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What Biden Must Do to Save Us From the Disaster of a Second Trump Presidency
Matt Bernardini investigates the President's poor recent poll ratings and explains what he can do to turn things around
For months now, political pundits in America have been fretting about various polls that show Georgia defendant Donald Trump leading incumbent President Joe Biden. Much of the political media has taken this chance to do what they do best, ratchet up the horse race coverage all day long. Yet, despite the temptation to dismiss the panic, there is some reason to be alarmed, and these poll results should be taken seriously.
While some of the polls have been conducted by firms that aren’t the most reputable, the one that set off the alarm bells was a New York Times and Siena College survey from earlier this month. The results showed Trump leading Biden in five out of six battleground states. According to the poll, Trump is ahead 49 to 43 in Georgia, 49 to 44 in Arizona, 48 to 43 in Michigan, and 48 to 44 in Pennsylvania and apparently has a double-digit lead in Nevada, 52-41.
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Perhaps most stunningly, the leader amongst voters under age 45 in all six battleground states is a kooky conspiracy theorist. And I’m not talking about Donald Trump. Robert F Kennedy Jr, had the highest percentage of support amongst these voters, with Biden taking third place.
Yes there are issues with modern day polling. Polls mainly are conducted by phone, which older people are likely to answer. Older voters skew Republican, and since the surprise election of Trump in 2016, pollsters have tried to overcompensate and include more conservatives in their surveys.
Nonetheless, it’s important to analyze why these numbers are the way they are, given the stakes of next year’s elections.
As Chauncey Devega writes in Salon, Trump is a dictator in waiting.
“In a second Trump term, the First Amendment will be severely limited, if not de facto nullified, as part of a broader assault on constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. White Christianity will become the country’s de facto state-sponsored religion,” Devega wrote.
Polls can swing quickly, as they did in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ended up winning a landslide, and in 2012, when many thought Barack Obama was certain to lose to Mitt Romney. After all, Democrats did just have a solid showing in Tuesday’s off-year elections.
Yet there do remain reasons to be concerned. Polls show that the problem may be Biden in particular. And while some, like experienced strategist David Axelrod, have suggested that Biden may want to drop out of the race, it appears that he will be the candidate in 2024.
Biden was never very popular amongst the Democratic electorate, particularly with younger voters. The support he got in 2020 was largely an anti-Trump vote, and while Trump’s negatives remain high, relying on voters to turn out just to vote against him, is a risky strategy. It’s much safer to run as a candidate that resonates with voters and inspires their base to turn out. Biden has never been that candidate, and some of his current stances on key issues are further diminishing enthusiasm.
Lately Biden’s polling numbers have taken a hit from the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. While undoubtedly a tough situation to navigate, Biden has not done it well. While even Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who was the first successful recruit of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has called for a ceasefire, Biden’s administration has given their full throated support to Israel.
This unwavering support, even as the deaths of Palestinian civilians pile up, has cost Biden support amongst Arab Americans, a key Democratic voting bloc. In key swing states like Michigan, which is home to a large Arab population, many say they will not support Biden in the next election.
A recent poll found that two-thirds of Arab and Muslim Democrats said they would vote to replace Biden. A swing like that could easily cost Biden the state, similar to when Hilary Clinton surprisingly lost Michigan to Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary. Sanders was buoyed by support from Muslim Americans.
Nationally, the picture is just as bad. Biden’s support among Arab Americans stands at just 17%, way down from the 59% level in 2020.
Many young people do not hold the intense pro-Israel views that Biden does, and they want justice for those in Gaza who are suffering despite having nothing to do with the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.
Michele Weindling, political director of the Sunrise Movement, told Newsweek that Biden not calling for a ceasefire "is a very risky choice" and could impact him politically the longer he refrains.
“It's very clear from our [voter] bases that they feel completely heartbroken from the genocide in Gaza and our tax dollars are paying for weapons of destruction for the Israeli military," she said.
To remedy this, and do the right thing, Biden should come out and call for a ceasefire to the conflict.
Biden will need to improve his standing with younger voters, which he won by 24 points in 2020. However, the recent New York Times and Siena poll has Biden’s lead amongst young voters down to just three points. As Philip Bump points out, there are some reasons to suspect that the gap is slightly larger than three points, but it does appear to be the case that young people’s enthusiasm for Biden has waned. A new Associated Press poll puts Biden’s approval rate among younger voters at a dismal 29%.
Part of this is reflected in the fact that many Americans appear to have tuned out politics in the post-Trump era. A new Pew Research poll shows that the number of Americans who say they have stopped following the news closely dropped by 13 points since Trump was president. And younger voters say they follow the news the least of any age group.
Biden really had a chance to cement his popularity amongst young people with student loan forgiveness. A full scale debt cancellation program would have been incredibly popular with younger voters, and delivered them the help they need. Yet Biden’s measures, while better than nothing, were not nearly enough. And then, though no fault of his own, the Supreme Court struck down what little he did for students.
As a result younger voters appear to have become disillusioned with the possibility of debt forgiveness. A poll from April showed that many said that they did not believe that loan forgiveness would happen. The Biden administration has indicated they will make another attempt at loan forgiveness. However, it appears that the plan will be nearly the same, if not more targeted than the previous one.
Instead, Biden should use the opportunity to make a resounding statement that he understands the problems young people face and is here for them. Announcing a sweeping loan forgiveness program would be exactly the kind of leadership people expect from their president, and would be a great way to galvanize a whole generation of young voters right before a crucial election.
Student debt forgiveness was one of Biden’s key promises during the 2020 election. Another one was promising to only serve one term. He’s already broken one promise, breaking another may cost him and the country dearly.
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