Presidential polling presents counterintuitive conundrum for Democrats

Plus, bipartisan support for mass surveillance could prove problematic.

Election Watch

According to new research conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), former President Donald Trump may actually benefit from a high turnout election in 2024. While Democrats have typically been the ones to benefit from high turnout elections, the NORC poll indicated that infrequent voters seem to be substantially more favorable to Trump compared to Biden. 

In particular, Biden’s declining favorability amongst Black and brown voters appears to have been especially pronounced when examining the subset of the population that does not typically participate in elections. 

“Biden led among Black respondents who voted in 2020 by 64 points, but he led among those who were registered but didn't vote by just 11 points. Biden's margin over Trump among Black citizens who don't appear to be registered to vote was also just 16 points,” Dan Hopkins, who helped NORC conduct the polling, wrote for ABC News. 

“So it's not that Biden is uniformly underperforming with Black Americans — it's that he is underperforming specifically with Black citizens who don't consistently vote.”

Similar trends were seen with Latino voters, who became more hawkish around one of the race’s key issues: border enforcement. According to recent reporting by Axios, “42% of Latino adults surveyed said they support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.–Mexico border. That's a 12-point jump from December 2021.”

The good news for Biden is that frequent voters are much more turned off by Trump than non-voters. But what this means is that the fate of the republic could ride on a lower turnout for low participatory voters, and higher turnout from voters who actively follow politics — especially in swing states like Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. The former of which will prove difficult to track because potential voters who claim they won’t be showing up to the polls often contradict themselves. 

Ironically, however, Republican efforts in places like Georgia to make it more difficult to vote could undermine a constituency that seems to be becoming an urgent demographic for the GOP. Barriers to voting — whether it be registration or child care, polling locations or driving distance — only have a marginal impact on turnout. But with an election projected to be anxiously close, even the smallest inconvenience could be the difference for 2024. 

Policy Corner

Civil rights organizations like the ACLU, alongside progressive legislators, are speaking out against efforts by both Democrats and Republicans who recently reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a provision of the Patriot Act that permits warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans. 

“The bipartisan passage of this bill is a flashing warning sign to the government that if it wants our data, it must get a warrant,” Kia Hamadanchy, senior policy counsel at ACLU, said in a statement. “We hope this vote puts a fire under the Senate to protect their constituents and rein in the government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans, once and for all.”

Efforts made to reform FISA, such as requiring warrants from intelligence organizations like the NSA and the FBI before they review data collected from American citizens, fell flat. 

“After several amendments were dealt with, with all of those proposed by the status quo–minded House Intelligence Committee passing and those proposed by the pro-reform Judiciary Committee failing, the final bill easily passed, 273-147,” Luke Goldstein of The American Prospect reported

And while Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he will attempt to reform the bill, all signs point to the renewed FISA moving through the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk, which he is expected to sign into law. 

“​​If the Senate passes this legislation today, senators will regret it,” Wyden said from the Senate floor today.  

“And when the eventual wave of abuses is exposed, no one will be able to claim they didn’t see it coming. I urge my colleagues to support the Wyden-Lummis amendment striking this dangerous provision.” 

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Jamie Larson