In the past three presidential elections in Saugus, Massachusetts, voters have see-sawed between the two major parties, electing Barack Obama in 2012, Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. Nearly three-quarters of Saugus’ registered voters are not affiliated with any party, according to state data.

Thursday’s debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump left some in Saugus shaking their heads in despair.

“I think we’re in trouble,” said Jeremy Jones, a Black voter who described himself as unaffiliated with either party. He’s concerned about Trump and Biden being the “only two options.”

“We have two guys up there — both our options, the only options we have to vote for our future president, to lead our young generation forward — and we’re talking about having sex with porn stars and 34 felonies,” said Jones.

Jones said it left him feeling “unsettled” and not knowing how he’d vote.

“Trump is aggressive and Joe Biden looked like a ghost,” said Michael, a white unaffiliated voter, “I don’t like either one.”

There were plenty of exchanges in Thursday’s debate about support for veterans, with Biden touting his record. But Bruce, a Vietnam veteran who said he grew up in Saugus, said Biden showed “he’s not with the program.”

“If they elect Joe Biden, we won’t have a country in four years,” Bruce said. “It’s a very bad idea. The man doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

At the Hammersmith Family restaurant, Richard Woods, a white man and longtime Saugus resident, was finishing breakfast and happy to offer his opinion on the debate.

“Looks bad for the Democrats,” Woods said.

“It showed Biden’s true colors, he fell flat on his feet,” he said laughing. “Trump was strong. Everything Trump said was right on point, and Biden stumbled.”

A few tables away, Georgia, a young white woman and an unaffiliated voter, said she didn’t watch the debate but saw news clips afterward, which she called “concerning.”

“I heard that the most in-depth conversations that they had was about their golf swings and stuff like that,” said Georgia.

She said she plans to watch upcoming debates and follow the campaigning more closely.

“I guess I’m gonna have to figure out who to vote for,” she said.

A young white woman with glasses sits in a diner booth with her half finished breakfast on a plate and looks at the reporter's camera
A Saugus resident who identified herself as Georgia sits in the Hammersmith Family Restaurant.
Liz Neisloss GBH News