Black voters less swayed by Biden's message that Trump threatens democracy, poll shows

By Reuters   March 15, 2024 | 07:54 pm PT
One of U.S. President Joe Biden's key campaign messages, that Donald Trump is a threat to democracy, is winning over fewer Black supporters and those without college degrees than other segments of his political base, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024. Photo by AFP

US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024. Photo by AFP

Worries about political extremism and threats to democracy have emerged as among Americans' top concerns, following historic events including Republican former President Trump's attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, the Supreme Court's move to end the nationwide right to abortion and a surge in migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The online national poll of 4,094 respondents from March 7-13 showed Republicans and Democrats alike worry about America's democratic institutions and the prospect of highly partisan politicians pushing through policies most people don't want.

Trump has continued to falsely claim that his 2020 defeat was the result of widespread fraud, a view that a majority of Republicans have adopted, and which Biden has warned could corrode voters' faith in the democratic process.

Some 65% of poll respondents - including 72% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans - said they were worried "partisan state legislatures will overturn the popular vote" in some states to support a presidential candidate. Remaining respondents said they were not worried or didn't answer the question.

Even higher shares of each party said they feared "partisan-dominated governments enacting unpopular laws."

About two in five Republicans and two in five Democrats consider the other party to be an imminent threat to the United States, according to the new poll.

While the concerns were broadly held across different demographic groups, subtle differences in views within America's closely divided electorate highlight a concern among Democrats that some of Biden's supporters - notably those who are Black or without college degrees - might lack motivation to turn out on Election Day.

Some 57% of Biden supporters in the poll said they were backing him to stop Trump, compared to 30% who cited support for Biden, suggesting the campaign focus on fear is helping allay Democrats' turnout concerns. Trump faces four criminal trials, including two tied to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

Warning signs

But there were potential warning signs for Democrats.

Biden's Black supporters, who make up about a fifth of his political base, were considerably less likely than his white backers to respond in the poll that they were voting to stop Trump, 37% to 65%.

Black Democrats were also less likely than white Democrats to say they were worried about a presidential candidate stealing an election or partisan state legislatures overturning its results. Black voters in the U.S. have skewed heavily Democratic for decades.

Among Biden supporters without college degrees, 53% said they wanted to stop Trump, compared to 64% of those with degrees.

To be sure, Biden is also campaigning on messages that he has helped the U.S. economy and pledges to defend abortion rights. Nearly half of Biden's Black supporters said they support him for his policies, compared to about a third of his white supporters.

"Highlighting the failures of Donald Trump is certainly part of that equation, but so is reminding voters of President Biden's accomplishments and providing a positive vision for the future," said Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist who serves as partner at ROKK Solutions.

Biden campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said the campaign sees supporters motivated by a wide array of issues.

In a sign of America's broad concerns about government, some 72% of Democrats - including about the same share of Black Democrats - said they worried about unelected officials interpreting laws that affect their lives.

An even larger share of Republicans - 78% - shared that worry, which has been a key plank in Trump's campaign message that a "deep state" of unelected bureaucrats is ignoring the will of the people.

Voters of all stripes said crime was an important issue in the coming election, including 84% of Democrats and 91% of Republicans. Similar shares cited the economy as important.

Democrats were much more likely than Republicans - 86% to 61% - to cite as important the growing gap between wealthy and average Americans. A similar share of Democrats said climate change was an important issue, but only about 40% of Republicans shared that view.

Close to nine in 10 Democrats in the poll said protecting abortion access in their state was an important issue, compared to roughly half of Republicans.

Some 81% of Republicans in the poll selected "immigration making life harder for native-born Americans" as an important issue, compared to 41% of Democrats.

Trump has campaigned with a message that he will increase deportations of immigrants without legal standing.

The issue was considered important by about half of Democratic respondents without a college degree, and by about half of Black and Hispanic Democrats, underscoring Biden's potential vulnerability on immigration.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online with a nationally-representative sample of 4,094 U.S. adults, and had a margin of error of 1.7%.

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