Trump Has Huge Lead With Those Who Won’t Vote
Oh, the irony.
USA Today’s Susan Page and Ken Tran parse a poll commissioned to generate news.
Donald Trump’s argument that the 2020 election was rigged has reinforced the views of Americans who are already disenchanted about politics, one factor in their inclination not to cast a vote next year − that is, a vote they would probably cast for him.
An exclusive USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of unlikely voters − those who are eligible to vote but say they probably won’t − give Trump a lopsided edge over President Joe Biden among Americans who are deeply skeptical of politics and government.
Registered voters who say they aren’t likely to go to the polls back Trump over Biden by nearly 20 percentage points, 32%-13%, with 27% supporting a third-party or other candidate. Citizens who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered also favor Trump by close to 2-1, 28%-15%; 27% prefer another candidate.
If they participated in the election, Trump’s advantage among them is so wide that they could shift the political landscape to his advantage. His standing among unlikely voters is much stronger than in surveys of registered or likely voters, which generally show a presidential race that is effectively tied. The latest realclearpolitics.com average of national polls gives Biden a 1-point edge.
So, commissioning a poll of unlikely voters is novel! I’ve heard of polling adults, registered voters, and likely* voters. But never unlikely voters.
Regardless, they’ve found something interesting here: previous voters who have become disaffected from the process are simultaneously considerably more supportive of Trump than Biden but unlikely to go to the polls. Why?
Glad you asked.
“It’s just a game; it’s not even serious,” said Phillip Benjamin, 40, an engineer from Atlanta who was among those called in the poll. The last time he cast a ballot was for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, but he said that if he voted in 2024 it would be for Trump, a Republican. Benjamin, a registered voter who leans conservative, agrees with Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints that there were serious problems with the integrity of the election in 2020.
That makes him less likely to bother voting next time, he said. “If they can push an election the way they pushed that last one, they can do anything.”
I mean, we’re going on one dude’s response? Probably not. More on that later.
“Be careful what you wish for,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “In a year of major political ironies, this is the irony of ironies with some turned-off Trump voters disgusted with voting and the election process.”
The findings reflect a tidal change from a USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll of unlikely voters in the summer of 2012. Then, unlikely voters overwhelmingly favored the incumbent Democratic president, Barack Obama, over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, 43%-18%.
In 2020, two-thirds of eligible voters cast ballots, the highest turnout since 1900. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 40 million didn’t vote, including 12.8 million who were registered and another 25.8 million who weren’t registered.
Some analysts predict that broad dissatisfaction with the potential rematch between Biden and Trump could mean lower turnout in 2024.
An open-ended question about why they don’t plan to vote prompted a litany of grievances about the candidates, the elections that put them in office, and the government they lead if they win.
“My vote doesn’t matter” was one of the most frequent responses among those who aren’t registered. Other top reasons included “don’t care,” “don’t believe in the voting/political system” and “system is rigged/corrupt.” Nearly 1 in 10 cited “poor candidate choices.”
Among those who are registered, more than a third, 37%, said they didn’t like any of the candidates. Others said that their vote didn’t matter, that the election was rigged and that the system was corrupt.
“It’s just because, you know, which poison do you like better?” said Steve Rawson, 53, an airport cargo agent from Warwick, Rhode Island. A self-described liberal, he last voted in 2016, casting a ballot for Trump in his solidly Democratic state as a joke. “It’s just like nothing changes, and it’s how it’s been for how long I’ve been voting.”
Three of 4 accuse politicians of offering “a bunch of empty promises,” that “nothing ever gets done” in Washington. Two-thirds call the system was corrupt. They split evenly, 47%-46%, about whether “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans.
Nonvoters recognize the impact the federal government has on their lives. Three of 4 say it has an important impact; 40% call it “very important.”
Even so, a 53% majority say they pay attention to what’s going on in government and public affairs “only now and then” or “hardly at all.” Many report feeling financially pressed and, in some cases, overwhelmed by demands in their life other than voting.
“I just feel like everything is going downhill,” said Khandra Azzan, 30, a preschool teacher from Paramount, California. She voted for Obama in 2012, Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Republican Trump in 2020. She said no one in either party has changed her life for the better.
“I just feel like the price of everything is out of this world,” she said. Her wages have “increased a few bucks while groceries doubled in price; my rent has skyrocketed.” These days, “I just feel like we’re all running right now like chickens without a head.”
One in 4, or 26%, say the most important issue facing the country is the economy. (Far behind as No. 2 was political gridlock in Washington, at 9%.) Seven in 10 say the country is on the wrong track, a higher level of dissatisfaction than in recent polls of registered voters. Forty-one percent describe their household finances as “fair”; another 16% say their finances are “poor.”
They are disproportionately people of color. While exit polls of voters found that whites comprised 67% of the electorate in 2020, they are only 51% of the nonvoters in this survey. Black voters made up 13% of the 2020 electorate but 15% of the nonvoters. Latinos were 13% of those who voted in the last presidential election but 18% of nonvoters.
While 41% of those who voted in 2020 have at least a college degree, just 26% of the nonvoters are college graduates.
More than 1 in 4, or 28%, volunteered that it would take “better choices” and an “honest candidate that I like” to get them to vote. But nearly half couldn’t come up with the name of anyone whose candidacy would inspire them. Eight percent said Trump; no one else was cited by more than a handful of those surveyed.
The second-most frequent response to the question of what would get them to vote: “A miracle” or “nothing.”
There was one reason that resonated with most nonvoters. Seventy percent of Trump supporters said they would vote if they knew their vote would help swing a close election to their candidate; a nearly equal 68% of Biden supporters said the same thing.
But some expressed skepticism about whether their views on the value of voting − or its lack of value − were going to change anytime soon.
“I’ve been voting since I was 18,” said Wesley Wilson, 52, a conservative from Pittsburgh. In 2020, he cast a ballot for Biden but now says the president has “the hardest road back to my vote” because of disappointment over campaign promises not kept.
“I’m just getting to the point where I really don’t even want to be involved anymore.”
The article is frankly a bit of a mess. People believing that their vote doesn’t matter, that the candidates are terrible, that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, that the politicians don’t care about people like them, etc. are not new phenomena.
Unfortunately, neither USA Today nor Suffolk are making the poll responses or crosstabs available as of yet. Exactly what percentage of the Trump-supporting unlikely voters are unlikely voters because they think the 2020 election was rigged/stolen?
The “tidal wave” in difference between the 2012 election and today is one indicator. But how much of that is an effect of Trump’s campaign (abetted by Fox and various other pro-Trump media outlets) to delegitimate the election and how much of it is further realignment of the parties? A lot of Trump voters didn’t vote for Romney and vice-versa.
*Technically, one polls registered voters and then applies a screen to filter out those unlikely to vote based on past behavior and other cues. So, unlikely voters have been polled (although the questioning may truncate early, depending on the order) but they’re not counted.