Opinion | The Economy, Immigration, Joe Biden and Donald Trump: 13 Independents Discuss

What’s the word that describes how you feel about the 2024 presidential election? What’s the word
that describes how you
feel about the 2024
presidential election?

“Are we allowed to curse?”

Kenneth, 29, Latino, Texas

“Anxious”

Kim, 43, Black, N.C.

“Abyss”

Gary, 64, white, Mich.

What can President Biden say and do to win over undecided voters? What concerns and arguments will draw these voters to Donald Trump? For our latest Times Opinion focus group, we spoke with 13 undecided independent voters from across the country about how they see the two leading presidential candidates and explored some issues that might affect how they vote in November. To a striking degree, most of the participants tilted toward Mr. Trump, even though they disliked his personality.

So why did they lean toward Mr. Trump? As you’ll read below, almost all the voters (who range in age from 22 to 64) were most worried about the economy and how their groceries and other bills were too costly. Some were also deeply troubled by the crisis at the southern border, and some were concerned about the Israel-Gaza war and disliked U.S. aid to other countries. The participants’ comments indicated that most did not feel they were in good hands with Mr. Biden or trust that they would be, using words like “senile,” “unfit” and “disingenuous” to describe him. And while the group viewed Mr. Trump negatively, some people suggested that the country was on its toes more with him in office.

“At least Donald Trump started a conversation. Sure, it was divisive, and sure, it really wasn’t the most productive, but it really highlighted problems and the divisiveness that was already hidden inside of our country,” said Yalena, a 22-year-old Latina from Alabama. At the same time, she described experiencing more racism while Mr. Trump was president, including an ugly incident while dining out with her mother.

These seeming contradictions came up with other matters as well; there was concern about the future of abortion rights yet skepticism that Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump would be any different on the issue. Many didn’t seem to understand the Democratic president’s views on abortion. If there was one takeaway, it’s that Mr. Biden has his work cut out for him to win over these voters.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

Meaghan 36, white, Wisconsin, administrative assistant

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Moderator, Margie Omero

Fill in the blank: When I think about how things are going in the country right now, I’m most worried about: blank.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

The economy.

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

Education.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

Inflation.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Economy.

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

Economy.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Economy.

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Foreign policy.

Meaghan 36, white, Wisconsin, administrative assistant

My child’s future.

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

Economy.

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

Where the government’s money’s going.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Affordable housing.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Education.

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

Division of people

Moderator, Margie Omero

Tell me more about the economy. When you chose that word, what were you thinking about?

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Inflation, interest rates. We’ve gone through a very big change in what is considered normal for interest rates. And I worry about government spending.

Moderator, Margie Omero

How long have you been concerned about these things?

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Probably since Covid, around when we started Covid stimulus.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

I feel the same way. Ever since Covid, I keep hearing the government say that things are getting better. I’d like to know who they’re asking, because I don’t see the economy getting better. I see us spending more money in our households, in the government. Here in New Hampshire, it’s never been this bad, ever.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What specifically are you thinking about?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Our daily living, our cost of living. They’re spending billions and billions of dollars on stuff that I don’t understand. Where is that going?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

It is atrocious that our money is not going to education, health care, equipping us to withstand future troubles.

Have you personally felt a positive
shift in the overall economy from a year ago?
Have you personally felt a positive shift in the overall economy from a year ago? 1 person raised their hand.

Daniel, 39, white, Minn.

Gary, 64, white, Mich.

Hal, 61, white, Fla.

Henry, 60, Black, Ga.

Kenneth, 29, Latino, Texas

Kim, 43, Black, N.C.

Lorraine, 56, white, Pa.

Meaghan, 36, white, Wis.

Natalie, 22, white, N.J.

Pavel, 49, white, Nev.

Richard, 36, white, Ariz.

Robin, 59, white, N.H.

Yalena, 22, Latina, Ala.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

I’m now noticing that the housing prices are decreasing significantly each month. Houses that were priced $50,000 above are now really drastically cutting their prices, so we’re going in the right direction somewhat.

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

Inflation got better. Stocks rebounded a bit. Prices stopped growing like crazy like it used to be a year ago.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

I can’t agree at all with Pavel. That may be his experience, and I hope it is. In the last few months I’ve seen prices going up 10 percent, 15 percent over the last price, week by week. I go to the grocery store with my budget, and now I have to eat even worse quality food. That’s all I can afford.

Moderator, Margie Omero

How about gas? How are gas prices where you are?

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

I think in the last week, the gas prices went up here.

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

My thing is education. Cost of tuition and with three kids in college at once, it was a big ticket for me. The cost of the tuition keeps going up every year, and the kids come out of school with a lot of debt. So that loan forgiveness, where’s that?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

I’m currently in college. I wanted to get my master’s, but it’s like I’m never going to be able to afford it. Where is the government’s money going? It should be going toward stuff like education. I’m never going to see loan forgiveness. I just see myself in debt forever.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

It seems to me like businesses are sort of in cahoots to inflate prices intentionally.

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

Covid kind of reshaped our norm.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

We kept interest rates pinned way too low for too long. And then the Covid stimulus. I know we needed to do something during Covid, but I don’t think it went into all the right hands.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What’s the word that describes how you feel about the upcoming election?

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

Lost.

Meaghan 36, white, Wisconsin, administrative assistant

Disaster.

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

Necessary.

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

Stressed.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Anxious.

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Are we allowed to curse or no? Bullshit.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Anxiety.

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

Worried.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Indifferent.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Ugh.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Abyss.

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

Concerned.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

Disaster

Moderator, Margie Omero

Kim, tell me why you said “anxious.”

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Because, given where we are as a country, I don’t know how this is going to go. You may think the best person is going to win, and then a curveball is thrown. I’ve seen huge upsets before, and that makes me very anxious. If the wrong person gets into office, where are we going to go?

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

I feel like for the first time in my lifetime, both parties don’t represent a majority of Americans’ interests and so it doesn’t really matter who wins it.

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

Yeah. Like no matter who gets voted into office, I think our options suck either way, and I don’t really see any progress.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I said “indifferent.” It comes from the same sentiment that everyone was sharing. None of the people that are in office remotely reach the standards of what the American people need for them to lead them. All these people have the same agenda.

Moderator, Margie Omero

When you say no matter who it is, they’re going to have the same agenda, do you feel like both candidates or any potential candidate, they all have the same agenda as each other?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I wouldn’t say the same agenda as each other, but I definitely would say that their best interest has never been the American people. Joe Biden and Donald Trump, they both had opportunities to show us that. Donald Trump did a better job. Joe Biden, I mean, I feel like I don’t have a president.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Gary, you said “abyss.”

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Well, the first thing that came to my mind was a phrase from the Talking Heads: “same as it ever was.” And I think that’s what these other people are saying, too. We’re stuck.

Moderator, Margie Omero

How so?

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

It’s like we’re looking over the edge of a cliff. We might fall off, and we can’t see the bottom. We can’t see anything.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Ken, tell me why “bullshit.”

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Ever since Barack Obama left office — whether you feel what he did was right or wrong or whether you feel indifferent, he had a vision for what he saw as the American dream and trajectory to be going. With Trump, we lost a shared vision of where we’re going. Now it’s so divisive, whether it’s social media or actual general media, there’s only the left side, the right side. There’s no clear path between the two to accomplish what everyone’s wanting to see happen.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Richard, you said “necessary.”

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

We do this every four years. You make your choice as best you can from the pool that’s out there. You’ve got two parties. And you go online, the platforms are on the websites of both parties. You can see what they want to do for the next four years, so that’s what we all should be looking at. To me, it’s less about the person.

Moderator, Margie Omero

A couple of people said they’re concerned the candidates are not going in the direction that most people want to go in. What direction do you all want to go in?

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

People want to stop seeing the debt ceiling climb and climb. We’re at $34 trillion. We want to be responsible with our fiscal spending. We want to see a net positive trajectory of how we’re tackling our debt. We’re sending money to Ukraine, Israel, what have you, but what about the things here?

Meaghan 36, white, Wisconsin, administrative assistant

What we should be getting to is a more united people.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Shouldn’t our focus be on our country right now? That’s the direction we should be taking. We’ve given enough to all the other countries to help them. We’re going down fast and hard.

Moderator, Margie Omero

I’m going to give you a list of five issues: the economy, immigration and the border, abortion and abortion rights, protecting democracy, and the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

Which is most important to you in
deciding how you’re going to vote for president?
Which is most important to you in deciding how you’re going to vote for president?

The economy

Daniel,
39, white, Minn.

Gary,
64, white, Mich.

Hal,
61, white, Fla.

Henry,
60, Black, Ga.

Kim,
43, Black, N.C.

Lorraine,
56, white, Pa.

Meaghan,
36, white, Wis.

Natalie,
22, white, N.J.

Pavel,
49, white, Nev.

Richard,
36, white, Ariz.

Robin,
59, white, N.H.

Yalena,
22, Latina, Ala.

Immigration and the border No one raised a hand.
Abortion No one raised a hand.
Democracy No one raised a hand.
The conflict between Israel and Gaza

Kenneth,
29, Latino, Texas

Moderator, Margie Omero

So except for Ken, everyone has a hand up for the economy. Ken, what was your No. 1?

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Israel and Gaza. I served nine years in the U.S. Army, and I see that we’re getting closer and closer to World War III. But no one seems super concerned that we’re putting our nose in, and we’re getting attacked by Yemen and Iran, and we’re increasing our military power inside of the Middle East again. We’re scratching at the door between two, three superpowers.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Folks who picked the economy, tell me why.

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

I guess it’s a combination. The economy affects everything — housing, education.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

My main concern is big business and the increase of inflation. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot you can do about big businesses and what they do, since they control the politicians. I just feel that we’re headed to another 2008, which is going to be much worse than it was back then.

Are you thinking about voting for
a third-party candidate in November?
Are you thinking about voting
for a third-party candidate in
November?
2 people raised their hands.

Daniel, 39, white, Minn.

Gary, 64, white, Mich.

Hal, 61, white, Fla.

Henry, 60, Black, Ga.

Kenneth, 29, Latino, Texas

Kim, 43, Black, N.C.

Lorraine, 56, white, Pa.

Meaghan, 36, white, Wis.

Natalie, 22, white, N.J.

Pavel, 49, white, Nev.

Richard, 36, white, Ariz.

Robin, 59, white, N.H.

Yalena, 22, Latina, Ala.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

I always think about it.

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

I can appreciate a third party. I don’t think we’re there yet.

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Kennedy’s had some actual plans for housing infrastructure in the United States, how the government could potentially subsidize fair housing for the general populace.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

I would be more likely to vote for a third-party candidate if I knew that they had a better chance of actually winning. But it just feels like a wasted, throwaway vote.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

I feel the same way. It’s a wasted vote.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Imagine someone was polling pretty high and actually could win the presidency — what would you want that person to do as president, a person who was not beholden to Democrats or Republicans?

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Get private money out of the government. Stop lobbying and having corporate dollars influence our election.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Just reach across the aisle and stop this grandstanding nonsense. Just compromise. Come to the middle on some of this stuff.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Let’s talk about Biden. How would you describe Biden as a person?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

I’m very young, so I’m going to say what a Gen Z person would say: He’s a little bit senile, and I do think if you can’t do the job, it’s time to step down.

Moderator, Margie Omero

How would you describe him as a person?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

I want to say he means well, but it doesn’t look like it from what he does.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Is there something that you’re thinking about?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

He promised student loan forgiveness, and that never happened.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

His intentions are good. But with the lobbyists and the big businesses controlling everything, there’s not much going to get done.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

So I was going to say “puppet.” That’s because I feel like he really tap-dances. I don’t know what he’s done. It just seems like he’s just throwing things out there to please almost anyone.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

The word that immediately came up was “disingenuous.” Nothing that is said really connects with me. I don’t feel like I’m being told the truth. I don’t feel like I’m being told anything upfront. I was just so disappointed — with the ounce of hope I had left — when we just started pouring money into the Israel conflict.

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

I think he’s unfit for the presidency. A president should be the commander in chief. And he does not appear to be a capable commander in chief.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What was it specifically that gave you that impression?

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

To pull out from Afghanistan. That was not wise, and it was rushed. We’re still dealing with those repercussions today. The deal with Iran is not a good one. Now they have loads of cash. So that’s not great. Our ships are parked in the Mediterranean Sea outside Israel, and they’re just outside of Russia’s missiles. So they’re not going to be attacked, probably, but this is going to disrupt prices. It’s going to disrupt oil, energy. These are not smart decisions.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What would you name as the biggest accomplishment of the Biden administration?

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

The infrastructure bills that have been passing. I work in that sector, and so there’s a lot of money being pumped into it right now.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Has he done anything? Because I haven’t seen it.

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

I think his presidency has been very weak and divisive. But if there’s a positive, I would say the infrastructure as well.

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

For me, economywise, nothing. But I appreciate his support of Ukraine.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Yeah, nothing economywise. But he’s done a lot for racial diversity, in appointing Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

He has competent people on his staff. I just feel like some of the people that were in the previous president’s inner circle just were really people with questionable character. And the cap on prescription prices, I completely forgot about that one. So that helped a little bit.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Is there any policy that President Biden championed or that you associate with him that had a direct impact in terms of helping you or hurting you personally?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

I would say the housing. My daughters —

Moderator, Patrick Healy

What has Biden himself done on housing that’s affected you personally?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Nothing. And my daughter has nowhere to go because she needs an income of $3,000, $4,000 a month to get an apartment. So she ends up — she’ll be coming here now.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

OK. And you tie that back more to Biden than to Gov. Chris Sununu or any local politicians?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Yes. I attribute it to him. He was with the economy and should have made improvements not just for our state. This is not just our state that’s having this problem.

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

So he released oil from the U.S. reserve to help cut gas prices. That’s a double-edged sword. One, we have cheaper gasoline. But two, that strategic reserve is now not at the same level that it used to be.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Think about what you want Biden to talk more about: lowering the cost of groceries and other things or securing the border and tougher immigration rules.

Which do you want to
hear more about from Biden?
Which do you want to hear more about from Biden?

Lowering prices

Daniel,
39, white, Minn.

Gary,
64, white, Mich.

Henry,
60, Black, Ga.

Kenneth,
29, Latino, Texas

Kim,
43, Black, N.C.

Meaghan,
36, white, Wis.

Natalie,
22, white, N.J.

Robin,
59, white, N.H.

Yalena,
22, Latina, Ala.

Securing the border

Hal,
61, white, Fla.

Lorraine,
56, white, Pa.

Pavel,
49, white, Nev.

Richard,
36, white, Ariz.

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

I happen to live in a border state. It is not in the news right now, but what I have been hearing and seeing is a conflict between one state or a group of states now that agree with one state versus the federal government. And it’s not productive. It’s going to lead to a not great situation.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Richard, is there anything specifically you’d like to hear Biden say or do on that front?

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

I would like him to address that. What’s happening is he’s dealing behind the scenes with Texas and with the governor over there, and that is not productive. In fact, they’re using intimidation on the governor of Texas, and it’s just not productive. If he wants more votes, I think he should say something.

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

I’m with Richard. What’s happening between Texas and the federal government is very dangerous and concerns me. It should not be happening in America. I’m not sure that our country can afford having so many immigrants in a year, if we can digest them, if our economy will be hurt more.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

I’m a little bit further removed from the immigration as Richard and Pavel are. The major concern in my area is children and families who are not able to afford basic groceries. I work in the public education sector. You have two-income households who cannot afford food. I hate to say it. I don’t understand how the milk went from one price to the other.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

How many of you want to hear more from Biden on abortion rights? [Nobody raises a hand.] How do you feel about that issue in the election?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

It’s the states. It’s not the president. I don’t want to hear Biden talking about my abortion.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

I hate to say, there’s bigger issues besides abortion right now.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

It’s already been solved. Leave it alone, like they said.

Moderator, Margie Omero

For folks in many states, there are bans or partial bans on abortion, or bans are being discussed. Do people feel that it’s important to have a discussion about protecting abortion rights nationally?

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

I mean, yeah, I definitely think it’s important that the states that do have the ban on them to have a conversation. Why are you dictating what a woman is going to do with her body?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I just think we’ve allowed it to become this religious vitriol thing where we allow religion to have a say in our policies about health care, especially women’s health care. And I feel like we have not done a good enough job and the government hasn’t done a good enough job at defining abortion as health care. Abortion is not a religious belief, whatever you think. Church and state have done a poor job at staying separated.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

I’m tired of hearing about it. I mean, I hate to say it. They can do what they want, women. When they have been banned before, they’re going to get an abortion. So I don’t even know why it’s a topic of discussion.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Why do you think it’s a topic of discussion?

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

It’s a diversion. Anything to draw out there to get people on one side heated against the other, this is exactly what this is. I bet you we won’t hear any more about this after the election.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Who’s doing the diversion? Is it Democrats or Republicans? Is it the Supreme Court? Is it Biden? Is it state government?

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Well, I don’t even know that it’s a person. I would have to say it would be a group that has a vested interest in control, more control.

Moderator, Margie Omero

So we talked about Biden. Now we’re going to talk about Trump. How would you describe Trump as a person?

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

Conceited.

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

Egotistical

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Self-righteous.

Natalie 22, white, New Jersey, administrative clerk

Narcissist

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

Disastrous.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Flamboyant.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Irritating.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I was just going to say “crazy.”

Moderator, Margie Omero

What are some strengths that he has?

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

He’s very bold, and he’s competitive. I mean, you can say that much about him. Ambitious.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What were some of his accomplishments during his presidency?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

At least Donald Trump started a conversation. Sure, it was divisive, and sure, it really wasn’t the most productive, but it really highlighted problems and the divisiveness that was already hidden inside of our country. At least people were having conversations. At least everything felt more exposed and out there.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Can you tell me what those things were that were exposed?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Our border. The conversations weren’t productive, but they really brought up the very important subject of funding so people that want to come here legally are able to access us. The infrastructure to support that program has people waiting 15, 20 years to get a legal green card, and that’s just ridiculous. I mean, there needs to be something done about that.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

I think he really had our economy pushing in the right direction.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What did he do to do that? What was the policy or thing that he did?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

I just saw the flow. It seemed to flow, like the gas or even your shopping or just about anything that mattered to us. It just kind of flowed. It had a better flow. And you got to understand, it’s coming from a person that, I’ve hated this man since I was about 17. I always thought he was a pig. OK? I do. I can’t stand the man. But I voted for him three times.

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

The unemployment rate got down to around 3.5 percent at one point, the lowest in 50 years. And so that was extremely uplifting for many, many groups in the country all at the same time, which was really amazing. I’d never seen that before. Not even during Clinton.

Moderator, Margie Omero

If you had to guess, what do you think the unemployment rate is right now?

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

It’s 3.4 percent, isn’t it?

Moderator, Margie Omero

Because you’re saying the unemployment rate was very low under Trump. Do you think it was lower then than —

Richard 36, white, Arizona, architect

Well, I just saw the new jobs report that came out. It is very good. It is very good for the country. As of last month, January, wages did increase. But that was not without a lot of inflation prior to that, with a lot of job losses over the last three years.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Other folks, what are Trump’s accomplishments as president?

Hal 61, white, Florida, salesperson

I don’t know the specific numbers, but he was trying to redirect a lot of the manufacturing back here and be less reliant on foreign sources, which I think would be overall good for our future.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

Not a popular opinion, but Trump did put a pause on student loan payments during the pandemic, and honestly, that actually allowed me to have zero student loan debt.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

When Trump was president, is there anything that he did as president that had an impact on you personally in a way that either helped you or hurt you?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

This may sound silly, but I experienced a lot more racism due to him being president. I am fair-skinned, so I don’t look very Hispanic to a lot of people. But a lot of the times I spoke Spanish, people felt the opportunity to be more vocal about their opinion on how they felt about Hispanic people and even to my mother at times. And so I think that was definitely a shock. I had never been in a situation like that, never encountered anyone that felt so emboldened to say something like that.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Yalena, may I ask, could you give a specific example of something that happened to you?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Yeah. So me and my mom, we were at a pizza restaurant, and the people in the booth next to us did not appreciate that we were speaking Spanish. They called the manager over, and the manager came over to us, and they were like, “Hey, if you can’t speak English, we’re going to have to ask you to leave.” As you can imagine, we left because we felt uncomfortable, and as we were leaving, it was followed up by comments of “Go back to your country,” “Speak English,” “You’re in America.” And so God knows what else they said.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

I’m so sorry that happened to you and your mom. Thank you for sharing it. Let’s shift gears a bit. Trump is facing 91 criminal indictments. He talks about them a lot. Do you think Trump is talking too much about these criminal indictments that he is facing? [Two participants raise their hands.]

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Anyone have thoughts about these indictments against Trump and how he talks about them?

Pavel 49, white, Nevada, operations manager

I don’t think it’s a witch hunt, as he calls it, and I think he violated certain laws. I mean, in even his personal stuff and his sexual abuse. I mean, I trust all those allegations.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

For anyone, if Trump is convicted in one of these trials, would it make you any more or less likely to vote for him if he’s the Republican nominee?

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

To me, it doesn’t affect anything. His life, he puts it right out there. I’m sick of hearing it, but it’s him. So if I’m going to vote for him, that’s part of what I accept.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Lorraine, if he was convicted in one of these cases, would it make you any more or less likely to vote for him?

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

It wouldn’t. I’ve already formed my opinion regarding Trump, so it wouldn’t hurt or help my opinion.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Trump talks a lot about the border, saying there’s an invasion underway and he would seal the border if he was re-elected and turn people back. What’s your reaction to how Trump talks about the border? Is he talking about the border too much, not enough, the right way, the wrong way?

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

Yeah, I definitely think it’s an issue and it needs to be dealt with. For whatever reason, it wasn’t highlighted enough until probably more recently. But I think it’s dangerous that he’s — I think by and large, they’re people escaping a bad situation from the country they’re in. They’re not here to commit crimes. And I think it’s really dangerous that he’s drawing a straight line to everyone that’s doing that. We definitely need immigration reform. No doubt it’s a problem. But the way that he goes about it is just going to cause more chaos and violence.

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Immigration does need to be moderated and monitored. But for every one of those people that come in there, they’re not taking jobs. They’re creating them as well. So for every 20 people or every 500 people, whatever it is, nurses, doctors, policemen, firemen all get new jobs. So it’s not just going one direction. It’s not just hurting the country.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Which do you want to hear more about from Trump? How good the economy was when he was in office as president or what he would do with the economy if he’s elected in November?

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

For me at this point, anything Trump said, I don’t buy it at all. It’s a bunch of fluff, a bunch of lies. As far as the economy he’s built, to me, he never built the economy. He just basically piggybacked off what Obama and Joe Biden had done prior to his administration. The only thing he’s really done that I can see significantly is give a big tax cut to the big businesses. I did vote for him in 2016, but I am greatly disappointed.

Daniel 39, white, Minnesota, project manager

I just think he’s just going to use it as an opportunity to enrich himself. That’s ultimately what it comes down to. He only cares about one person: himself.

Moderator, Patrick Healy

Last question from me.

If the election were held today,
would you vote for Biden or Trump?
If the election were held today, would you vote for Biden or Trump?

Biden

Daniel,
39, white, Minn.

Henry,
60, Black, Ga.

Trump

Gary,
64, white, Mich.

Hal,
61, white, Fla.

Kenneth,
29, Latino, Texas

Kim,
43, Black, N.C.

Lorraine,
56, white, Pa.

Meaghan,
36, white, Wis.

Natalie,
22, white, N.J.

Pavel,
49, white, Nev.

Richard,
36, white, Ariz.

Robin,
59, white, N.H.

Yalena,
22, Latina, Ala.

Moderator, Margie Omero

So what advice would you give to Biden to try to get more undecided voters to vote for him?

Meaghan 36, white, Wisconsin, administrative assistant

I don’t know what he could say, in my opinion, just because we’ve been a disaster since he’s been there.

Robin 59, white, New Hampshire, retired

Take a look at what’s happening with the economy. Look at it for real with your eyes and not all your people around you.

Lorraine 56, white, Pennsylvania, retired

I agree with Robin. I think he’s controlled. I think he needs to be more of his own mind and speak freely more from himself. I think more heartfelt as a person. I don’t get that from him.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

I mean, he’s not inspiring at all. There’s not much you could basically tell him other than just come up with great policies for the country.

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I’d just tell him to stop messing around and just shoot me straight with what his intentions are.

Moderator, Margie Omero

What’s the thing that you feel he’s not being straight on?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

Just their plans on what they’re trying to accomplish in office. I feel like I was promised a lot. Natalie shared student loan forgiveness, and lo and behold, it’s not here.

Moderator, Margie Omero

Why do you think that’s happened? What’s your sense of what happened with student loans?

Yalena 22, Latina, Alabama, stay-at-home mom

I’m not so sure, I just know that it didn’t happen. But when I see billions of dollars going across the sea, I’m like, “Well, I could have used a couple of those billion dollars to clear my $15,000 of student loan debt.”

Moderator, Margie Omero

What advice would you give to Trump? What could he say or do?

Gary 64, white, Michigan, driving instructor

Stay off Twitter.

Kenneth 29, Latino, Texas, construction estimator

Between both of them, have a plan, communicate the plan, prioritize and execute. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on. Do those, you’ll be all right.

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

He’s just going to have to tone it down some. He’s got to — hate to say it — win back some people that he lost. So he’s going to need to tone it down and kind of rebuild those tainted relationships he did last go-round.

Moderator, Margie Omero

How do you think he could do that?

Kim 43, Black, North Carolina, counselor

So I know he tried in some terrible ways, but he’s going to need a P.R. person to really help him reconnect with the populations that he divided and upset. I don’t want to just hear Kanye back at the White House. That’s not going to fix it or solve anything.

Henry 60, Black, Georgia, consultant

Just stop being so ridiculous. I mean, he’s not presidential at all. Just get down to business.

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