Less than a year away from the 2024 election, political experts see two prevalent attitudes among American voters.
Low enthusiasm among Democrats for President Joe Biden’s reelection.
And Republicans’ unshakeable loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
Although much could change in the coming months, PolitiFact got a peek into voters’ minds during two discussions at United Facts of America, PolitiFact and the Poynter Institute’s third annual fact-checking festival, which ends Nov. 8.
Several Republican candidates remain in the running for the party’s nomination, but 2024 is shaping up to be a 2020 rematch. Trump, 77, and Biden, 80, are the front-runners for their respective parties. If either candidate wins, he would be the oldest person ever elected president.
Right now, voters know what concerns they have with Biden — mainly his age and how he’s handled the economy — because as president he’s in the news spotlight daily. But voters aren’t seeing Trump as they used to, so their disapproval could be less apparent, experts said.
Recent polling reflects this contrast. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Nov. 5 showed Trump leading Biden in most battleground states.
ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said a poll is a “snapshot in time” and cautioned against giving polls too much credit this far out.
“They can’t predict what their future mindset is going to be, what the future situation is going to be,” Klein said in a Nov. 6 interview. “People aren’t going around every day thinking about how Donald Trump did his job four years ago. They are thinking a lot more about how Joe Biden is doing his job now.”
Sarah Longwell, who publishes the conservative news and opinion website The Bulwark, echoed this point in her Nov. 7 session. Longwell is well acquainted with voters’ sentiments as she regularly conducts online focus groups with voters across the country. She highlights these discussions on her podcast, “The Focus Group.”
“There is this idea of frustration with Biden because he’s right in front of them, but people have forgotten what they hate about Donald Trump,” said Longwell, a Republican strategist who opposes Trump’s candidacy. “Trump is borderline invisible to most voters right now. Literally all they’re thinking about is, ‘I feel like the economy was better back then.’”
The economy is consistently the top issue for voters, she said.
“When you ask people about what matters to them, they’re going to tell you it’s their mortgage, it’s how much rent is,” Longwell said. “They know how much eggs and milk are.”
When talking to a niche group Longwell calls “flipper backsliders” — people who voted for Trump in 2016, Biden in 2020 and who may vote for Trump again in 2024 — the economy was a sticking point. One person’s words, Longwell said, captured why many voters may choose Trump over Biden: “I’m going to turn off my TV, I’m gonna close my eyes and I’m just going to enjoy Trump’s economy.”
Voters haven’t been persuaded by Democrats’ messaging on the economy, Longwell said. Democrats didn’t do enough to prove to voters why raising interest rates helped prevent a recession.
“The Biden administration prematurely labeled things ‘Bidenomics’ before they won the debate over whether or not the economy is better now,” Longwell said. When Trump was president, she said Trump and other Republicans hammered home that “the economy was awesome.”
Swing voters may choose to tune out aspects of Trump they don’t like, and focus on what they perceive as a better economic situation.
PolitiFact’s reporting on the U.S. economy has found it is somewhere in between the narratives pushed by Republicans and Democrats. Inflation has dropped considerably since last year, but gasoline and grocery prices remain historically high.
Election integrity is another major voter focus in the 2024 race. More than a majority of Republicans still believe Trump’s false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen. For these conservatives, the point is less about evidence of malfeasance, of which there is none, and more about a strongly held belief that the election was rigged, Longwell said.
Longwell doesn’t see this majority as persuadable. She focuses instead on engaging with the roughly 30% of Republicans she views as “open and receptive to alternative messages.”
“Those are the ones who are looking at the Republican Party being like, ‘What is happening here? This is not what I thought I was getting into,’” Longwell said.
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