Several recent focus group of independents in Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin suggest House Republicans are perfectly poised to dig their own graves in 2024 with this critical bloc of voters.
The overwhelming vibe from these groups, conducted on behalf of Navigator Research, was confusion, dismay, and even anger from independent voters once they became aware of House GOP priorities in the upcoming Congress. It’s certainly not the way any newly minted majority wants to kick off their opening bid to retake the White House in 2024, unless of course your caucus is rife with self-consumed maniacs.
Generally speaking, independents in the groups expressed continued concern about the state of the country, describing it as "sad" and "dismal." Their grim mood likely only heightens their sense of urgency for serious people to do serious work on their behalf in Washington.
Instead, these independent voters are stuck with House Republicans running the show. Initially, participants in the focus groups didn’t have much of a handle on what House Republicans plan to do with their majority, though they were quite familiar with the speakership debacle and individual GOP members such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and George Santos of New York.
But as these voters became more aware of House Republicans’ agenda, their comments indicate they will feel betrayed by the policies the GOP majority plans to pursue.
In terms of GOP investigations, independents were somewhat open to examinations of U.S. trade practices with China, immigration and the southern border, and wasteful spending. But after being shown a list of probes proposed by Republicans, participants viewed them more as partisan warfare than any serious effort at conducting oversight. Worse yet, participants said the GOP investigations seemed entirely out of sync with the needs of everyday Americans.
Below are the direct responses of participants on several subject areas explored in the focus groups.
On the proposed GOP inquiries
- One Virginia participant offered, "This is all a ‘get even’ list.”
- A Wisconsin independent: “Most of them, to me, just seemed like a tit-for-tat kind of a thing. When the Democrats went after Trump. … A lot of this just seems like their own agenda and it's just kind of a revenge thing."
- A Texas independent: “I think it is [wanting] to get revenge. I don't think, with the Republicans we have now, it's not about trying to get the economy back in shape, which they should be concentrating on. I do believe that it's revenge."
- A Wisconsin participant specifically opining on the Hunter Biden laptop probe: "I don't know how this improves the life of the average American [investigating] Hunter Biden's laptop and his business dealings. They've been digging into this forever. I don't know how this would impact any of us.”
On cutting Social Security, Medicare
- An independent from Wisconsin observed: “I don't think it's fair. Like mentioned, this is something that people contributed their whole professional careers, contribute, and to have the rules of the game changed, the final phase.”
- A Virginia participant said: “Well, I'm retired, so I live and die on Medicare and Social Security. That's hitting right at home.”
- Another independent from Wisconsin noted: “I think the whole list, I think it's really out of touch with how America overall feels about a lot of things like cutting Medicare and Social Security. That money is already so little anyways, so to make a further cut to it, it just shows how out of touch people really are that are in these positions of power.”
On what MAGA represents
- A Virginia independent describing MAGA: “It stands for blind loyalty. I think of a cult in a way where you just pledge allegiance to an idea that is not necessarily proven in fact, but on emotion… an example would be the election was stolen.”
- A Wisconsin participant expressed disgust with the idea of MAGA: “I think it’s annoying more than anything. It’s annoying to go back to that time period. I don't want to. Just the idea of all of the last five-ish years and just the drama.”
On news-grabbing GOP members
- One independent from Virginia described Marjorie Taylor Greene as a “wackadoodle” while another called her “extreme.”
- Recalling George Santos, an independent from Wisconsin shared: “New York Congressman, just newly-elected, that lied on his resume about a lot of things.”
- A Virginia participant on Santos: “Fluffed his resume and still got elected and now they're trying to decide whether he gets to stay ...”
That’s a lot of red flags right out of the gate for House Republicans. Independents view their investigations as driven by “revenge,” their social safety net cuts are seen as “unfair” and “out of touch,” and things distinctly associated with House Republicans—such as MAGA and Greene and Santos—are cultish and “extreme.” The results make clear that Democrats can’t talk enough about this wildly unpopular House GOP caucus and its agenda.
Bottom line: Many independents view House Republicans as too self-obsessed to even contemplate doing anything meaningful for voters. That’s a foundation Democrats can build on.
The focus groups, conducted online by GBAO on Jan. 18, included independents in Virginia who closely follow national politics, Wisconsin independents in the La Crosse/Eau Claire region who are less engaged with national politics, and Tarrant County, Texas, independents with mixed levels of political engagement.