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The Focus Group Podcast

Author: 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.
36 Episodes
Democrats need young voters on-side to win in how is Gen Z feeling about the future of the country, and their leaders? What do young progressives and conservatives think about each other? Peter Hamby of Puck News joins Sarah to check in with a cross-section of young voters. show notes Peter's: The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman
Americans are more divided than they've been in a long time, and Sarah and our guest have heard a lot about that when they've done focus groups together this year. PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff joins Sarah for a special Thanksgiving episode to discuss how Americans are thinking of their political differences, and how we might move beyond them going into another contentious election year. show notes America at a Crossroads: What Iowa Republicans Are Thinking After Trump's Federal Indictment Iowa Republicans discuss role of politics in their lives, hopes for overcoming divisions How a group of Ohio voters are working to bridge the widening partisan divide Pennsylvania Democrats discuss nation's political divisions and their feelings for Biden
It's been difficult to be Jewish in America since October 7, so we're listening to how Jewish voters are processing this moment, and how all Americans are reacting. Bill Kristol joins Sarah to break it all down.
Ohio passed a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights this week. And the women we talked to in Ohio who voted for Sherrod Brown in 2018 and Donald Trump in 2020 showed us why. Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic joins Sarah to talk about where the abortion issue is headed in 2024...and why Sarah thinks voters "have Donald Trump's number" on abortion. show notes:
The Kentucky gubernatorial election is coming down to the wire, and a young, charismatic Democratic incumbent might have lessons for other Democrats in tough races. As luck would have it, we have our own charismatic red state Democrat to break it all down with Sarah and offer suggestions for fixing American politics: former Ohio Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan.
It seemed impossible that Donald Trump could ever make inroads with Hispanic voters, but in 2020, he did. And he could again in 2024. Ruy Teixeira— co-founder of The Liberal Patriot and co-author of the new book Where Have All the Democrats Gone— joins Sarah for a frank exchange of ideas about how Democrats can win back a community that might decide the 2024 election. show notes: Forthcoming book by Ruy and John Judis:,and%20partnership%20of%20the%20working
No one wants a Trump-Biden rematch, but it looks like we're all stuck with it. Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter joins Sarah to talk about the onetime Biden voters who might vote for Trump again.
A third-party group called No Labels might put Donald Trump back in the White House (whoops), and we have a label for that: dangerous. Matt Bennett of Third Way has been one of the leading voices against the No Labels effort. He joins Sarah to give listeners a rundown on No Labels' plans and to hear which voters are picking up what they're putting down. show notes:
We hear four consistent themes from Democrats: water is wet, Joe Biden is old, Kamala Harris is invisible, and Democrats wish their party would fight a bit harder. But we have a guest with some ideas to fix it: Jen Psaki, former White House Press Secretary, and host of Inside with Jen Psaki on MSNBC joins Sarah to hear some critiques from voters that, as Jen says, Democrats need to hear.
One of our focus group participants really prefers that the president be a man. And most of the Republican voters we talked to have only one man in mind: Donald Trump. The Bulwark's own Tim Miller joins Sarah for part two of our season premiere to break down the sorry state of the non-Trump candidates in the Republican presidential primary. show notes:
The Focus Group Podcast is BACK, and we're powering all the way through the 2024 election. For part one of our two-part season premiere, we're checking in on how Donald Trump's legal troubles have put his campaign on steroids. CNN's Jake Tapper joins Sarah to hear how much the voters care about Trump's mounting indictments (spoiler: they don't). They also discuss how the media should be covering a presidential nominee on trial, and Jake discusses his new book, All the Demons Are Here. show notes:
A year ago, Republican voters thought Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine were badasses. Now...Zelenskyy is just as bad as Putin. Tom Nichols, Professor Emeritus at the Naval War College and staff writer at The Atlantic, joins Sarah to listen to the voters' foreign policy takes. Tom is not impressed with the voters.  show notes: Tom Nichols Atlantic piece: I Supported the Invasion of Iraq Tom Nichols book: Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy Pew Research Poll: Poll on Ukraine Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Marjorie Taylor Greene wants a national divorce. We don't, but we asked our focus groups about it anyway. New York Times opinion columnist David French (literally) wrote the book on a possible national divorce. He joins Sarah to talk about whether (and how) the United States holds together; and the task of rebuilding trust in our institutions. Show notes: Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation (by David French) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Republican establishment — and many Republican voters in our focus groups — think Ron DeSantis is the answer to their prayers that they can win in 2024. But Donald Trump has a say in this matter, and he's already offering up an early taste of the kind of attacks he's planning on DeSantis. Heads-up: Those attacks are likely to go lower. What are DeSantis' vulnerabilities as a candidate? Tara Palmeri of Puck News joins Sarah to listen to the focus groups and share some of her reporting from the Trump and DeSantis camps. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ready or not, it looks like Joe Biden is running for re-election. Our swing voters liked his State of the Union speech this week, but they've got concerns under the surface. Peter Baker, Chief White Correspondent for The New York Times, joins Sarah to listen to Trump-to-Biden voters and make a broader assessment of the Biden administration's political standing. show notes: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Focus Group Podcast is on hiatus for a few more weeks, but we've been doing focus groups this whole time. We've got a preview of what you're going to hear when we come back, and we're re-upping our conversation from March with Jane Coaston of The New York Times about our never-ending culture wars. Enjoy, and we'll see you soon! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
You've heard the terms "woke" and "cancel culture" for years now. No one seems to agree on what they mean, though — which is why our guest says the culture wars will keep morphing, and they'll go on forever. New York Times opinion writer Jane Coaston joins Sarah to hear how the focus groups respond to "wokeness," "cancel culture," and...schools and drag show bans. We promise, this is NOT the episode to miss. show notes Jane Coaston: The Debate Hugh Hefner Won and William Buckley Lost Survivor: Host Jeff Probst Refuses to Say "Come On In, Guys" Teen who refuses to cite the Pledge of Allegiance Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Mike Pence seems to think that he's destined to be president. The evangelical Christians in our focus groups did NOT get the memo. McKay Coppins, staff writer at The Atlantic joins Sarah to talk about the future of social conservatism in the Republican Party and Mike Pence's 2024 prospects. show notes: "God's Plan for Mike Pence" by McKay Coppins Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Voters that we talk to are iffy about Biden running for re-election given his age, but Republicans may have even larger challenges. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joins Sarah to talk Joe Biden, the Democratic base, and the bright future of the Democratic bench. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Focus Group podcast is BACK, with a twist: We're releasing The Bulwark's first-ever poll of Republican primary voters where we're trying to figure out just how big the "Always Trump," "Maybe Trump," and "Never Trump" buckets are among Republican primary voters. For that, we brought in Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who joins Sarah to stack our poll results up against the focus groups we've done since the election. Links: Poll by The Bulwark and North Star Opinion Research of Republican Primary VotersPoll Toplines from Whit Ayres Don’t miss an episode of this season of The Focus Group with Sarah Longwell—subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts today. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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

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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