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All 13 undecided voters who watched Thursday’s debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden said that the president would be a better steward of the U.S. economy.
That bodes well for Trump, given that economic issues are among the top concerns for voters this year, according to several surveys.
The 13 voters were part of a virtual focus group convened by pollster Frank Luntz. Near the end of the session he asked them, “Who do you believe would do a better job with the economy after listening to tonight’s debate, Joe Biden or Donald Trump?”
No hands went up for Biden, but all participants raised their hands for the president.
“Clearly by that Trump is the preferred candidate,” Luntz said.
A recent survey by Gallup found that 56 percent of respondents said they were better off now than they were four years ago, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In a separate survey released earlier this month, Gallup said the economy was voters’ No. 1 concern heading into the 2020 election.
At that point, Luntz began asking participants why they are preferring President Trump over the former vice president and long-serving U.S. senator.
The president “has knowledge and a skill set to actually bring us ahead,” Jennifer from Michigan told Luntz, who hosted the virtual event with Sewell Chan of the Los Angeles Times.
“I think that prior to COVID … the first three years of his presidency, he was doing great. And then COVID happened, and our economy has obviously gone into the tanker … and if there’s somebody who’s going to get us out, I believe it’s going to be him,” she added.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth from Georgia remarked that, prior to current pandemic, the economy was “better than it has been before.”
“Our 401Ks have grown like crazy, and even in this pandemic look at the stock market — it’s crazy. Everybody had jobs … and here in Georgia, everybody can still have a job. Everywhere I go there’s ‘help wanted’ signs, everywhere,” she said.
And Tasha from Ohio said that getting the economy back on track “will take a special skill set” and that the president “has shown us that he can recover in many different areas.”
A post-debate tweet from Luntz listed participants’ one-word or one-phrase reactions to both candidates as well. Participants variously described Trump as “controlled,” “reserved,” “poised,” and “surprisingly presidential,” as well as “con artist.”
My focus group’s words to describe Trump tonight:
• “Con artist”
• “Surprisingly presidential”
Words to describe Biden tonight:
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 23, 2020
Biden was described as “vague,” “unspecific,” “elusive,” “defensive,” and “grandfatherly.”
The Times reported that Luntz selected his group based on these criteria: They are currently registered to vote in one of 11 ‘swing’ states; they are self-described as “possible” Biden or Trump voters; self-described Independents; and that they considered themselves to be “undecided” ahead of the debate. The paper also said group participants were paid $100 each for their time.
Luntz went on to tell Bloomberg News after the debate that overall, the net was a “tie,” which he said boded well for Biden because he’s currently up in national polling.
.@FrankLuntz on tonight's debate between Trump and Biden: "The net of all this is essentially a tie… and that's very good news for Joe Biden." #debates2020 https://t.co/jGnXHxOPU4 pic.twitter.com/axo6Ur14aL
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) October 23, 2020
But in that vein, in an earlier appearance in “The Interview” podcast, Luntz told Mediaite’s Aidan McLaughlin the polling industry will be “done” if Trump ends up winning again after being so wrong in 2016.
“If polling gets it wrong again, then the industry, at least for politics, is done. You can get it wrong once. And it was the exit polling they got wrong — and none of the networks want to acknowledge it,” Luntz said.
“I put out a tweet on election night of 2016 that said Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president. I was really blunt about it because exit polling had never been more than 4 percent off. And it was off in both 2000 and it was off in 2004. It was wrong,” he added.
The pollster did note that surveys got it right in terms of Clinton winning the popular vote, but the polling was wrong on a state-by-state level.
“But if they get it wrong a second time and Trump does win, I think it’s going to be very much the end of public polling in a political situation,” he said.
“There are so few undecideds left and so few people that acknowledge they could switch who they support, that Trump would have to win 100 percent of them to get back in this race,” Luntz added. “Now, I believe that there is a so-called shy Trump voter, just not nearly as much as the Trump people want to believe.”
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