Fourteen independents speak to the Times!


The things they don't care about: The New York Times has opened a new "focus group" division. This may or may not make sense.

Last week, the Times published edited transcripts from discussions with two different groups—one group of nine Democrats, and another group of eight Republicans. 

Today, they've published an edited transcript of a discussion with fourteen independents. Everyone in the group had voted at least one time for Obama and at least one time for Trump.

A person can only learn so much from such limited discussions with such small numbers of people. Here's one part of today's transcript which is largely a waste of time:

(Moderator) Frank Luntz: Anthony Fauci, who has a positive view towards him?

[Five people raise their hands.]

Luntz: Who’s got a negative view of Anthony Fauci?

[Eight people raise their hands.]

In this fourteen-person group, five had a positive view of Fauci; eight had a negative view. But that's the kind of up/down question which can be part of a standard survey with a much larger number of respondents. It doesn't make a lot of sense to pose a question like that to such a small group.

On the other hand, there are certain things you can take away from this sort of exercise. For starters, we would suggest this:

Many perfectly decent people are highly "unsophisticated" regarding national policy and politics. 

Many people—this includes people of all political leanings—don't follow "the news" with great care. In discussions like these, it shows! This can be both instructive and sobering.

That said, "God must have loved the common people, he made so many of them!" (Famous apocryphal quote.) Reading the transcript of this discussion, we'll suggest that you notice how little these people seem to care about the topics which dominate our blue state "cable news."

They don't seem to care about getting Trump locked up:

During this discussion, the moderators never ask about the million-and-one investigations which dominate our blue tribe cable news. But no one in this focus group shows any sign of wanting to voice such concerns.

They don't seem to care about January 6:

Moderator Patrick Healy did ask about January 6. Here's the full text of the (edited) exchange:

(Moderator) Patrick Healy: The anniversary of Jan. 6 was pretty recent. How concerned are you that in the next presidential election there will be some kind of attempt to undermine the election, to change the outcome of the election, violence, or are you not concerned about that?

Jules: I am not concerned. I also did not think that Jan. 6 was remotely the disaster that it’s being made out to be.

Nick: I’m not too concerned. We’ve always had those issues, with chads in Florida. There’s always been questions about what’s been called into our elections and said that they were unfair.

Dickie: I’m only concerned if Trump is running again. I think our elections are safer now than they’ve ever been and more tabulated.

Alice: I’m not concerned. The United States knows how to lock things down.

Our tribe puts tremendous stress on this topic, perhaps for very good reasons. Whatever a person may think about that point of concern, these people don't seem to have heard.

These fourteen people are among the people who show up and vote. The topics on which our corporate stars focus don't seem to be on their radar.

By the same token, our corporate stars show very few signs of caring about average people. On a nightly basis, they maintain an amazingly blinkered, insider discussion—a discussion in which one vastly overpaid insider group wages war on another.

The topics on which our cable stars focus may well be important (or not). But our cable stars seem to care about nothing—and no one—else.

All fourteen of these people voted for Obama at least once. Based on the way they responded to several questions, they don't seem to be tilting that way now.

In the comments sections at our tribe's sites, we routinely call such people names. This has been part of our failing tribe's culture for a very long time now. 

It's part of our culture to name-call such people. Disconsolate experts widely say that this isn't going to change.


  1. "This may or may not make sense."

    Oh dear. Everything liberal-goebbelsian dembots do has purpose. Only one purpose: to dumb you down.

    We know it, and you, dear Bob, know it.

    And to them -- and for that purpose -- it definitely does make sense, dear Bob. And that's all we can tell you...


  2. By the way, do you anticipate Mrs Pelosi's Big War later this year, dear Bob? Will there be November?

    1. I hope there will be November. I've got big plans for next year!

      Sorry, just picking on your typo.

    2. Mao was funnier when he pretended he didn't have a hard-on for Establishment elites.

    3. No, it's not a typo. See here:

      "Especially with Donald J. Trump in charge, no one has the slightest idea what will happen next November, or if next November will even exist."

      And it was a recurring theme, as we seem to remember...

    4. But, but, Somerby is always right! How could he get this so wrong?

      And why would he worry about the possibility of a cancelled election, as if it were a PROBLEM, and then denounce the media and Democrats for caring about the actual attempt at canceling the election???

    5. If you've read that Mao doesn't really love the Establishment with all his heart and soul, please be advised it's a typo.

  3. The article is behind a paywall, and Somerby doesn’t provide enough specifics to discuss it: How were the 14 people chosen? How do they get their information? Etc.

    But Somerby’s general point seems to be this: “The topics on which our corporate stars focus don't seem to be on their radar.”

    Which may even be true.

    But that point is muddled when he says “Our tribe puts tremendous stress on this topic, perhaps for very good reasons.”

    Here he seems to be referring to the Democratic Party, because they (as opposed to the media) are the ones concerned about running candidates and getting votes, and they do feel Jan 6 was a sinister and important moment, and that GOP tinkering with voting is a serious problem.

    One can always round up some random number of “independent” voters and hear them say “I don’t care about issue x, or issue y.”

    But that doesn’t mean issues x or y aren’t important, or that the Democrats should abandon those issues.

    It is about messaging. That is Frank Luntz’s whole concern (listed as the “moderator” of one of the discussions here). He has taught the GOP how to message issues in their favor, often by abusing language (death tax instead of estate tax, for example).

    This suggests that the Democrats need better messaging, and a better media environment. There is reporting on economic issues (Somerby never discusses that reporting), and despite rather good news in many ways, it is spun as bad news for Biden.

    After all, it’s probably true that the majority of Virginians, including independents, supported the planned increase in the minimum wage there. But that didn’t stop the new Republican governor and GOP legislators from trying to wipe it out. Yet they remain competitive, and this is true for many issues where the Republicans’ stance on various issues is decidedly unpopular.

    1. "Everyone in the group had voted at least one time for Obama and at least one time for Trump."

      That makes them Trump supporters most recently. In that case, there is little surprise that more of them would dislike Fauci than support Fauci.

      I don't agree that the Democrats need better messaging if it means distorting issues and even lying about them the way Luntz has done for the Republicans.

      It is hard to consider Trump supporters "issues voters" when Trump had no platform whatsoever in 2020 and does not ever mention issues -- perhaps because he cannot think of any, as he could not during a recent interview. When people vote for Trump because they identify with his cult, they are identity voters, not issues voters and there is little surprise that they do not follow anything except the conservative talking points of the day.

      This fits the dictum "Garbage in, garbage out," which means that the answers these so-called independents give in focus groups are no better than the line they are fed by visible Republicans they follow.

    2. "at least one time for Obama and at least one time for Trump"

      This would say and/or if it were a mixed group of prior Obama or Trump supporters. As stated it means they voted for Obama then switched parties to vote for Trump, while calling themselves Independents because they don't have a stable party identification. Such people tend to skew Republican in polls measuring their other attitudes. It would be wrong to conclude that Democrats have changed their voting patterns in any meaningful way because of this group of right-leaning voters.

    3. The Times found 14 people who all voted for Trump and called them "independents" with help from Frank fucking Luntz, the "moderator" LOL. You can't make this shit up. And TDH bought it lock stock and barrel. Bwahaha

    4. Good discussion. And I agree, I don’t think Democrats should go full Luntz and lie or abuse language. No more mr nice blog has a running theme where he says Democrats don’t tout their own successes enough, and they are generally unwilling to vehemently go after Republicans for fear of upsetting some spirit of bipartisanship or whatever. He would suggest pointing out clearly and strongly how Republicans are making their voters’ lives worse, and how Democratic policies have a positive impact. For what it’s worth, he would have sort of agreed with Somerby about how damaging the “defund the police” slogan was, as an example of bad messaging.

    5. Republican voters are very sensitive to their racism being outed, so it is unsurprising that they lied about voting for Obama. Somerby knows this but pretends not to, because he is a broken man.

    6. As someone pointed out here (perhaps you?), defund the police was never adopted as messaging by the Democrats. It was a message on a sign at a protest march. Every Democratic candidate distanced himself or herself from it.

      I don't think we can police signage at marches to the point that we can avoid the way the righ wing weaponizes individual actions and opinions against the party itself. A histrionic Asst Prof somewhere says something stupid and it becomes a Democratic faux pas. It is the right doing this to us, not something coming deliberately from our party leadership, in my opinion.

    7. 7:10 yes, it could have been me, because that’s what I believe. I think pundits like Steve at that blog are trying hard to find ways to improve Democratic prospects and that can sometimes lead them into “pundit think.” But at least he cares deeply about liberals and has a genuine desire to see them succeed. I tend to agree with him to some extent about Democrats not being forceful enough in their presentation. The media situation is dire though, and it seems difficult for any Democrat to overcome it, what with opposition coming from right wing and mainstream sources and stupid articles like this one highlighted by Somerby. Not everyone can be super charismatic like Obama or FDR.

    8. The principle behind "defund the police" has broad support among Americans when surveyed in polls using less blunt phrasing.

      Fundamental to Republicans is a servile nature to authoritarianism, so they tend to view "defund the police" negatively, but they also never vote for Dems, so who cares.

    9. If "defund the police" is bad messaging, it's because it's the moderate position.

    10. "defund the police" is not bad messaging, voter consternation is self imposed via manufactured ignorance. There is no such thing as a "moderate position".

    11. We don't need slogans.
      The Founding Fathers gave us the 2nd Amendment to deal with bad policing.

    12. The 2nd amendment has no relation to bad policing, which can be dealt with by incremental reforms or by overhauling an ineffective and racist institution.

      The Founding Fathers gave us Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the US Constitution to deal with how they measured certain people.

      The Founding Fathers had never heard of the police, policing developed out of hunting for escaped slaves, its a method for managing inequality under capitalism, which America chose to switch to after slavery was prohibited.

      Slogans are often effective; "Stop the Steal" convinced Republicans of the 'Big Lie".

  4. "Everyone in the group had voted at least one time for Obama and at least one time for Trump."

    This confirms they are mentally ill and they don't believe in anything.

    1. Yes, it is tough to make rational appeals with that level of fickleness.

    2. They don't believe anymore in your cult's "hope!" "change!" bullshit, that's for sure.

      But then no one does.

    3. It only said they voted for Trump at least once, not necessarily twice. “Reading comprehension”…

    4. From The Root:

      "If you ever walked down a city street and saw someone standing on a box with a microphone screaming about the end of the world and government conspiracies, it honestly could’ve been Maurice Symonette. This 69-year-old Black man is former President Trump’s biggest groupie and the founder of the “Blacks for Trump.” Yet, his discipleship to super villains began with a violent cult based in Miami, according to a report. Surprising? Not really. Plot of American Horror Story? Probably.

      According to The Intercept, he followed cult leader Yahweh ben Yahweh who was accused of conspiracy to murder after trying to sacrifice 14 white people for an initiation ritual. Local Florida news reported the so-called “Temple of Love” was built on a “Hebrew Israelite belief system” and Yahweh (whose government name is Hulon Mitchell Jr.) often referred to himself as Jesus. Then, Mr. High-and-Mighty was accused of ordering his followers to stab, behead and severe the limbs of people who threatened him, local news reported. Symonette was charged in two of the murders but was acquitted.

      Symonette rebranded himself to ‘Michael the Black Man,’ the conspiracy theorist who condemns the gays and despises the Democratic Party. Per his website, he claims high-profile Black people including Barack Obama and Rep. Maxine Waters are “fake Black people.” Oh, and Oprah is the devil. He fed into the coronavirus conspiracies, waved a sign accusing Obama of endorsing the KKK and justifies his beliefs on Bible passages, The Intercept reported."

    5. It's actually consistent for voters in depressed areas to vote for Obama and then for Trump. Both promised changes that would lead to improvement in their lives.

    6. 7:09

      So has every single presidential candidate, ever.

      Voters switching parties is a myth, with no relevancy for decades; in particular, the Republican "southern strategy" hardened party lines, voters are firmly entrenched in their tribes, electoral politics is about motivating voters, and for Republicans also about blocking opposition voters.

    7. 7:09 Fair point. However, both Obama and Trump looked like special politicians who might really make big changes. That appealed to communities that were in bad economic conditions.

    8. Did you hear the one about the Republican voter who knew something about economics?

      Me neither.

  5. "I also did not think that Jan. 6 was remotely the disaster that it’s being made out to be."

    This is what people like Jules have been told on Fox News, repeatedly, even by members of Congress -- Republican members. Of course they don't care about 1/6. They have been told not to.

    Is there anything new about the finding that Trump supporters and Fox News viewers are not actually independent thinkers, much less left leaning?

    1. Yes, but Bob thinks he can critique the political press while ignoring those (most watched) outlets. He’s nuts.

  6. "All fourteen of these people voted for Obama at least once. "

    In case you weren't around then, or don't remember, Obama had charisma and a cult of personality too. I hate to be a cynic, but it is practically the only way a black candidate could have won the presidency. He was hip, cool, and had a core of dedicated supporters, many young and not black.

    The switch to Trump may say only that these are personality voters not issues voters. Trump too has charisma and many male voters saw him as a change agent, a fuck-the-system candidate, which may have been part of Obama's appeal to these same people.

    Ironically, Obama was more conservative than Hillary, who ran to his left but was portrayed as being more establishment and corrupt (which had nothing to do with her actual voting record, source of funding, platform).

    1. In case you weren't around then, or don't remember, the right wing republican base despised McCain and Romney.

    2. "All fourteen of these people voted for Obama at least once. "

      In caee you weren't around 100 years ago, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

  7. Amanda Marcotte attributes these focus group results to the lack of arrests of major Republicans following the 1/6 insurrection. She says people are reasoning that if others were involved in the attempted coup, they would have been arrested, like the folks who were there in the building.

    This perception should change when the DOJ starts charging Republicans who were not present, those who plotted not just those who participated actively in storming the building:

    "But, ultimately, the biggest problem is the utter lack of accountability for any of the prominent Republicans involved in Jan. 6. Neither Trump nor any Republican leader has been arrested for their efforts to steal the election that led up to the Capitol riot. So far, the only people who have been arrested for the Capitol insurrection have been the people who actually stormed the building or far-right militia types who coordinated their actions that day. So that ends up reinforcing the impression, especially with people who don't follow the news very closely, that the riot was a result of a bunch of self-directed fringe characters, and has nothing to do with the mainstream Republican Party. Unless the cuffs start coming out for Trump and his fellow elite Republicans, it will be hard to convince these voters to see the insurrection as anything but an anomalous event, instead of part of a larger anti-democratic conspiracy."

  8. People often claim they voted for a Democrat to establish credibility in going hard right. Of course there will be idiots who downplay the ugliness of that day. Do you really believe they were not Trump voters?

  9. Should also note the sad state of the infotainment world Bob so despises was shaped in large part by focus groups.

    1. Focus groups can be done properly and are useful in soliciting a variety of opinions, for example when trying to decide what questions to put on a survey or poll.

    2. "can be done properly"

      Sure, but this is the notorious Frank Luntz, who has never done anything properly.