Voters Are Losing Faith in Joe Biden’s Democratic Party. How Much Will That Matter in 2024?
Voters are now more likely to see the Republican Party as capable of governing, tackling big issues and keeping the country safe compared with the Democratic Party.
By a 9-point margin, voters also see the Democratic Party as more ideologically extreme than the GOP.
The trends against the Democratic Party are largely driven by worsening perceptions among its own voter base, which suggests that the party will have to rely more than ever on negative partisanship to keep control of the White House.
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President Joe Biden likes to tell voters not to compare him to “the Almighty,” but to “the alternative.” The latest edition of Morning Consult’s annual State of the Parties survey suggests that approach looks riskier in 2024 than in prior years, with public opinion trending in the GOP’s direction since the Democratic Party took control of Washington in 2020.
Ahead of 2024, Voters Increasingly Favor the GOP Over the Democratic Party on Key Aspects of Governance
In a significant reversal from the last presidential election year, U.S. voters are now more likely to see the Republican Party as capable of governing, keeping the country safe and tackling the big issues compared with the Democratic Party. These crossing trend lines provide a stark contrast from the lead-up to 2020, when Morning Consult surveys showed public opinion on the same questions was more static.
Both parties are also trending in different directions on two other characteristics that voters favored Democrats on in 2020. Voters have become less likely to see the GOP as stale, and more likely to say this descriptor fits the Democratic Party. And over that same time frame, voters increasingly say the GOP is responsible.
It’s not just that some voters have lost faith in the Democratic Party’s stewardship of the country — they also see the party as moving asymmetrically away from ideological moderation.
Voters See Democrats as Veering Further From the Center Than Republicans
By an almost double-digit margin, voters are now more likely to say the Democratic Party is “too liberal” than they are to say the GOP is “too conservative.” That’s another big change from 2020, when roughly equivalent shares viewed both parties as too ideologically extreme.
It’s all about the (Democratic) base
If there is a silver lining for the Democrats, it’s that the party is trending in the wrong direction on these questions in large part because of unrest among its own voters.
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The share of Democratic voters who see their party as too liberal has practically doubled, from 11% to 21%, since 2020. By margins of 6 to 8 percentage points, they have become less likely to say it is capable of leading (83% to 77%), can tackle the big issues (79% to 71%) and will keep the country safe (79% to 73%). And by a similar 7-point margin, Democratic voters increasingly say their party is stale (23% to 30%).
What this means for 2024
Democratic campaign officials who are bullish on the party’s chances next year would likely point out that base dissatisfaction with Biden has been prevalent since mid-2021 — and that didn’t stop the party from outperforming expectations in the 2022 midterm elections, when congressional Democrats narrowly lost the House but padded their Senate majority by one seat.
Those officials would also likely note that another increasingly likely Donald Trump presidential nomination, along with continued backlash over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and restrict federal abortion access, would unite not only the Democratic base, but also a broad enough coalition to deal Republicans a fourth successive disappointing national election cycle.
And while that all sounds plausible, it also makes one thing clear: If Democrats win in 2024, it will most likely be attributable to what voters are against, not what they’re for.
Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].