Eight college-educated white women who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 participated in their final focus group with a Republican pollster on Tuesday.
Only one said she would vote for the president again.
Over the past two months, Republican pollster Sarah Longwell, who founded the group Republican Voters Against Trump, has been following nine undecided voters, college-educated women, who ranged in age from 30 to 60. She convened them four times, first in September and again after the first presidential debate, followed by the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now, finally, one week out from the election.
The result: Four of the original nine said they were voting for Joe Biden — one of the women, who was from Wisconsin, wasn’t able to attend the final meeting but told Longwell she planned to vote for the former vice president. (The remaining three Biden voters were from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.) One from Texas planned to vote for Trump again. Three from Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida were undecided, vacillating between voting for Biden or third party. And one from Pennsylvania said she planned to vote third party.
“The trend as we’ve gotten closer to the election has been just how many people aren’t voting for Trump again,” said Longwell.
She added that the phenomenon of a shy Biden voter is “much more likely to manifest” than a shy Trump voter.
Trump to Biden
One of the women from Pennsylvania who decided to vote for Biden said she liked his stance on renewable energy and climate change articulated at the second debate. But what really stood out to her was Biden’s response at the end of the debate when the candidates were asked what they would say to people who didn’t vote for them at their inaugural address.
“The fact that he took the time to say we’re an American nation, I’m not red, I’m not blue,” the first Pennsylvania voter said. “Donald Trump didn’t address any of that.”
The second Pennsylvanian who landed on Biden, said it came down to the coronavirus. “The latest thing with Trump’s administration was they said that they can’t contain it,” she said, appearing to refer to recent comments by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. “It sounded like they’re not even going to try to contain it.”
The pandemic was also the deciding factor for the North Carolina voter, who said “it really all started for me with the Covid diagnosis.”
Trump’s comments that the public “shouldn’t let it interrupt our lives” and that they “should move on,” were “a big problem,” said the woman from North Carolina. “Because a lot of people have died, are dying, [and] are still getting sick.”
The cocktail of therapies Trump received during his battle with the virus in early October, the North Carolina voter added, is not accessible to “the rest of us.”
“That’s not what would happen to my grandmother, your grandmother or anyone else’s.”
The one sticking with Trump
For the Texas voter, it was all about sticking with the “devil you know.”
“And Kamala Harris kind of scares me cause I think she’s going to be pulling the strings behind Joe,” she said. “We’ve got two old guys running and I do think as a person, probably Biden is a lot better person than Trump. I can’t stand Trump, but I’m just trying to go with policies, or you know, the platform.”
Pressed by Longwell on what policies she was talking about, the voter from Texas said, “trade, issues with China and taxes.”
Biden or third party
The women who were undecided, appearing to lean either third party or toward Biden, had little positive to say about the president. But some said they thought Trump performed better during the second debate.
The one participant from Florida said deep down she would feel “definite relief” if Trump lost.
“I really think I might like to see Biden win the election, but I don’t fall in line with Biden politically, in any way shape or form,” the Florida voters said. “An anti-vote … that may be where I end up.”
Another undecided voter from Arizona said she agrees with Biden’s main positions but “I don’t agree with the far liberal Democratic push that I think is going to follow him.”
“[Biden] just doesn’t come across yet as a strong leader,” she continued. “Trump is an ass, but he can hold himself.”
The one Pennsylvanian who was undecided but appeared to be leaning toward voting for Trump said she’s starting to reflect about her past voting record with Republicans. “Some days I can literally sit down and be like, I think the Democratic party might actually be more, pro-life not pro-baby, but pro-life.”
“Democrats do a better job of caring for life outside the womb in terms of immigration policy and health care for women,” she said. But Biden’s support of abortion rights appeared to be holding her back.