Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Why fed-up Georgia voters are looking beyond Biden and Trump ahead of the debate

By 37ci3 Jun27,2024



A new focus group of Georgia voters seriously considering a third-party candidate this fall reveals how some of the one-time supporters of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have drifted away from the primary battleground, and what they can do about it. win them back.

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was a clear favorite among participants in the NBC News Deciders Focus Group, produced in partnership with Busy, Syracuse University and Sago. While all 10 voters voted for either Biden or Trump in 2020, none said they currently plan to do so again: seven currently support Kennedy, two support independent professor and activist Cornel West, and one supports Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver.

For many, their decision is not just a protest vote, but a symbol of deep disdain for mainstream party candidates, exhaustion with the country’s political system, and a desire for something different.

“I can’t vote for anyone out of conscience. … I’ve seen every one of them as president, and I don’t want to see any of them in the next four years,” said Sherry D., 50, of Roswell, who is backing Trump in 2020.

“A lot of people vote against the other, they vote for the lesser of two evils, and I just don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I really want to research and learn and I want to vote for that person, honestly, even if they don’t have a chance, even if people think they don’t have a chance, I really want to win.”

In 2020, Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Georgia since 1992. Four of the six voters in the focus group who backed Biden four years ago said they planned to vote for Kennedy, and two said they planned to vote for West. .

When asked why Biden lost votes, these voters said he didn’t follow through on campaign promises or governed more liberally than they expected. One voter criticized his support for Israel in its war against Hamas, while another questioned his ability to govern.

“I don’t believe he’s shown to be as moderate as Joe Biden, who I think I voted for. “It seems to be run by the party, and if the party wants far-left politics, that’s what they’re getting with Joe,” said Ashley M., 45, of Fayetteville.

“He’s just a shell of himself. So I’m just voting for the party itself, not even really voting for the president,” said Charles P., 41, of Ellenwood.

That sentiment echoed how 10 voters described Biden — none expressed a positive opinion when asked for word associations about the president, with most comments centered around his 81-year-old age. Although Trump, at 78, is only a few years younger than Biden, there was little discussion among attendees about the Republican’s age.

None in 10 described Trump favorably, with almost unanimous responses criticizing his character. As for the four focus group participants who voted for Trump in 2020 (three currently supporting Kennedy and one for the libertarian Oliver), there was deep disdain for his personality and conduct as president.

“It was almost like he was running the country like a TV show he was a part of. ‘You quit, you quit’. It’s just a character I don’t really like,” said Sherri D.

“I lost a lot of respect for him because of the January 6 scenario, and because I’m from Georgia, and because of the election results, because he insulted the people of our state. people,” he added.

Careasa C., 36, of Atlanta, who voted for Trump in 2020 and now supports Kennedy, said she thinks Trump will focus only on “payback” and “not care about the citizens” if re-elected.

“I know this time Trump will be on a revenge tour,” he said.

RFK Jr.’s campaign resonates

But because of how negatively these voters felt about both candidates—which was not a surprise given that they were selected because they were not particularly interested in supporting the Republican and Democratic candidates—they did not unilaterally consider a vote of support or a third option. In many cases, Kennedy and others resonated positively with these voters.

He said he sees Sherri D. Kennedy as “more in touch with the middle class” than the other two candidates, adding that she is “not tied to one of the two major parties and will be a much more unifying force for our country.”

Janely C., 29, of Kennesaw, argued that Kennedy was trying to “focus more on minorities” and “make everyone equal and have the same opportunities.”

Ashley M. noted Kennedy’s background as a lawyer that he was “willing to take on corporations and not let them dominate the economy.”

David S. similarly brought up Kennedy’s work as an environmental lawyer, while showing some sympathy for the candidate’s vaccine-skeptic stance.

“We’ve been asking our focus group participants about RFK every month, and so far most see him as an alternative to Biden or Trump, or know Kennedy’s name but admit they don’t know much about his record or platform. Georgia voters seemed different,” he said. Margaret Talev, director of the Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship at Syracuse University in Washington, said.

“They said they learned the details of his positions, from vaccines to foreign policy, and had the opportunity to listen to him or see him more,” he said. “Whether it’s a fringe group or whether RFK Jr. has been able to reach large numbers of independent-minded voters through podcasts and social media remains to be seen.”

Kennedy’s promotion vaccine conspiracy theories was one of the main reasons why his campaign was controversial. Some of Kennedy’s supporters in the focus group showed some comfort with his comments on vaccines, but while some said they largely disagreed with him on the issue, it wasn’t enough to sway them to pick someone else.

Two of West’s supporters praised his work as a professor and progressive activist.

Kerry S., 41, of Canton, who is backing Biden in 2020, said, “I love that he’s an activist, that he’s trying to bridge the gap between gender, race and class,” adding that he likes West’s criticism of capitalism.

Fadila O., 42, of Lawrenceville, who is backing Biden in 2020, added that she likes the West’s support for protests against Israel’s war in Gaza.

Asked to reconcile their votes with the reality that no minority party or independent candidate has won the presidency in modern times, voters said that this would not affect their decisions.

“Just because some people feel it’s not a real chance doesn’t mean I won’t still let my voice be heard,” Cereasa C. said.

“You have no idea how many millions of people out there might want to see a difference in this country, and our voices will matter,” he said.

“For all the noise of competitive presidential campaigns, what’s often underappreciated is how much attention the two major party candidates still have. For voters who want to see wealth inequality reduced, vaccine mandates challenged, and a more bipartisan style of government implemented, Kennedy is scratching the itch they think Biden and Trump are ignoring,” said Rich Thau. Busywho moderated the sessions.

“These disaffected voters tell us they have little idea what Biden or Trump will try to accomplish in their second term,” he said. and if he ends conflicts abroad, he is likely to gain the upper hand.”

One eye on the discussion

Besides their lack of interest in voting for Trump or Biden, all of these voters shared another similarity — their preferred candidate won’t be on stage for Thursday night’s first presidential debate. CNN announced last week only Trump and Biden qualified under voting and ballot access thresholds.

There was almost universal disappointment among focus group participants that Kennedy would not be attending.

“For four years, there are people who complain about democracy and on the one hand not supporting democracy … and then you get an opportunity and a news network says no to democracy and the parties come together to make sure we don’t have a full democracy,” Ashley M. said.

Eight in 10 voters said they would still watch the debate, but only two said the debate might change their minds.

“If I decide to vote for one of these two, the debate will be important to me to see how competent Trump is against Biden, if Biden can even hold his own in a debate,” Ashley M. added.

Charles P. noted that he is interested in seeing Trump debate because the presumptive Republican nominee has skipped every primary debate this cycle.

“I think that by some miracle, maybe they could convince me to vote for one or the other,” Sherri D. said before exhaling.

“It’s going to sound terrible, but it can be a bit of fun,” he said. “I guess I know what it’s going to be like, don’t I? But I just don’t know. I want to see it.”

Talev, director of the Syracuse Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship in Washington, added that a clear theme among these voters was frustration “not just with Biden and Trump, but with the two-party system and its effect on gridlock and politics.”

“These voters were very angry that RFK would not be on the debate stage and saw it as a collusion between the major parties and the mainstream media,” Talev said. “Many believe that his independence from both sides makes him more likely to make deals or acquisitions. In 2008, [Barack] Obama was an outsider. In 2016, Trump was an outsider. These voters see RFK as this year’s version of that.”

Prisoners don’t move the needle

They also announced that they did not move Trump’s felony conviction Nor by Biden’s son, Hunter, on the 34 counts in the New York hush money lawsuit felony weapons conviction.

Voters who have supported Trump in the past did not believe the charges against him were serious, but about half of voters overall thought the New York case was partly motivated by politics.

Neither voter said the guilty verdict changed their minds about who they would vote for, and there was little appetite for either man to be sent to prison.

“I don’t know where the prison is rehabilitating any of these kids for the crime they committed,” Ashley M. said.



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