Increasingly critical views of President Donald J. Trump were on display Tuesday when a 12-person focus group convened in Pittsburgh for a session of “Conversations in America,” a series conducted by Emory in collaboration with NBC News and Wall Street Journal pollster Peter D. Hart.
Tuesday’s group, led by Hart, consisted of five Trump voters, six Hillary Clinton voters and one independent voter who voted for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. The University created “Conversations with America” to “advance and promote conversation and civil discourse on the most difficult issues facing our nation,” according to an Aug. 28 press release.
The series will host several more focus groups in cities nationwide to initiate conversation and shed light on issues such as race, immigration, education and health care.
The focus group’s opinions about Trump ranged from “contemptible” and “dishonest” to “outrageous” and “crazy.” Some called Vice President Mike Pence a “puppet” and “dangerous to women,” while others labeled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “a hypocrite” and House Speaker Paul Ryan an “opportunist.”
Tony Sciullo, a registered Republican who voted for Trump as an “anti-Hillary” measure, said he was disappointed in Trump. Sciullo, the president of an insurance company, said that Trump was “his own worst enemy” and “couldn’t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.”
The majority of the focus group echoed Sciullo’s frustrations, citing various instances of Trump’s misbehavior, including his divisive rhetoric and unrestrained Twitter activity.
“Everything he does is outrageous,” said construction worker David Turner, who voted for Trump.
Registered Republican Brian Rush was hesitant to pass judgment on Trump, who took office eight months ago, and expressed a more hopeful outlook.
“It is short into his term, and I’m hoping things can turn around,” said Rush, who works as a sales representative and views the presidency favorable “from a business side.”
The voters described the current state of the world as “chaotic,” “shameful” and “tense.”
“It’s just scary,” said Christina Lees, an independent Republican-leaning voter. “There’s so much more anger and hostility in the world nowadays than there was even five years ago.”
University President Claire E. Sterk said the series will help Americans engage in difficult conversations, according to the press release.
“We cannot begin to address the most divisive challenges facing our nation without first taking the time to listen to the broad range of opinions and experiences across the nation,” Sterk said.
The series schedule has not yet been finalized, Associate Vice President of Media Relations Nancy Seideman said.