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Swing Voters Don’t Like the January 6 Committee Critics

And they don't like the performative MAGA members of Congress, either.
December 28, 2021
Swing Voters Don’t Like the January 6 Committee Critics
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republicans who disrespect the January 6 Committee are not winning over swing voters. Democrats, meanwhile, remain on firm political ground with “persuadables” when they endorse the committee’s investigation.

These are among the top takeaways from 13 Trump-to-Biden voters in key swing states, participating in two online focus groups on December 14. These four Republicans, three Independents, and six Democrats made it very clear that the committee’s work matters to them—even if they are not paying very close attention day-to-day.

When we asked if the committee is a waste of time and money, only one respondent thought said it was. The rest said things like this:

  • “People need to be held accountable. That was a terrible day in our history,” said Sherrie, 64, from Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
  • “[Trump] wants to run again for president, so I think it’s important for us to know the facts,” added Kathleen, 48, from Casselberry, Florida.
  • “I think that it’s important to know why this really happened in order to keep it from happening again,” said Alisa, 41, from Phoenix.

Additionally, the groups unanimously agreed that if a person refuses to testify or turn over documents to the committee, that individual should go to jail.

“If nothing happens to them, people are just going to keep on doing it. They need to be responsible for their actions,” said Alicia, 36, from Burnsville, Minnesota.

Anna, 35, from Onalaska, Wisconsin, echoed that remark: “I think with their positions, there needs to be transparency and accountability.”

And Tabatha, 51, from Monroe, Georgia, drew this conclusion: “If somebody refuses to testify, that means they must have something to hide, and it must be pretty important.”

These strong feelings about protecting the integrity of the investigation were not matched, however, by equally strong levels of knowledge about the committee itself. Nine of 13 respondents had heard some news about the committee in the past month. Yet not a single respondent could name any member of the committee.

So much for Liz Cheney being a household name outside the Beltway.

A handful of GOP House members have been working to raise their profiles through opposition to the January 6 investigation. We were curious how well-known these members are among swing voters outside the DC political bubble. The short answer: not very.

During our groups, we displayed official, unlabeled head shots of Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz. We numbered them one through five. We then asked how many respondents could name three or more of them. None could. The only two members who were recognizable at all were Greene and Gaetz, and just five respondents could recognize either or both.

Here’s what the respondents thought they knew about Greene:

“She’s the first openly QAnon-supporting person in Congress,” said Michael, 29, from Doral, Florida.

“She’s from Florida, and she’s the one who was going after that kid in college, harassing him over gun rights,” added Linda, 62, from Levittown, Pennsylvania. (Greene is from Georgia.)

Anna from Wisconsin put it simply: “She’s a whack job.”

The two respondents who could recognize Gaetz associated him with sex scandals.

Additionally, we were curious how Trump-Biden voters felt about recent holiday photos posted online by Reps. Thomas Massie and Lauren Boebert showing themselves and their respective children holding and pointing large guns in front of their Christmas trees.

Respondents were not impressed, and—interestingly—it had nothing to do with disrespecting Christmas.

Dan, 54, from Lewisville, Texas, was asked why he reacted negatively to the photos: “Guns [and] kids . . . I’m not anti-gun. I’m a hunter. . . . I just don’t see the point. I think that type of gun should be outlawed, and it looks stupid.”

“I also think it’s very insensitive,” said Stephany, 23, from Decatur, Georgia. “I believe the first picture that was put up [from Massie], it was . . . two days after the shooting [at a Michigan high school].”

Matthew, 34, from Philadelphia, was left scratching his head after seeing the photos: “I have no problem with anybody, you know, owning a gun. But if I was just seeing this on social media, my reaction is ‘What’s the point? Like, what are you trying to say?’ I’m more confused than anything.”

We asked Alicia from Minnesota how she would feel if she saw a photo like Massie’s or Boebert’s coming from her own member of Congress. Her reply: “I think it’s inappropriate, especially because the fact that they are fighting over the rights of guns and everything. It’s just kind of like a slap in the face [to the other party].”

Rich Thau and Susie Pieper

Rich Thau is the president of the research firm Engagious, which specializes in message testing and message refinement for trade associations and advocacy groups. He is also the moderator of the Swing Voter Project, conducted in partnership with Schlesinger Group. Susie Pieper is a student at Haverford College and an intern at Engagious.