In an announcement to passengers on a flight Friday, a pilot for Southwest Airlines reportedly said “Let’s go, Brandon” — a phrase that signals an insult to President Joe Biden — and landed himself in the middle of a company investigation. The phrase sometimes is used as a substitute for the more vulgar jeer, “F___ Joe Biden.”
Chanting “Let’s Go, Brandon!” as a jeer against Biden originated at an Oct. 2 NASCAR race in Lincoln, Ala., when a news reporter heard a chant of “F___ Joe Biden” coming from the stands and referred to it on air as a cheer for a driver named Brandon Brown.
In just one month, awareness of the coded phrase has spread widely — and unevenly. A YouGov U.S. News Poll this week shows that half of Republicans (51%) say they have heard a lot about the phrase, compared with only 14% of Democrats and 31% of Americans overall. People who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 are even more likely to have heard “a lot” about the coded vulgarity (58%) than Republicans overall. As of now, this coded language is largely an inside joke.
In its short life, “Let’s Go Brandon” has spread widely. Conservative political figures have used the phrase in public remarks, supporters have displayed Brandon-related yard signs — and a pilot from Southwest said it while on the job, to a plane full of people that happened to include a reporter writing a story about the phrase.
Americans tend to say they believe that people should have a right to express their political views at work. While cross-party agreement on an issue is rare, there is bipartisan support for the right to express partisan stances while on the job. Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all are more likely to say Americans should have a right to express their political views at work than to say they should not. Even among the people who don’t approve of Americans expressing their political views at work, more than one-quarter support their right to express them.
It’s possible that many professed supporters of political free expression at work have in mind speech more benign and less vulgar than a coded F-word to the president said over a loudspeaker to a plane full of passengers. More Americans say the pilot should not be penalized (44%) for using the phrase than say he should (36%), with 61% of Democrats saying he should be penalized.
Americans are evenly split between seeing “Let’s go, Brandon” as better than the explicit alternative of “F____ Joe Biden” (38%) or about the same (36%). Just one in 11 call the coded phrase worse (9%) than the vulgar alternative. People overwhelmingly say the Southwest pilot should not (63%) be fired for saying “Let’s go, Brandon” over the intercom. About one in five (17%) think he should be fired, with Democrats (35%) being more likely to support a termination but still generally opposed (46%). People who approve of free political speech at work in the abstract generally hold the same view about this case: Just 26% say the pilot should be penalized and just 13% say he should be fired.
Methodology: The U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between November 1 - 3, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 4% for the entire sample.