Does approaching a public official seem like a daunting task?
In focus groups sponsored by the Beacon Journal, eight participants discussing their perceptions of people who run the country were asked to envision themselves knocking on the door of a U.S. senator.
Some said there would be no answer. Some said security would intervene. Not one expected to see the senator.
They also imagined what the politician might be like: A millionaire who drives a fancy car and might own multiple homes.
The exercise was part of a two-hour discussion designed by facilitator Alice Rodgers to examine incivility and anger toward government, and is part of the newspaper’s America Today project. The group of volunteers was not designed to provide a representation of the community, as in a poll, but to hear how some people feel about the emotional state of the country.
Participants were asked to write the questions they would pose to their imaginary senator if they did get to meet face to face.
“Why won’t you compromise on taxes/entitlements for the benefit of the country?” one asked.
“What are you doing for me?” another wrote on the form.
The politicians also ranked poorly on a trust index.
The form asked “On a scale of one (don’t trust at all) to 10 (trust him a lot), how do you rate Senator X?” The highest rating was a six.
They also were asked with whom the senator might hang out.
“Family/political cronies,” one speculated. “Lobbyist, other congressmen,” another said. “Senator Y, Judge G, [business] owner A,” a third said.
Take the test
These are the questions the focus-group participants considered as they attempted to define a U.S. senator.
Brands/types of cars he or she drives:
Number of houses:
How much does the biggest house cost?
How much is the senator worth?
On a scale of one (don’t trust at all) to 10 (trust a lot), how to you rate the senator?
Who does the senator hang out with?
What would happen if you knocked on the front door of the senator’s house and asked to talk to him or her?
What is the first question you would ask?
What is the second question you would ask?
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.