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The Focus Group Podcast

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Unfiltered, uncompromising, unexpected—The Focus Group is a look into what the average voter thinks about politics, policy, and current events. Sarah Longwell, publisher of The Bulwark, has conducted hundreds of hours of focus groups all across the country. She and a series of special guests will take you behind the glass to hear what real focus group participants have to say. https://www.thebulwark.com/podcast/focus-group/
66 Episodes
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Democrats' spin holds that the calls for Joe Biden to drop out are driven by the media, while base Democratic voters beyond Washington are committed to seeing Biden as the nominee, and there will be a backlash if he isn't. In a series of focus groups with black Democratic voters this week, we found the truth to be more complicated. Audie Cornish, host of the CNN podcast The Assignment with Audie Cornish, joins Sarah to evaluate how Democratic voters (especially black voters) are grappling with whether Joe Biden should stay in the race...and how perceptions of Kamala Harris are driving the discussion.
Joe Biden's debate performance was a disaster...and voters noticed. Sarah Longwell and Tim Miller bring you the voters' reactions and a frank discussion about the risks and rewards of Biden stepping aside as the nominee...because something in this race has to change. show notes Puck News: Biden Plunges in Swing States in Leaked Post-Debate Poll
We taped this show before Joe Biden's disastrous first debate, but its thesis still holds true: he's losing this race. To better understand why, we fielded a group of Hispanic voters who voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and are now leaning towards Trump. Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report joins Sarah to break down why these voters are giving Donald Trump a fresh look. From Amy Walter: Biden’s Slumping Poll Numbers Not Only Limited to Swing States Defectors and Double-Haters: Who Are They, and Who Can Win Them?
Utah has been something of a bulwark (pun intended) against Trumpism, but even they haven't been immune to sliding into MAGA. And now, with Sen. Mitt Romney retiring, Republican voters are poised to pick a new U.S. senator there. The Atlantic's McKay Coppins joins Sarah to break down how Utah Republicans are different, and where they might go from here. They also discuss voters' assessments of Romney as he prepares to leave office.
One of the Republican Party's biggest long-term problems is that their base is demanding behavior that swing voters won't tolerate, and few things have brought out this gap better than Donald Trump's recent conviction. The Washington Post's Isaac Arnsdorf joins Sarah to discuss what the MAGA base expects out of politicians these days, and how swing voters are reacting. show notes: Isaac Arnsdorf's Book: Finish What We Started: The MAGA Movement’s Ground War to End Democracy
When Donald Trump's 34 felony convictions were handed down, we had focus groups ready to talk about them. PBS Newshour's Laura Barrón-López joins Sarah to listen to swing voters' reactions to Trump's conviction, and to the start of Hunter Biden's federal trial. show notes PBS Newshour: How Republican voters feel about Trump and the election after his conviction
We have five months to go until Election Day, and nobody's happy. So we're bringing you some catharsis. Jonathan V. Last joins Sarah to let out a primal scream and preview the home stretch of this presidential campaign through the lens of Trump '16/Biden '20 voters. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. Focus Group Podcast listeners can get 10% off their first month at BetterHelp.com/thefocusgroup
North Carolina Republicans have nominated a candidate for governor who might be crazier than all of the Republicans who ran in 2022. And that's saying something. POLITICO's Zach Montellaro joins Sarah to walk through Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson's political rise, and how his supporters and GOP detractors feel about him. show notes: Zach Montellaro in POLITICO: The most important governor’s race of 2024 is about to have its own version of Trump Jessica Piper and Zach Montellaro in POLITICO: Trump’s weaknesses with GOP voters go beyond the suburbs
2024's college graduates started their college careers with COVID, and ended them with encampments on most of their campuses. Tim Miller joins Sarah to discuss how America's youth have dealt with a turbulent few years, how they view the recent protests on their campuses, and their thoughts on November's election.
One of Sarah's favorite Republicans, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, is running for the U.S. Senate. So how are Sarah, and her fellow Maryland voters thinking about this race? Former Maryland Lt. Governor (and RNC chairman) Michael Steele joins Sarah to discuss how left-leaning Marylanders who've voted for Hogan before are thinking about his Senate bid, and his Democratic challengers.
Donald Trump said that Nikki Haley's supporters would be "permanently barred" from the MAGA camp...and he's keeping that promise in the general election. Bulwark MAGA-world correspondent Marc Caputo joins Sarah to listen to Nikki Haley's base...those that are abandoning Trump in the general election, and those that are sticking with him.
Abortion has become a defining feature of the 2024 election in Arizona, and Arizona women know it. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona-based democracy reporter for the Washington Post, joins Sarah to walk through the implications of the Arizona Supreme Court re-instituting an 1864 ban on abortion in the state. Editor's note: This show was taped before the Arizona House voted to repeal the ban on April 24. show notes: The Post's Inside the GOP reckoning over Arizona’s 1864 abortion ban
Voters have gotten long looks at both Donald Trump and Joe Biden representing America on the world stage, so what did swing voters see? Bill Kristol joins Sarah to talk about the foreign policy stakes of the 2024 election, and how voters think about the War in Ukraine and America's role in it. This show was recorded before Iran's April 13-14 attack on Israel.
Some voters in recent Democratic primaries have been upset with Joe Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Whether and how he can bring them back onside in November is an open question. Pod Save America co-host Tommy Vietor joins Sarah to break down a small but critical part of the Democratic coalition, why they're upset, and what it could mean in November.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is shaking up the presidential race...and no one knows what his impact is going to be. So we talked to former Trump voters and former Biden voters who are giving Kennedy a look. Astead Herndon, host of the New York Times politics podcast The Run-Up joins Sarah to discuss his recent interview with Kennedy and how the voters are thinking about him. Show Notes: The Run-Up: Don't Ask RFK Jr. About Being a Spoiler
The House recently passed a bill that could lead to a ban on TikTok in the U.S. It made for strange bedfellows (Lauren Boebert voted for it, and President Biden would sign it). It takes a lot to get them to agree…but the voters we talked to didn’t get the memo. Bulwark White House correspondent Andrew Egger joins Sarah to break down a weird and important debate in Washington.
Sarah's trying to convince former Trump voters to abandon him in November, through a campaign called Republican Voters Against Trump. It's a tall order, but luckily she's done it before. The Bulwark's own Tim Miller, who was the political director of Republican Voters Against Trump in 2020, joins Sarah to discuss the theory behind RVAT and how anti-Trump forces can capitalize on recent good news for Biden. show notes Republican Voters Against Trump October 2023 Focus Group Podcast with Amy Walter New York Times: Anti-Trump Group of Republicans Lays Out $50 Million Plan of Attack
The Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio is heating up...unexpectedly. Cleveland-area businessman Bernie Moreno is on the ropes despite Trump's endorsement. And despite voters being mad about the Cleveland Guardians (née Indians) name change, a member of the ownership family is still in the ballgame (pun intended). NBC News senior political reporter and Ohio native Henry Gomez joins Sarah to break down this primary and preview what will be one of November's biggest Senate races.
Donald Trump is polling better with Black voters than he used to, so we fielded a focus group of Black voters who are warming up to him...after not voting for him in 2016 or 2020. Ashley Allison, former Biden-Harris campaign official and CNN commentator, joins Sarah to discuss why some Black voters are souring on the Democratic Party.
California's U.S. Senate race is a battle royal for small-dollar Democratic donors, between Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter...but they're both boosting certain Republican candidates to gain an advantage in this race. California also has a governor who's scheming to run for president in 2028. Pod Save America's Jon Favreau joins Sarah to discuss California's present Democratic stars and their futures on the national stage. show notes: Pod Save America Offline with Jon Favreau The Wilderness
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Comments (2)

Tim Dall

I know this isn't the way focus groups work, but I just wanted to jump into the podcast to press these people to articulate just exactly how they would enumerate "Trump policies" and "Republican principles". All I heard was "this is your brain on Fox", aped talking point after aped talking point.

May 10th
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Tim Dall

I'm curious - is there any kind of sociological study that shows the overlap between GOP voters and irrational/conspiratorial thought? just seems that when a Democrat loses an election, Democratic voters are not anywhere near as predestined to default to this argument of a rigged election.

Mar 29th
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