Democrats shouldn’t be so quick to celebrate their newfound inroads with suburban voters. While the political universe spent four years orbiting around Donald Trump, the Democratic Party steadily radicalized, becoming more responsive to the cultural demands of its far-left fringe. A new, 22-week focus group of suburban voters underscores the dilemma Democrats are certain to face on Tuesday and in the years ahead, whether Trump wins or loses.
The survey began just as coronavirus lockdowns were stretching into summer, continued through the months of racial unrest, and concluded this week, as voters masked up and headed to the polls. Commissioned by N2 America, a center-right nonprofit, and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, the online focus group surveyed 40 college-educated suburban voters in 15 battleground states weekly. (This included Rust Belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, in addition to states with tight Senate races like Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Texas.)
In a Friday interview, N2 Senior Advisor Generra Peck expounded on the survey’s results. “I don’t think that the Democratic Party has control of the suburban voter at all,” she said. “I think if the Biden-Harris administration is in place … we’re probably going to see an overreach in these policies, in this issue matrix that suburban voters reject, and I think we’ll see them respond in due course in two years.”
The focus groups turned up widespread concern among suburbanites about defunding police and cancel culture. The group also roundly rejected recent iconoclasm, according to N2.
“The Democrats seem to be on a ‘defund the police department’ kick right now, so no, I do not trust them to support those individuals who are entrusted to keep us all safe,” said one woman in Pennsylvania.
“No doubt it’s the Republicans who are better positioned to keep my community safe. And it’s not necessarily because Republicans have really enacted some new, more effective legislation,” a Kansas man contended. “It’s mostly because the Democrats and the left generally have been undermining basic tenets of law and order in our country for ideological reasons. When they’re talking about defunding the police in this kind of climate, there’s no taking them seriously.”
On cancel culture, the focus group seemed especially energized, according to responses shared with The Federalist. After being shown this two-minute video titled “Can we cancel cancel culture?” from the Republican State Leadership Conference, the group was asked, “What are your takeaways from that? What stands out? Is this concerning to you?”
“It concerns me greatly, and the truth is that things have never been perfect. Hiding from the past, ignoring our history and pretending differences don’t exist is putting your head in the sand. Learn from what was not right in the past, and make a better future,” one respondent argued.
Several people thought the clip went a little too far (“A bit of a scare tactic ad. I do agree that cancel culture has gone too far at times,” said one), but others replied with answers like, “WOW. That was impactful. They are right, nobody has ever been perfect. As someone who is Jewish, they say never forget the things that have happened so that history does not repeat itself. It’s true.”
“It breaks my heart to see so much destruction happening in America today. I understand that some of history is offensive and hard to digest, but it happened and you can’t erase it,” said another participant.
Other responses included, “Truly loved and appreciated this video,” “Cancel culture is out of control,” “I think the ad is largely correct, and “it concerns me greatly.”
According to Peck, it became “clear” to her team that suburban voters think “the cancel culture movement has gone a little too far and they’re concerned about where it may be going next.”
“They don’t think it’s a big leap between canceling the Girl Scouts or Kappa Delta to canceling their own careers or reputations. That scares them,” she explained.
But even with the culture war at a fever pitch, Peck believes the focus group indicated “style, for this group, is going to overtake substance” at the polls on Tuesday. “But,” she added, “there are certainly folks that their preferences on law and order and the economy are overtaking any concerns about the style back at home.”
“Suburban voters right now feel that they’re better off now than they were four years ago, we know that. However, matters of style sometimes erode their perception on ‘Are the policies working?'” she reported.
Peck thinks of it in terms of what she calls a “Book Club Test,” imagining voters in their suburban communities, with other parents and homeowners and churchgoers. “Would you feel comfortable defending your political choices before them? That’s how they weigh these things, and that’s why the style matters quite a lot.”
Asked what stylistic habits of the president’s most turned off voters in the focus group, Peck supplied a very interesting answer. “More than anything, and I think overwhelmingly so, it was the perception of how they would be viewed by their support of the president that prevents them from seriously engaging in a conversation on the policy,” she said.
That leaves Democrats much less well-positioned in suburbia after Trump is out of office, forced to defend their radicalized agenda instead of merely opposing the president. Win or lose, Trump will remain at the forefront of the GOP and surely as a fixture of the daily news cycle. But he won’t be the only thing anyone ever talks about, as “Saturday Night Live” recently put it. Everything else will get more oxygen, including the Democratic agenda, even if the corporate media spins it as best they can.
“Suburban Americans, they don’t endorse the Biden-Harris policy agenda and they certainly don’t endorse some of the further left agenda,” Peck said. “They worry about this, they worry about the future of the country with that narrative taking a serious root in parts of the Democratic Party.”
When it comes to 2020, Peck thinks it would be a mistake for either party to make assumptions about their performance in the ‘burbs before all the votes are counted. She the ballots already cast by Suburban America amount to an “X Factor,” since “we don’t quite know what that looks like yet.”
If, however, Democrats do well with suburban voters against Trump on Tuesday, they would be wise not to spike the football. For them, Trump-era victories could be one step forward and two steps back, as the president’s overpowering presence convinces suburbanites to vote Biden while also allowing Democrats to transform into a party that will look a lot less appealing when the lights come on.