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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.
45 Episodes
Trump appears to be in the driver's seat to return to the White House. We could really use more two-time Trump voters who don't want to vote for him again. Fortunately, we found a group just like that! Jonathan V. Last joins Sarah to listen to two-time Trump voters who think "life's too short" for the anger of the Trump years, and to break down what else they do...and do not...think about the threat of Trump.
We're bringing you an update on the Republicans in Congress. We taped this BEFORE Republicans failed to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, failed to pass aid to Israel, and before the Senate's compromise on the border and foreign aid was blown up. Still, this show gives you a good window into what Republican voters expect from congressional leadership these days, and who is and is not measuring up. The Bulwark's eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, Joe Perticone joins Sarah to hear from Republican voters.
Nevada has a GOP presidential primary AND a caucus. Donald Trump is going to win the caucus...but the primary is a race between Nikki Haley and "None of these Candidates." Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent returns to break down the mess that is Nevada's presidential contest, and to preview the state's starring role in the general election.
Donald Trump is wrapping up the Republican nomination, despite 91 felony charges against him. One reason for that is that his voters don't seem to trust any unflattering news about him...and they're turning to sources you probably haven't heard of. Many of them feel like Fox News has gone "woke"...and we're going to ask them why. Brian Stelter, author of Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy joins Sarah to discuss the past, present, and future of conservative media. Show notes Disclaimer: This episode discusses several members of the Murdoch family. Kathryn Murdoch is an investor in The Bulwark. Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy
Nikki Haley is on the ropes after losing Iowa by 30 points, but there's one group of voters who could bail her out: New Hampshire's undeclared and moderate Republican voters. The problem? Even though they vote in Republican primaries sometimes, they hate Trump, they're pro-choice, and some watch MSNBC. Republican voters in all of the other states? Not so much.
Iowa's living legend of polling, J. Ann Selzer, joins Sarah to listen to Iowa Republicans ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Ann discusses her polling, how she does her own focus groups, and how Republican voters are feeling about Donald Trump (good), and the rest of the candidates (lukewarm at best). Ann also discusses how Donald Trump's efforts in Iowa are MUCH better organized in 2024 than in 2016...which will matter in the sub-zero weather Iowa is expecting on caucus night.
To mark the three-year anniversary of the January 6 attack, we're doing something we've never done before. We're digging deep into our archives to play focus group clips from January 2021, right after the attacks, and showing how the voters have changed three years on. show notes: Rep. Kinzinger's new book: Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in Our Divided Country Rep. Kinzinger's organizations: Country First Country First Academy
Donald Trump has a huge lead in the Republican primaries...but Nikki Haley has managed to distinguish herself from the other afterthoughts in the field. GOP pollster Whit Ayres joins Sarah for the last episode of 2023 to recap the Republican presidential primary and chart out Nikki Haley's narrow path to the nomination. Hat-tip to Peter Hamby of Puck for the term ‘Haley Mary.’
The economy isn't the best...but it could be a lot worse. And our guest thinks voters are catastrophizing too much about the state of things. Sarah's best friend Jonathan V. Last (JVL) joins the show to argue with voters who aren't there to argue back. show notes: Even Most Biden Voters Don’t See a Thriving Economy
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:
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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