their sessions. “He will try to do what he can to serve his country.” Gina, a former libertarian, added: “[Biden’s] the quality of being a human, a person, is something we lacked. Everyone except Trump is right about this moment.

“Everyone but Trump” was, and continues to be, Biden’s main driver of support. But while the debates did little, if anything, to change the intention to vote, they put the character of Biden at the forefront of the campaign – a character for the most part warmly welcomed.


The same cannot be said of Trump. In a focus group for Lord Ashcroft Polls, an anonymous Trump voter, who Ashcroft says is generally not loyal to the Republican brand, has expressed unhappiness with the president’s performance. “I thought he would rise to the office and [I thought] he actually wanted to do things for the people, ”the voter said. “[Instead] it just looks like a circus – and it’s accelerating. Another 2016 funder added, “He’s done things, but I think he’s for the rich; it is not for the working middle class. I thought it was going to be more for everyone.

[See also: Can Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump?]

When it comes to Trump’s performance in the debates, voters in a focus group led by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, which included Republicans and those in the middle of the political spectrum, didn’t seem excited. Nicola, of North Carolina, said that despite his opposition to Biden and Harris’s “socialism”, his “conscience” prevented him from wanting to vote for Trump. “He’s such a mean person sometimes,” she added. Other members told the session about their unease with Trump’s “childish nature” during the first debate. However, they felt reassured by his relatively presidential stance in the second, with some even going so far as to say that was enough to keep their vote.

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While opinions on Trump are entrenched, those on Biden seem more of an afterthought. In the Ashcroft and Hart & McCleskey groups, respondents from all affiliations used phrases such as “safe choice” and “in the middle of the road” to describe the Democratic candidate, although negative descriptions such as “frail” and “Sleepy” are also common. . Natalie, a voter from Iowa, said she considered Biden a “bit wacky and a bit uncool uncle,” who, nonetheless, “you can call at midnight if your car breaks down, and he’ll come. you look for”.

Trump’s camp knows this, which is part of why he tried to tie Biden to the most “Radically liberal” aspects of the Democratic Party. Despite these efforts, at least one in ten Republican say they love Biden, and one in five doesn’t have much of an opinion. The Democratic candidate is hard to describe as a bogeyman, and in that regard, Biden is no Hillary Clinton.

Early voters overwhelmingly positive about Joe Biden

YouGov survey of registered voters. Fieldwork: October 18-20

Early voters overwhelmingly positive about Joe Biden

YouGov survey of registered voters. Fieldwork: October 18-20

A sure, middle-of-the-road candidate might not inspire the passion of his core voters or receive as many column inches as a Trump in the US or a Boris Johnson in the UK. Nonetheless, such perceptions can help neutralize these candidates and make them more acceptable to their opponent’s typical supporters. Being seen as safe and halfway can also help in times of crisis.

When asked for a word or phrase that best sums up their thoughts on Biden, two focus groups in separate rooms came up with the same description: “Fairly good.” And that just might be enough for Biden.


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