Several focus groups of conservatives who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 now say the candidate has lost his luster despite the fact that they would still side with him over Joe Biden in a 2024 matchup.
The overwhelming sentiment expressed by the 14 participants in these Washington Post focus groups conducted in New Hampshire, Nevada, Iowa, and South Carolina was one of unease once the topic turned to their present-day feelings about Trump. Unlike diehard MAGA enthusiasts, these Trump 2020 voters no longer view him as the impenetrable force they once believed him to be. In fact, some find him somewhat pitiful—although they blamed his debasement on his political opponents—and many plan to vote for someone else in the GOP primary.
Looking at Trump, the vast majority of the 14 voters employed words like “frustrated,” “overwhelmed,” “fatigue,” “embarrassed,” “annoyed,” and “maddening" to describe their emotions. Just two chose "pride" and "hopeful."
Below is a sampling of their thoughts about him now when they see him on TV or computers:
- Angela, 53, from South Carolina: “That’s a hard one. That’s a hard one ... Just because of the way they’ve done him ... It’s more of an embarrassment for him for what they put him through. I feel embarrassed for him."
- Nancy, 69, from Iowa: “The current Trump is not the Trump that I voted for. I feel like he has shown some things, qualities and non-qualities, whatever, that I don’t care for now.”
- Deborah, 67, from South Carolina: “I was proud when he was our president, but you know, there’s so many things … the way they treated him and everything."
Regardless of who they blame for Trump's current cringe factor, these aren't the type of sentiments typically evoked by a winner. Among the 14 participants, three said they would vote Trump, seven chose Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, two said former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and two weren't sure.
But again, the Post described these voters as "Republicans and Republican-leaning independent registered voters" who said they were either undecided or could be convinced to change their mind. So these weren't actual Trump Kool-Aid drinkers and likely wouldn't have been among the 28% in a recent Bulwark poll who said they would reject the GOP and vote for Trump if he made a third-party bid.
In other words, even though DeSantis came out ahead among this group, that doesn't tell us much other than the fact that Trump is vulnerable. That said, he still has the clearest path to the GOP nomination and, if he wins, this group will be stuck with a nominee many of them feel very conflicted about.
How can you tell when a poll is actually high quality? Natalie Jackson, research director at PRRI, joins us on The Downballot to discuss that and more. Jackson tells us the indicators she looks for to determine whether a survey is worth taking seriously, what she thinks the future of polling aggregation ought to look like, and why white evangelical Christians are the real outliers when it comes to religious groups' views on abortion. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also break down a proposal to increase the size of the House, which has been capped at 435 members for more than a century.