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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Eleveld: Biden Campaign Must Engage Low-Attention Voters

Kerry Eleveld has some encouraging words for Democrats in his post, “The more voters know, the more they like Joe Biden at Daily Kos. As Eleveld write:

New York Times political analyst Nate Cohn made an astute observation about a new Siena poll, which showed President Joe Biden trailing Donald Trump in most battleground states….  “If there’s any consolation [for Biden], it’s that the poll is also littered with evidence that folks aren’t super tuned in, and disengaged voters remain Biden’s weakness,” Cohn tweeted.

It’s an insight that will likely define the presidential contest moving forward.

Eleveld gets down to the data:

In the survey, for example, just 29% of registered voters said they are closely following the legal cases against Donald Trump. That means that less than one-third of voters are paying “a lot of attention” to the ongoing trial of a former president who will almost assuredly be the Republican nominee in the 2024 election….Rosenberg cites a recent Ipsos poll for ABC News, where Biden trails Trump among adults, 44% to 46%, but bests him by a point among registered voters, 46% to 45%. And Biden takes a 4-point lead among likely voters, 49% to 45%. A Marist poll for NPR and PBS NewsHour made a similar finding, with Biden running just 2 points ahead of Trump with registered voters, 50% to 48%, but opening up a 5-point lead among likely voters, 51% to 46%….John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, made the same observation about voters ages 18 to 29 in the Siena battleground poll. Among registered youth voters, Biden trails Trump by 3 points, but among likely youth voters, Biden leads by 7 points—a net turnaround of 10 points in the direction of Biden….The Siena poll also included about 20% of respondents who either didn’t vote in 2020 or who did vote in 2020 but skipped the 2022 midterms….In an interview with Greg Sargent on “The Daily Blast” podcast, Biden pollster Jefrey Pollock said undecided voters make up anywhere from 10% to 15% of the electorate depending on the state, “which is actually rather large.” Those voters are disproportionately young, Black, and Latino….Pollock cited Nevada where, every two years, about 25% of the electorate consists of voters who have never before cast a ballot in an election.

The interpretation:

The ancillary to Cohn’s observation is that Biden performs better among high information, high propensity voters—or likely voters—a point veteran Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has been making for weeks now. A pattern has begun to emerge where Biden performs increasingly better as polling models move from “adults” to “registered voters” to “likely voters.”….”That’s what makes Nevada so interesting and challenging but also as movable as it is,” Pollock explained. “You’ve got these voters who don’t really pay attention to politics, who are just getting into the political scene.”….They are going to pay attention to the election much later, Pollock said. “You have to force your way into their lives,” he explained, because they are more concerned with their kids’ activities, making sure they have health care, and simply paying their bills….”We have to force them to pay attention to politics. It’s why advertising and campaigns mean so much, particularly in those closing months, because we really do have to find ways to get into those houses,” he said.

Weighed against the preponderance of data indicating Biden has a very substantial lag in the polls to reduce during the next six months, this take may seem unduly optimistic. But, as Eleveld notes in one of his concluding paragraphs, “Biden certainly has the resources and the campaign to help address that information deficit, but whether or not his campaign manages to reach and persuade those voters remains to be seen.”

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