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How to Respond to the Very Bad NYT Poll
The voters that disapprove of both Biden and Trump could be key to the election: Here's how to win them back
The New York Times has new polling out this morning that is already causing abject panic among Democrats. Per Nate Cohn:
In a new set of New York Times/Siena College polls of the six states likely to decide the presidency. Trump leads Biden in five of the six states — Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Michigan — which would likely be enough to give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Biden leads in the sixth state, Wisconsin. Trump leads by at least four percentage points in each of the other five states:
I am still processing this poll and will have more to say in the coming days. But I do not want to sugarcoat it. While some of Trump’s gains among Black, Hispanic, and young voters may be hard to believe, numbers like these are broadly consistent with the trendlines in recent polls. This poll shows that not only can Trump win, he might now be a slight favorite to do so. Even if we don’t take the results literally, we should take them very, very seriously.
Instead of doom-scrolling and tweeting through our panic, we should see this poll as a roadmap on how to reconstitute the anti-MAGA majority. We have to persuade the voters we have lost since 2020. Here’s one place to start.
Who are the “Double Haters”
Every election cycle, the political press likes to identify a specific group of voters as the ones to decide the election. In past cycles, we have seen “Reagan Democrats,” “Soccer Moms,” and “Security Moms.” This entire process is more than a little silly. Voters are much more complex than the buckets into which pundits try to shove them. In recent years, our elections have been so close that every demographic group is make or break.
However, there is utility to identifying segments of the electorate to track progress and test messaging. The flip side of “everyone and everything matters because our elections are so close” is that making even marginal improvements among one segment of the electorate can have an outsized effect on the outcome.
For this upcoming election, a group of voters called “Double Haters” — voters who disapprove of both Biden and Trump — are the focus. Recent polls show why they are so critical and what Democrats can do to win them back.
Why the Double Haters Are Key
Unite the Country, a pro-Biden Super PAC, recently polled the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump won these states in 2016. Biden won them in 2020 and whoever wins them in 2024 will almost certainly win the election. While Biden and Trump are tied, Trump leads by 3 points among the “Double Haters.”
In 2016, Trump won this group by 17 points. In 2020, Biden won it by 7. Trump’s improved standing among the “Double Haters” helps explain why he is doing better in the polls than at any time in the last eight years.
Who Are the Double Haters?
According to the Unite the Country polling, the “Double Haters” have a few similar characteristics:
Educational Background: 49% of "these voters are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to the full sample (41%).
Partisan Lean: these voters lean more Republican (+12 GOP) than the total sample (+2 Dem).
Gender Composition: 51% are men compared to 47% in the total sample.
Voting Patterns: Trump won these voters by 17% in 2016, but Biden/Trump was a push among them.
In summary, the “Double Haters” are slightly more Republican, male, and college-educated than the overall electorate. This group also encompasses a large number of people who voted for Trump in 2016 but flipped to Biden in 2020. Holding onto those Trump to Biden voters is a strategic imperative.
One important note on this group: the “Double Haters” who voted for Biden in 2020 are not necessarily the same group of voters in this poll. It’s a fluid group; some folks didn’t approve of Biden then but might now, and the reverse could also be true.
How to Win Them Over
There are a myriad of reasons why these “Double Haters” could be down on Biden — there are Republicans who voted for Biden out of anti-Trump animus, Independents angry about inflation and the border, and younger progressives who disagree with the President’s approach to the crisis in the Middle East. Messaging to such a complex and contradictory group seems like a nearly impossible task. However, a new poll from Navigator Research shows that turning the “Double Haters” into Biden voters is feasible.
Perhaps the simplest explanation of Biden’s political challenges is that he has done a lot of good, popular things, and almost no one knows about them. Navigator tested a series of messages about Biden’s various accomplishments, including allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug costs, the bipartisan law to rebuild roads and bridges, and efforts to create more manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
Guess what? All of this stuff is super popular. Medicare negotiating drug prices is supported by 77% of Americans, including 64% of Republicans. The bipartisan infrastructure law has the support of 73% of Americans and a majority of Republicans. Every accomplishment tested in this poll had majority support. It’s hard to overstate how impressive that is in a deeply divided, highly polarized country at a time when the President’s approval ratings are in the low 40s.
That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: according to the poll, a majority of Americans heard little or nothing about the accomplishments tested. There is a yawning knowledge gap.
Now for more good news (think of this as a positive sandwich); the poll shows that when people are told about what Biden has done, his approval rating goes up. The voters most likely to move are the “Double Haters.”
This finding is important for a couple of reasons. It means that the path to persuading these “Double Haters” is relatively simple in conception, if not execution. Reaching these voters is not easy. They are skeptical of the media and politicians. Most of them do not consume political news. So it will take a lot of time and even more effort. This is why the Biden campaign is releasing ads like this one that ran in Michigan last month:
The Biden campaign and Super PACs like Unite the Country cannot do everything. We all have a role to play. I am confident you have “Double Haters” among your friends and family. I certainly do. The research shows voters are more likely to be persuaded by people they know. Let’s work to educate people about everything Biden has done to grow the economy, create jobs, and lower costs. The best language to use is in the Navigator Poll. When you see ads like the one above or this one from Future Forward, post it online or drop it into the group chat with your family and friends.
There is a clear roadmap to winning in 2024. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. If — and only if — we do the work.