New York Times Jan. 20, 2022
How do independent voters feel about President Biden and America after his first year in office? Let’s put it this way: His weak approval ratings might go up if he pulled a Trump and just declared that America was moving on from the pandemic and he was going all in against inflation and high gas prices. Never mind about voting rights or avoiding another Jan. 6. It’s the economy, Joe.
So it seemed listening to a new Times Opinion focus group with 14 independent voters, who are far more worried about their finances than about Covid’s impact, as the transcript of the conversation below shows. Asked what they held Mr. Biden responsible for and what they would tell him if they had the chance, the independents emphasized energy prices, the economy and the importance of being a moderate, as well as a desire to avoid Covid mandates and lockdowns. The virus might not be done with America, but several of these independents are done with the virus.
The focus group was made up of people who had voted at least once for President Barack Obama and at least once for President Donald Trump. They were less furious about the state of the country than pessimistic about the future and dismissive about whether Mr. Biden and either party could improve things. “They are resigned rejecters,” Frank Luntz, a longtime strategist for Republican candidates, who led the discussion, said afterward. Senator Joe Manchin came in for some praise, Anthony Fauci came in for some criticism, and most were lukewarm on both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump running again.
Times Opinion has begun convening focus groups as part of a new series, America in Focus, to explore what voters think about the country and to expand the reach of opinion journalism to include people who often feel voiceless in the national conversation. We held focus groups with Democrats and Republicans recently about Jan. 6 and the state of democracy.
Frank Luntz: Give me a word or phrase to describe life in America today.
Scott (53, white, Florida, works in health care): Divided.
Janet (66, white, Ohio, customer service): Dismal.
Julia (50, white, Illinois, small-business owner): Disappointment.
Don (36, multiracial, Georgia, elementary school educator): Indescribable.
Tenae (44, Black, California, director of security dispatch): New normal.
Nick (43, white, Pennsylvania, merchandise designer): Burned out.
Azariah (38, Black, New York, hospitality): Stressful.
Travis (45, white, Kansas, corporate finance): Lost.
Frank Luntz: Sounds like things are pretty tough for the country. Do you guys agree with that? What’s going on here?