On December 15, NBC host Chuck Todd presented excerpts of an interview with voters in Kent County, Michigan, to discuss impeachment. The panel consisted entirely of Republican voters, most of whom voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, and most expressed either opposition or lack of interest in impeachment.
Todd introduced the voters in Kent County as “all Republican, most of whom voted for Trump in 2016.” Each voter explained why they don’t care about impeachment, arguing that “it’s just noise” and people “are just not interested” or “don’t have the time to try to follow it.” One voter compared Trump’s impeachment to that of former President Richard Nixon, arguing that Nixon’s pending impeachment was “really, really grave at the time,” but Trump’s feels like “political theater.”
Some of the voters did offer criticisms for Trump -- “he doesn’t win a lot of style points” -- but justified their decision to vote for him because of their support of Republican policies. One voter argued that “we knew who Trump was when they voted for him,” while another said that “Trump will come and go,” but “the Republican Party has the best set of answers.” A few voters did express discomfort over Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine -- one claimed he did want to know if Trump “directed a quid pro quo with Ukraine,” and another said that “it’s unlikely that [Trump’s] innocent,” but they still concluded that impeachment was relatively unimportant. Some voters also offered confused perceptions of key aspects of Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president without clarifications from the interviewer, NBC’s Dante Chinni.
The segment was part of a larger “County to County” project from Meet the Press that aims to look at five different counties in America “with the hope of better understanding the fault lines that will define the next presidential race.” In November, Meet the Press announced that the first two counties selected are Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and Kent County, MI. Chinni wrote that Kent County is “home to the moderate, ‘chamber of commerce Republicans’ that were once the biggest base of the GOP.” He concluded that “Kent offers a good perch to watch what those more establishment Republicans will do in 2020.”
While Todd did introduce the panel of voters as all Republicans, he also presented the segment as a snapshot into how voters feel about impeachment, as opposed to a look at establishment Republicans who are unlikely to change their mind. The panel offered no opposing voice to the narrative that voters don’t care about or support impeachment, even though a new Fox News poll shows that 54% of voters support impeaching Trump, compared to 41% who oppose impeachment.The segment offers a skewed perspective of how the electorate feels about impeachment, privileging the GOP narrative that voters aren’t buying the impeachment case.
That's why the segment was a hit with pro-Trump media, who used it to portray swing states as against impeachment, even though independent journalist Marcy Wheeler found plenty of people in the exact same bar who support impeachment.