Fauci’s fall: Frank Luntz focus group of Trump voters disses both Fauci and the Covid-19 vaccines

Last year at this time, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as the NIH, was riding high. Pundits from both left and right – including the opinion hosts on Fox News – as well as President Trump and most of the public were constantly singing his praises. Fauci managed to hold onto his extremely high approval numbers though the fall, even after President Trump began to distance himself from the head of his White House Coronavirus Task Force last summer.

Three days ago, pollster Frank Luntz presented the conclusions of his focus group of Trump voters who weighed in on Fauci and the Covid-19 vaccines in a segment on Special Report with Bret Baier. (Video here: https://video.foxnews.com/v/6241782070001#sp=show-clips.) The title of the article about the segment at Yahoo dot com tells the story:

Dr. Anthony Fauci takes credibility hit among Republicans

The focus group members’ soundbites that Luntz showed – on Fauci and the vaccines – were all negative – presumably representative of all 19 Republicans in the focus group.

Some examples, from six different focus group participants:

  • I’ve tuned him out, frankly
  • Liar.
  • Puppet.
  • Flip-flopper
  • Inconsistent.
  • Self-serving.

Luntz’s summary of the group’s opinions: “They’ve given up on him because he keeps changing the goalposts. He keeps changing his mind. . . I don’t want to undercut Dr. Fauci’s credibility. But among Trump voters, he has none.”

Support for Covid-19 vaccines didn’t fare much better. Luntz: “If we are to get people vaccinated, what these Trump voters are telling me is that they need evidence other than Dr. Fauci. Their own doctor, their own health care provider – they’re more likely to trust than anyone else.”

Screenshot of Frank Luntz’s virtual video focus group on Fauci and Covid-19 vaccines

Special Report, Fox News March 18, 2021

Soundbites from the focus group responding to a question about “vaccine impressions” included the following comments from seven participants:

  • Scary, not knowing the side effects.
  • A miracle, albeit suspicious.
  • Unproven.
  • Rushed.
  • Not sufficiently tested.
  • Don’t hold my freedom hostage.
  • My fear of the vaccine is more than my fear of getting the illness.

What a difference a year makes.

According to an article at Fox News dot com about the segment, “The pollster [Luntz] added that a public service announcement featuring past U.S. presidents urging the public to get vaccinated had no effect on his respondents. ‘Trump voters want to hear the science. They want to hear the medicine. They want to hear from doctors. They do not want to hear from previous presidents.’”

The focus group met and offered its opinions before President Trump recommended that his supporters take the vaccine when he appeared in a live telephone interview on Fox News Primetime with Maria Bartiromo on March 16. President Trump did point out, however, as he has done before that he does not think that a Covid-19 vaccine should be mandatory. President Trump:

I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and I lot of those people voted for me frankly. But again, we have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also. But it’s a great vaccine, and it is a safe vaccine and it is something that works.

As a journalist who has reported on Fauci for four decades and on the Covid-19 pandemic during the past year, this recent focus group gives me hope.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications.  He also appears in the media, including recently as a contributor to OANNBBC World NewsThe Glazov Gang, and Fox News.  Peter's website is http://peter.media.  His YouTube channel is here.  For updates on his work, follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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