Many Voters Unhappy As 1st Presidential Debate Nears

Millions of Americans will be glued to their screens on Thursday, June 27th when President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump face off in Atlanta for the first televised debate of the 2024 presidential election cycle. The 90-minute debate will air live on CNN with hosts Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Three other declared candidates who are running on non-major party tickets – Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein – failed to meet all the eligibility criteria CNN required to be included in the debate. Kennedy still has an outside chance to be included but is not expected to meet the threshold in time.

Though President Biden has been heavily focused on the war in the Ukraine and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. voters in this first face-off will be looking for a candidate who can make their lives better as it relates to inflation, immigration, abortion rights and law and order. While Biden and Trump have been hardening their positions on these crucial issues, some voters are still ambivalent about the choice before them.

According to a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, Black voters in the important swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania are not happy with either of the two front runners but consider Biden the lesser of the two evils. Black voters were at the core of Biden’s electoral success in 2020 and are being heavily courted by Trump this go-round – especially Black voters who are less educated, lower income, and independent or inconsistent in their voting habits. This group often lacks the drive to get to the polls.

In 2020, Biden received 92% of voters who identified as Black on their registration, according to Pew Research. Many of these Black voters are better educated, higher income and have a strong history of voting for Democratic candidates. So far, Biden’s support among Black voters is down. Although Trump believes he is making great gains with that constituency, pollsters do not necessarily agree.  In fact, Black voters who do not warm up to Biden by Tuesday, November 5th could likely vote for West or even Kennedy. 

The USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll was conducted between June 9th and 13th. Those polled listed inflation/economy as their top issue followed by threats to democracy, healthcare, abortion, proxy wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, crime and immigration.    

Source: New York Times 6/16/24

A contrasting poll recently released by the New York Times/Siena College shows how Trump’s brand of conservative populism is gaining strength among voters overall. That poll suggests that Trump would be the beneficiary if every eligible voter in the U.S. cast their ballot – which is of course not likely. According to the NYT/Siena poll, Republicans now comprise the subset of least frequent voters. More young and non-white voters are also considering the former president. Disengaged Democrats who vote less frequently are not pleased with the state of the economy and don’t prioritize a woman’s right to choose.

While there is more than four months before the election, Biden still has plenty of time to win back his previous supporters who Trump continues building his brand. Polls taken immediately after the debate will show if either candidate has successfully wooed enough voters to move the needle.  

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