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NPR poll examines independent voters' responses to questions on social issues

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

A new NPR poll out this week talked to voters across the country about a wide range of social issues.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Today, we're going to hear what some independent voters had to say.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Kelsey Snell has been talking with them and joins us now. Let's start with how these independent voters define themselves. Do they align more with one party or the other?

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: The group I talked to was pretty evenly split. The group included everyone from conservatives who don't like the Republican label to Democrats who break from the party on some social issues. Of the voters I talked to, only one said he is already prepared to vote for former President Trump. Here is Cody Blanton (ph). He's a 28-year-old from Ohio.

CODY BLANTON: I still agree that he would do pretty good. It's just that other people, when they hear that I voted for him, usually seem a little hostile to me.

SNELL: He said he doesn't like everything Trump does. But he does think that he would be better for the country than President Biden.

ELLIOTT: I'm curious about voters' opinions of Trump. Did they change at all after he was indicted in New York and Florida?

SNELL: No. That's actually one thing that held solid across all the voters I talked to. Not one of them said they had their minds changed substantially when it comes to Trump.

ELLIOTT: How about other conservative-leaning independent voters? How do they feel about the former president?

SNELL: There was a lot of trepidation. You know, many of them either had negative or neutral feelings about Biden, but none would commit to any of the GOP candidates as a good alternative. One of the people I talked to was Adrian Marshall (ph) in Texas. He used to be a consistent Democrat, but he's getting more and more conservative. He says he voted for Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott. And I asked how he'd feel about choosing between Biden and Trump.

ADRIAN MARSHALL: I'm not thrilled with either one.

SNELL: Would you sit out the election? Or would you make a decision?

MARSHALL: Oh. No, no. I would vote. I would vote Biden.

SNELL: (Laughter) Yeah, he said he voted for Obama twice. But he would have been fine with either Mitt Romney or John McCain. He can't say that about the Republicans running right now. You know, I heard something similar from Adam Ferguson (ph) in Miami. He would be interested in seeing a candidate who he described as middle of the road.

ADAM FERGUSON: I'm not a culture warrior voter. It just doesn't appeal to me at all. It turns me off.

SNELL: And I heard that from several voters.

ELLIOTT: Now, what other issues are on the mind of these voters?

SNELL: Abortion is still a major motivator. And that was true for Susan Ghent, who lives outside of Detroit. She used to vote Republican. But she says the party has gone too far on abortion. She's been reading about negative impacts on women's health in Republican states with strict abortion restrictions.

SUSAN GHENT: Stories and stories of these women telling their stories. And it's like nobody wants to listen to them.

SNELL: And she doesn't want to vote for a Republican because of it.

ELLIOTT: Now, we've seen a lot of data lately that people don't really feel good about the direction of the country. Did the voters that you talk with share those concerns?

SNELL: Yes, every single one of them.

ELLIOTT: Wow.

SNELL: Cody Blanton in Ohio literally talked about World War III. Adam Ferguson in Florida put it this way.

FERGUSON: I feel as though we're on a precipice where depending on how the next couple of elections go - what happened at the end of the last presidential term, sometimes you wonder, was that a dry run? If you don't like an election, what do you need in order to change it?

SNELL: And Adrian Marshall had other concerns.

MARSHALL: I think there's going to be something in this country coming up. I think there's going to be some bad times ahead.

SNELL: He's become more supportive of the Second Amendment because he says he fears domestic terrorism or for his safety as a Black man.

ELLIOTT: Wow. NPR political correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thanks so much.

SNELL: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Debbie Elliott
NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.
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