November 11, 2023

NY Times/Siena College Polls, November 2023

*Note that all of The New York Times links are gift articles, so you should be able to read the entire post when you click through.*

Surely you saw the headlines (or listened to them on The Daily): 

Trump Leads in 5 Critical States as Voters Blast Biden

Across the six battlegrounds — all of which Mr. Biden carried in 2020 — the president trails by an average of 48 to 44 percent.

Discontent pulsates throughout the Times/Siena poll, with a majority of voters saying Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them. The survey also reveals the extent to which the multiracial and multigenerational coalition that elected Mr. Biden is fraying. Demographic groups that backed Mr. Biden by landslide margins in 2020 are now far more closely contested, as two-thirds of the electorate sees the country moving in the wrong direction.

Voters under 30 favor Mr. Biden by only a single percentage point, his lead among Hispanic voters is down to single digits and his advantage in urban areas is half of Mr. Trump’s edge in rural regions. And while women still favored Mr. Biden, men preferred Mr. Trump by twice as large a margin, reversing the gender advantage that had fueled so many Democratic gains in recent years.

This may (understandably) have you concerned about next year's elections. We at DA Switzerland wanted to share some additional articles that may help assuage some of your anxiety and urge you to get involved!

President Biden's Team Emphasized that Polls Have Failed to Predict the Results of Elections when taken a Year Ahead of Time

“Gallup predicted an eight-point loss for President Obama only for him to win handily a year later,” said Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign. “We’ll win in 2024 by putting our heads down and doing the work, not by fretting about a poll.”

Donna Brazile, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and a supporter of Mr. Biden, said, "I would say a wake-up call once again for Democrats to be reminded that they have to go back out there, pull the coalition that allowed Joe Biden to break new ground in 2020, especially in Arizona and Georgia, but more importantly to bring back that coalition. Without that coalition, it’s going to be a very, very difficult race.”

Why Biden is Behind, and How he Could Come Back

Historically, incumbent presidents have found themselves in a similar position at the start of the race, only to rally their base with the help of a growing economy and a polarizing campaign. It is hard to predict whether views of the economy will improve, but the Biden campaign will undoubtedly try to refocus voters on issues like preserving democracy and abortion rights, just as the Democrats did in the midterms. It’s possible that such a campaign will allow Mr. Biden to reassemble his winning coalition, especially since Mr. Biden’s weakness is concentrated among less engaged voters.

As Black Voters Drift to Trump, Biden's Allies Say they have Work to Do

Cornell Belcher, who worked as a pollster for former President Barack Obama, said he doubted that many Black voters would switch their support to Mr. Trump. His bigger fear, he said, is that they might not vote at all.

“I’m not worried about Trump doubling his support with Black and brown voters,” said Mr. Belcher, who focuses particularly on surveying voters of color. “What I am worried about is turnout.”

He added: “But that’s what campaigns are for. We build a campaign to solve for that problem.”

“We’re a year out from the election,” Cliff Albright, a veteran progressive organizer and a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said. “If you ask the very same people the same question a year from now, when the choice is very clear, the same 22 percent might have a very different answer.”

He added: “Is there work to be done? Yes. But is the sky falling? No.”

What’s Behind Kennedy’s Poll Numbers? Voters Dread a Trump-Biden Rematch.

Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters in these states, one-fifth of voters don’t like either of them, and enthusiasm about the coming election is down sharply compared with a poll conducted before the 2020 contest.

Voters who dislike both major-party candidates — a group known to pollsters and political campaigns as “double haters” — have been instrumental in the outcomes of the last two presidential elections, and there are now more than twice as many of them as there were four years ago. Mr. Trump carried them when he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Mr. Biden won them when he ousted Mr. Trump four years later.

Now Mr. Trump has more support from these voters in five of the six battleground states polled. Only in Arizona did more double haters say they would vote for Mr. Biden.

Not since George Wallace in 1968 has a presidential candidate outside the two major parties won a state in a presidential election. Ross Perot in 1992 was the last to even finish in second place in a state.

But plenty of third-party candidates have pulled enough votes from the leading figures to help tip the balance of elections, including Mr. Perot, Ralph Nader in 2000, and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in 2016.

As political polarization has increased over the last several decades — particularly since the mid 1990s — and people have become more hyperpartisan, there is even more reason to believe that third-party candidates say more about voter dissatisfaction with their party’s choices than about interest in an outsider candidate.

What Voters Want that Trump Seems to Have

The results have been met in Democratic and other anti-MAGA circles with horror, disbelief and panic. How could they not be? Whatever disappointment voters have with Mr. Biden, the idea that any of his 2020 backers would give his predecessor another shot at destroying democracy feels like pure lunacy.

It is best to take horse-race polling this far out from Election Day with a boatload of salt. There are too many moving pieces. Too much that could happen. Too much of the public is not paying attention.

A re-election campaign is fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent. And for all his accomplishments, Mr. Biden is presiding over a rough time. Inflation is still taking its bite out of people’s paychecks. The nation is still in a twitchy, sour mood post-pandemic. People are worried about crime and homelessness and the surge of migrants at the southern border. They are still dealing with the toll Covid took on their kids. And the broader mental health crisis. And the opioid scourge. And the two wars in which America is playing a supporting role. Of course a big chunk of the electorate sees the country as headed in the wrong direction.

When Americans are feeling pessimistic, the president gets blamed. The degree to which Mr. Biden’s policies have helped or hurt does not much matter, especially on the economy. He owns it. And here’s the thing: You can’t argue with voters’ feelings. Even if you win the debate on points, you’re not going to convince people that they or the nation is actually doing swell.

Mr. Trump has the added advantage of the economy having been humming before the pandemic upended his last year in office. Inflation was practically nonexistent. Unemployment was low. The nation wasn’t neck deep in scary, sticky wars. Sure, he was a supertoxic aspiring autocrat who tried to subvert democracy by overturning a free and fair election and who is now facing dozens of criminal charges, not to mention a civil suit for fraud. But if, come fall of 2024, he asks voters that most basic of political questions, “Weren’t you better off when I was president?” an awful lot may answer, “Hell, yeah.”

Why Does the Right Hate America?

It’s true that U.S. society has changed immensely over the past half-century or so, and not entirely in good ways: Inequality has soared, and deaths of despair are a real phenomenon. But many right-wing critiques of modern America seem rooted not just in dystopian fantasies but in dystopian fantasies that are generations out of date. There seems to be a part of the conservative mind for which it’s always 1975.

Between 1990 and the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic there was a broad-based U.S. urban resurgence, largely driven by the return to city life of a significant number of affluent Americans, who increasingly valued the amenities cities can offer and were less worried by violent crime, which plunged after 1990.

True, some of the fall in crime was reversed during the pandemic, but it seems to be receding again. And Americans are coming back to urban centers: Working from home has reduced downtown foot traffic during the week, but weekend visitors are more or less back to prepandemic levels.

This doesn’t look like blight to me.

What about those deaths of despair? They’re real and very much an indictment of our society. But while deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide happen everywhere, they’re happening disproportionately not in liberal big cities but in left-behind rural regions, stranded by economic forces that have caused a migration of income and employment to relatively well-educated metropolitan areas. If there’s “psychic despair” driving addiction, it seems to be the despair that comes from not being able to get a job — not the despair that comes from a decline in traditional values.

If you would prefer a society with more traditional social relationships, more people practicing traditional forms of religion and so on, that’s your right. But don’t claim, falsely, that society is collapsing because it doesn’t match your preferences or blame liberalism for every social problem.