Pollster says he would tell Democrats running in 2022 that 'we have a problem'

A Democratic pollster who conducted focus groups after Democrat Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffeJill Biden adds to communications team in lead-up to midterm elections The Memo: Is Trump the GOP's future or in rearview mirror? The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems barrel towards voting rights vote with no outcome MORE lost the Virginia gubernatorial race said he would tell members of his party running in 2022 that “we have a problem.”

The centrist think tank Third Way sought out Bryan Stryker to help determine why a state that elected President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE by a 10-point margin in 2020 elected a Republican governor just a year later. His focus groups targeted Virginia voters who supported Biden, but voted or strongly considered voting for Republican Gov.-elect Glenn YoungkinGlenn YoungkinOvernight Energy & Environment — 'Forever chemical' suits face time crunch Lawmaker asks ex-EPA chief why he couldn't convince Trump climate change is real Virginia governor knocks school boards challenging order making masks optional MORE.

Asked by The New York Times what he would tell a Democratic candidate who is running in next year’s midterm election, Stryker said he would inform them “that we have a problem,” pointing to what he sees are the party's failures at branding and messaging.


He said the party’s struggles when it comes to national branding is “probably deeper than a lot of people suspect.”

“Our party thinks maybe some things we’re saying aren’t cutting through, but I think it’s much deeper than that,” he added.

Stryker last month wrote in a memo outlining the findings from the focus group that voters were unable to name any accomplishments Democrats had achieved in recent months, with only a few pointing to the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

He noted, however, that the $1.2 trillion legislation “didn’t overcome their opinions that we have spent the last year infighting and careening from crisis to crisis.”

He also told the Times in an interview published Thursday that voters view the party as disproportionately focused on social issues rather than the economy, even though financial matters are top of mind for Democratic voters of all backgrounds.


Democrats have been pointing fingers since McAuliffe's loss to Youngkin last month by roughly 2 percentage points, with some blaming congressional gridlock or Biden's sinking approval ratings, centrists blaming liberals and progressives blaming centrists.

Stryker found that Biden-turned-Youngkin voters were “unhappy with the direction of the country” and do not believe the Democratic Party “get[s] it.”

“They aren’t hearing solutions from us, they don’t think we’re doing anything to address the big issues (lack of workers + rising prices), and in general they just aren’t seeing the smoother ride they thought they’d get after having voted out Trump,” Stryker wrote in the memo.

The Democratic pollster also wrote in his memo that the party’s strategy in Virginia to tie Youngkin to Trump “fell flat with these voters.” He told the Times that participants in the focus group “kind of laughed at that approach” because they disliked Trump as a person — not his policies — and didn't connect him to Youngkin, who tended to conduct himself much differently.

Stryker offered a grim warning about the party using that strategy again in future elections.

“That may very well have been the best message that McAuliffe had, but if we are in that position again, we’re going to lose a ton of races. We’ve got to have something better,” Stryker told the Times.