How people perceive President Trump continues to degrade on both sides of the political aisle and from virtually all political perspectives and affiliations. A focus group held in Pittsburgh shows how Trump’s personal brand gets worse with each passing day. The idea of President Trump may have been quite different at the voting booth, but the realization of Trump in the White House is becoming increasingly universal for most Americans.
FOCUS GROUP OF DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS AND INDEPENDENTS GENERATES NO POSITIVE REVIEWS OF TRUMP AT ALL
The focus group generated catch phrases like “Outrageous,” “disastrous,” “abject disappointment,” “unique,” “off the scale,” “contemptible” and “crazy.” If this sample of registered voters in Pittsburgh is any indication, Trump has lost the city and the region. While this group only looked at Trump himself, such negative ratings across most of the electorate could have lasting effects for some time to come.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE SEEN LESS NEGATIVELY THAN TRUMP, WHICH ISN’T SAYING MUCH
The group, a mix of people who voted for Trump or Hillary Clinton (plus one Jill Stein voter), came down hard on the president and Vice President Mike Pence during the session, sponsored by Emory University. Three people called Pence a “puppet,” and several used variations of “waiting in the wings,” though he was also called “quiet” and “reasonable.”
To a lesser degree, the voters also complained about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Asked to grade Congress, participants gave a collection of Cs, Ds and Fs, with most complaining that nothing is getting done.
ROBERT MUELLER NOT KNOWN, BUT KUSHNER SEEN AS INEXPERIENCED
Not many knew much about special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the Russia investigation, but several singled-out Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, as a problem due to his inexperience.
Trump won Pennsylvania last year by 44,000 votes, the first Republican to carry the state since 1988. He cited his support in Steel City earlier this year at the White House, explaining his decision to pull out of the international climate accord by saying, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Emory is sponsoring a series of focus groups focused on issues, including immigration.
Brian Rush, a registered Republican, said he voted for Trump as a way of sticking it to the status quo, but not because the president would have been his first choice.
“I look at a president to be presidential, someone who is calm, focused. Ronald Reagan came in as an actor, but he goes down as one of our better presidents,” he said. “He came in not as a politician. In some aspects, [Trump is] almost turning into a politician in a different way, saying things he thinks his base wants to hear. He’s let me down.”
ONLY OPTIMISM IN GROUP FROM TWO BUSINESS OWNERS WHO SAW SOME GROWTH
With the exception of two people who, in expressing optimism, cited their own recent upswing in business, the group painted a dark picture of its sense of America right now, using words like “chaotic,” “scary,” “tense” and “embarrassing.”
“What has taken my breath away in this conversation is Donald Trump tells us the base is with him, that he has his core supporters. Well, I’m looking at a half a dozen of you, and I haven’t heard any defense of Donald Trump,” Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster who conducted the group, told them at one point.
Hart turned to the Trump voters in the room, asking them to explain how Trump had lost them.
“I traditionally am in the ‘give the guy a chance’” group, said David Turner, who works in construction, lamenting what he said was a missed opportunity by the White House to push out good news about the president. “His learning curve has been a little disappointing, meaning he hasn’t caught on like everyone has said here, ‘If he did this, he’d be OK.’”
Tony Sciullo, an independent who leans Republican and described his vote for Trump as being driven by opposition to Clinton, said that looking back on last year, “We must have been at a low moral ebb to have these two Hobbesian choices.”
ALL REPUBLICANS IN GROUP LOST BY TRUMP
As for Trump’s base, he added: “I believe that some of them are actually good people. … They’re missing a lot of the points that most of us feel are not subtle.”
Christina Lees, a Republican leaning independent, said she’d gotten tired of Trump.
“We know he’s a nut. Everyone knew he was a nut. But there comes a point in time when you have to become professional. He’s not professional, forget about presidential,” she said.
Several participants backed stringent restrictions on immigration and banning social services for people who entered the United States illegally, while also expressing support for a path to citizenship.
They expressed concern and skepticism for Trump’s efforts on trade, North Korea and immigration. No one gave full support for Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border, which the president has now threatened to prompt a government shutdown to get Congress to fund.
“MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN” VOTER NOW JUST FEELS CONFUSED
Russell Stit, a Republican whose age was listed as 65-75, said he was a huge supporter of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and what he felt it represented.
Eight months in, he’s confused.
“I guess I question what he’s trying to do. I don’t fully understand it,” he said. “The philosophy, give the guy a chance, is only the first 200 days to try to right the ship.”
Tuesday was the 221st day of Trump’s presidency.
Hart asked whether there’s a chance that Trump will get their votes back.
“He’s going to have to really get cracking,” Turner said.
“I hope and I pray that he will make a paradigm shift,” Sciullo said. “He is our president until and if he gets impeached.”