Ex-GOP pollster Frank Luntz says ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ after ‘unity’ themed focus group goes off the rails

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Frank Luntz Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
  • Pollster Frank Luntz said he was pushed to the brink when he lost control of a focus group.
  • The Zoom session on unity between Biden and Trump voters quickly went off the rails.
  • “I reached a point where I don’t want to do this anymore,” the ex-GOP pollster said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Shortly after President Joe Biden’s call for unity in his inauguration speech, ex-Republican pollster Frank Luntz held a focus group evenly split between Biden and Trump voters to see what connected.

The Zoom session was swiftly derailed by shouting, crosstalk, disputes over basic facts and even deeply personal attacks, such as one panelist mocking another for sharing his mother’s death from COVID-19.

“Saying it’s tough is an understatement,” Luntz said on Fox News Wednesday night before anchor Bret Baier showed clips from the raucous focus group. “I reached a point where I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Luntz, who has been conducting various focus groups for decades and cut his teeth as Pat Buchanan’s pollster in the 1992 presidential race, told Baier the session represented the fervent polarization gripping the rest of the country.

“Bret, I couldn’t control them. They just started yelling at each other, and it would take me two minutes to say to them, ‘stop’ — to put my hand up to the camera like I did right there for them to get control of themselves,” Luntz said.

Panelists on the Zoom call may have been able to hear themselves talking, but the level of crosstalk made the conversation inaudible for large stretches.

One of the more heated exchanges came when a former Trump voter who switched to Biden said he was glad that the new president seems more focused on dealing with the pandemic than Trump was.

“That’s kind of why I left Trump, because he kind of just blew off COVID. He thought it was a big joke,” the panelist, listed as Jim from Michigan, said.

“It is a joke,” Pamela from Texas replied.

“Well it’s not a joke, my mother died from it,” Jim said.

Another woman shared that her uncle also died from the virus, and Pamela proceeded to mock both of them.

“From complications of it,” she said before more crosstalk ensued. (With 405,400 US deaths in the pandemic, more have now died from COVID-19 that the total number of US troops who died in World War II.)

One of the only things the panel ended up agreeing on in any substantial majority was the idea of $US1,400 direct payments to families earning under $US150,000 per year, with additional payments of the same amount per child.

Luntz nevertheless came out of the focus group far more dejected than he was going in, he said in his Fox News appearance. Despite Biden’s push for unity, Luntz said the appetite simply isn’t there yet for many people in the US.

“They don’t want to hear,” Luntz said. “They don’t want to listen. They want to hear what they have to say.”