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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“Key takeaways” from “Measuring the Swing: Evaluating the Key Voters of 2024,” a study by the leftish Data for Progress think tank, published near the end of last month: ”

  • The swing voters of the 2024 election are younger and more diverse than the composition of the overall 2024 likely voter population. Forty-three percent of swing voters are under 45 (compared with 33% of likely voters overall), and only 62% are white (compared with 71% of likely voters overall).

  • Swing voters reject ideological and partisan labels. They are especially likely to describe themselves as “moderates” and to not identify with or lean toward either major political party. However, some take clear left or right ideological positions on economic or social issues, aligning with existing data showing that voters who self-describe as “moderate” are not always coherently moderate on the issues.

  • Swing voters broadly lean left on government spending, taxes on the wealthy, and social equity. A majority of swing voters (60%) think the U.S. should increase spending on social programs and raise taxes on businesses and wealthy Americans, and a majority (52%) say they favor accepting non-traditional values and embracing diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • Swing voters are politically disengaged. They broadly dislike Biden and Trump and do not pay much attention to politics. Many are not sure which candidate they trust more on major political issues. They also demonstrate low interest in national politics and less enthusiasm for the 2024 election than likely voters overall.

  • Swing voters slightly prefer Trump over Biden in a race between the two candidates, but many are unsure and defect to third-party candidates. In a two-way race between Biden and Trump, Trump (32%) holds a slight advantage over Biden (29%) with swing voters, while a plurality (39%) are not sure. In a six-way race, with third-party candidates included, only 4% of swing voters back Biden, while 7% back Trump. A majority say they would back either Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (46%) or one of the other third-party candidates (12%). Thirty percent say they’d still be unsure.

  • Their focus is on the economy. To the extent they do care about politics, it is focused heavily on the economy, with a plurality (33%) ranking it as their top issue in the 2024 election.

More “key takeaways” from the study:

  • Swing voters say they want Biden to take more action — not less. Sixty-one percent say that “Biden needs to take more action to solve our country’s problems” (compared with 49% of likely voters overall), while 22% say that “Biden has taken too much action that has made our country’s problems worse.”

  • Swing voters’ main concern is Biden’s age and ability to handle the job — not his ideology. Swing voters select Biden being too old (55%) and being incompetent (40%) as reasons they might not vote for him. Ideological concerns do not rise to the top: Only 16% select “Biden is too liberal” and only 5% select “Biden is too conservative.”

  • That said, swing voters are more concerned about Trump’s criminal charges and threats to democracy (48%) than Biden’s age and mental and physical health (41%).

  • Swing voters trust Trump more than Biden on the economy, immigration, and foreign policy. Biden holds an edge on other key issues including abortion, health care, and climate change. However, swing voters say they’re not sure whom they trust more on these issues at a higher rate than likely voters overall.

  • There is no evidence that a rightward ideological pivot would solve Biden’s problems with swing voters. The top two policies that swing voters say would make them vote for Biden are left-leaning economic policies — raising taxes on the wealthy (23%) and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour (18%) — while the third-most cited is increasing border security (17%). Lower-ranked policies are a mix of left- and right-coded issues, including extending the Child Tax Credit, increasing oil drilling, conditioning military aid to Israel, adding work requirements to SNAP, legalizing marijuana, and increasing funding for police officers.

Data for Progress has a problematic track record in terms of its predictions about votes for Republican candidates in 2020 and 2022, and their “comprehensive scoring method” is debatable. But given the alternatives, their data-driven ‘takeaway’ insights about popular – and unpopular – policies with swing voters merit a thoughtful read by Democratic campaigns.

If you were wondering “Why RFK Jr. didn’t qualify for the first presidential debate” Geoffrey Skelley has the skinny at 538: “The clock struck midnight on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s window to qualify for CNN’s June 27 general election debate, and the network formally announced that he won’t make the stage. That hour on Thursday marked the deadline to meet CNN’s qualification requirements, which included being constitutionally eligible to become president, having at least four qualifying national polls with at least 15 percent support that meet CNN’s guidelines and having confirmed ballot access in enough states to potentially win a majority in the Electoral College (270 electoral votes). Kennedy ultimately came up short on both polls and ballot access in his bid to get a spot on the debate stage alongside President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.” Skelley adds, “But even though Kennedy didn’t qualify, his legal challenge to the debate is still ongoing. In late May, Kennedy’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the CNN debate violates campaign finance law because the network “colluded” with the Biden and Trump campaigns in planning the debate and is using different ballot access rules for the two major-party contenders compared with Kennedy. CNN has said that Kennedy’s complaint is unfounded. All in all, it seems unlikely — although not impossible — that the FEC will intervene on Kennedy’s behalf….On the polling front, Kennedy’s situation was pretty cut and dried: He had three national polls at 15 percent or better that qualify under CNN’s rules, which means he needed one more at that level of support. However, Kennedy likely missed his final shot at a fourth poll when Beacon Research/Shaw & Co. Research/Fox News released a national survey on Wednesday evening that found him at 10 percent.” Further, “Although he’s polled at around 9 to 10 percent in 538’s national polling averagesince mid-March, Kennedy’s support level from survey to survey has varied enough that getting to 15 percent in four qualifying polls seemed plausible for him when CNN released its debate criteria in May. However, Kennedy has hit that mark in just three of the 14 eligible national surveys of registered or likely voters that included him as an option. Still, a small bit of variation in the result of just one other survey would have allowed him to meet CNN’s polling criteria — after all, he hit 14 percent in two qualifying surveys.” Skelley concludes, “Kennedy is trying to become the first third-party or independent presidential candidate to make a general election debate since Ross Perot in 1992, but barring unexpected and swift action by the FEC, it looks like he’ll have to hope for success in September instead.”

Some election-related  observations from former Republican Mike Madrid, author of “The Latino Century: How America’s Largest Minority Is Transforming Democracy,” interviewed at The Washington Monthly by Steve Kettmann: “Trump consistently lost 18 to 21 percent of Republicans from New Hampshire through New Mexico on June 4. That’s a shockingly high number for any nominee. Remember four years ago, Trump lost reelection as an incumbent with 8 percent of Republicans defecting. He’s consistently polling three times that number. The real question was: What was likely to happen with the differential between 8 percent and 18 percent? Who are these new 10 to 12 percent of Republicans who’ve had it? What do they do after the convictions?….If you have to choose between either, you’d rather be Biden….To be in the middle of June with 20 percent of your base saying they’re not with you is a five-alarm problem.” Regarding Biden’s latest move on Border security, Madrid says “I think it was really good and necessary politics. Biden needed to do it earlier….When you talk about the diversity within the Latino community, the most significant political diversity is generational, not country of origin. Very typically, immigrants vote overwhelmingly with the Democratic Party, more than 70 percent.” Regarding Arizona, Madrid says “I think Ruben wins, in large part because he’s got such a weak opponent. But Ruben is also doing something quite extraordinary. He’s a much more progressive member in the House than he is positioning as a candidate. One of the most fascinating developments is Ruben’s stamp of approval on Biden’s executive actions.” Nevada: “My guess is that Nevada goes for Trump, but (Senate candidate) Jacky Rosen wins down ticket. I think both will be very close.” NC: “if you can get the Latino share of the electorate up to 3 and a half, maybe 4 percent with registration efforts, North Carolina should be a blue state….But no polling shows enough of a subsample of Hispanic voters to gauge that community….There are 250,000 Latinos in a state that’s going to be won or lost by 70,000. Those people are not polled and tend to break 65 to 70 percent Democrat. You’ve got to like those odds if you’re a Democrat, even though Democrats haven’t invested nearly enough in voter registration.” Asked “What advice do you have for the Biden team these last few months before November?,” Madrid replies: “They need to immediately hold a press conference and announce a Marshall plan for housing. One in five Hispanic men works in the residential construction space or a related field. That’s extraordinary. Interest rates have tripled—not Biden’s fault—on his watch, as has the devaluation of our currency by 20 percent. That has a very significant impact on real people’s lives. If they can get new housing starts going immediately, you start to bring a lot of these Latino workers….Latino realtors and Latino mortgage brokers—you put them back to work. You go a long way toward rectifying the economic concerns of at least 20 percent of Latino households probably a lot more. The beauty of that kind of plan is that it speaks not just to workers in immediate jobs but to their aspirations of middle-class homeownership, which is increasingly out of reach. Asked “How will the presidential election go?” Madrid answers “The fundamentals still strongly favor a Biden reelection. But I do not see Democrats making the adjustments to stop the leakage of working-class Latino voters….if they can’t figure it out, then you will see Donald Trump elected by a historic number of Latino voters. If that happens, it is completely a failure of the Democrats’ messaging and policy strategy with Latinos. It has nothing to do with what Trump and the Republicans are doing. The fault will be on their plate.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    “Independents’ political views and perspectives on key issues reflect the economic and social conditions they see and experience every day.

    In contrast, Democrats’ and Republicans’ ideas of what problems deserve government attention and how to solve them are much less likely to be based on their own life experiences, and instead simply mirror the information they have gained from leading political figures on social media, on cable news networks or through other partisan information outlets.

    Similarly, we found that independents’ personal financial situations factor greatly into their views on policies like the minimum wage and affordable housing. Independents who struggle to afford their basic essentials are almost twice as likely to support government investment in affordable housing in their neighborhoods and more than twice as likely to support increasing the minimum wage than independents who never struggle to afford their basic needs.

    On average, Republicans and Democrats who regularly struggle to afford basic essentials have the same views on affordable housing and the minimum wage as their fellow party members who never face financial stress.”



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