HomePoliticsHow voting voters could decide 2024

How voting voters could decide 2024

Joe Perez is exactly the type of voter-president Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are feuding over: A 22-year-old Hispanic man in Las Vegas who grew up Republican, also supports abortion rights and was rebuffed by the Capitol rioters on January 6, 2021.

But Perez – unenthusiastic about a Biden-Trump rematch, overwhelmed by the news and disillusioned with politics – is tuning out.

“If you ask me now what’s going on with, say, the presidential race, or the situation in Gaza or Ukraine or whatever, I don’t think I can answer,” said Perez, who supported Trump in 2020 and is intrigued by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. now. “I try not to follow that anymore.”

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Instead, said Perez, a white-collar worker who hopes to become a firefighter, “I’m just going to have to roll with the punches because I don’t think I’m going to make a difference.”

People like him can even be very important.

Politically disengaged Americans are emerging as one of the most unpredictable, complex and potentially influential groups of voters in the 2024 race. They fuel Trump’s current poll numbers, but in many cases come from traditionally Democratic communities, giving Biden a chance gets to win some of them back – if he can get their attention.

No shortage of events could shake up alienated voters over the next five months, starting with a verdict in the first criminal trial of a former president in U.S. history, which could come this week. While many of these people have historically been low voters, those who do vote can make a difference in an inevitably close race.

But achieving it is a problem. Campaigns up and down the ballot are taking place in an increasingly fragmented media landscape where disinformation thrives — especially spread by Trump and his allies — and basic facts are often ignored, disputed or filtered through a partisan lens.

“People are really segregated into their own information dead ends,” said former Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. “It’s harder to reach people now than in previous elections because of that disaggregated or decentralized information network.”

‘If your team loses, you don’t read the sports page’

In presidential elections where, according to a Pew Research Center survey, more than 80% of voters say they wish one or both major candidates would not run, some are choosing to opt out of direct political news entirely.

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This is evident from opinion polls on current events.

Recent New York Times/Siena College/Philadelphia Inquirer polling found that nearly 20% of voters in battleground states said Biden was responsible for ending the constitutional right to abortion, even though it was Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court that helped overturn Roe v. Wade. .

Nearly half the country believes the unemployment rate is at its highest level in 50 years, a Harris poll for The Guardian found, even though it is near its lowest level in 50 years.

And in a recent Politico-Morning Consult poll, voters were divided over who had done more to “promote infrastructure improvements and job creation.” Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, while Trump repeatedly failed to advance the issue.

“If your team loses, you don’t read the sports page after the game,” said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco. “You have a large portion of the country that thinks they are losing when it comes to politics, and the way to deal with that is to just not pay attention.”

Under-information voters are hardly a new phenomenon: Historical studies dating back nearly 80 years have shown that the public is often uninformed about important issues.

And many Americans are indeed following this match.

A Gallup poll released this month found that 71% said they had thought “quite a lot” about the upcoming presidential election, consistent with findings around this time in 2020 and 2008.

‘People here are having a hard time’

Voters who pay less attention, pollsters say, tend to be younger or working class, and more likely to enter the race late, if at all.

“It’s not that politics is unimportant to them, but they have different priorities,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “Challenging low-information voters who prefer your candidate is one of the most important roles of political consultants.”

An NBC News poll conducted last month found that 15% of voters surveyed said they did not closely follow political news. Among those voters, Trump had a 26 percentage point lead over Biden.

In contrast, among voters who consume news primarily through newspapers, national networks and cable news — 54% of those surveyed — Biden was up 11 points.

Trump’s dominant lead among the politically disengaged underlines how difficult it may be for Biden to translate his record and vision into an energizing and attention-grabbing message for these voters, some of whom are firmly committed to Trump.

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But some Democrats also see an opportunity.

“A single piece of information could have a radical impact on them, because by definition they have little information,” said former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Pointing to topics like Trump’s record on abortion rights or Biden’s work to lower the cost of insulin for the elderly, he added: “That doesn’t require much explanation. You have to focus people, shock them, but these are not complex points to get across.”

Trump also remains unpopular, and Democrats are betting he will grow weaker as more voters see reminders of what they didn’t like about him.

Republicans, however, note that most Americans drew conclusions about Trump and Biden years ago — and that many voters are not closely following the former president’s provocations.

“Trump, I think he’s coming out there and talking a lot,” said Carla Williams, 50, of Detroit.

But Williams, who said she was often too busy working at an auto plant and a hotel to follow the news closely, said she still considered him. She blamed Biden, whom she said she supported in 2020, for the high cost of living.

“People here are having a hard time,” she says. “Everything is expensive.”

For voters who pay less attention to the news, “short-term forces” tend to play a dominant role in their thinking about politics, says Christopher H. Achen, professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University.

“If the price of eggs rises, they are more likely to vote against the incumbent party, even if the incumbent party has nothing to do with the price of eggs,” he said.

Those are some of the concerns that prompted Paul Ferando, 61, of Henderson, Nevada, to vote for the first time, he said.

“You go to the supermarket, $150 for one bag,” said Ferando, who works in construction, saying he is too busy to follow the news closely. “It is a joke.”

About Trump, he added: “This year I might just vote to make sure he gets in.”

‘The only night where you don’t shout at each other about the elections’

Many Americans now consume political news via social media, and the rise of TikTok has greatly accelerated that trend.

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In 2023, nearly a third of people aged 18 to 29 received regular news from TikTok, a hub for liberal causes that has also seen a rise in the number of pro-Trump influencers since the last election.

The nature of social media – fast-moving and sometimes powered by unreliable narrators or bad actors – means that large audiences are more vulnerable to misinformation.

“I don’t really dig into it,” said Dean Citroni, 30, of Newnan, Georgia, who works in TV and film production and said he mainly gets political news from Facebook or TikTok. Citroni, who said he would “probably” lean more toward Trump than Biden but was interested in Kennedy, added: “Someone posts a clip of it, I’ll probably look at it and say, ‘Huh! I can’t believe that! ”

And even though young voters get much of their information from individualized social media feeds, while cable news often reinforces partisan instincts, Americans have fewer cultural connections to unite them.

The era of primetime TV hits on major networks has given way to paywalled streaming services. Music has evolved into personalized, app-driven experiences. Instagram and TikTok algorithms bombard people with endless, individualized streams of content.

And Americans’ shared vocabulary—and shared set of facts—is shrinking.

“It used to be that you could reach virtually any voter through conventional electronic media, radio and television,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. Now he said: “You can’t actually even reach them through the more popular social media platforms. The fragmentation of information, the way people consume information, it’s much more difficult.”

Darrell Hammond, the comedian and former cast member of Saturday Night Live, said these realities even changed the nature of political comedy.

“You’d like to think that in order to laugh at a joke, the audience has to basically understand the premise and agree with it to some extent,” he said. “But now you just have broad generalizations.”

Kal Penn, an actor who worked in the Obama administration, said he challenged himself to bridge the gap through humor.

“I love making something that your crazy uncle can watch with you on Thanksgiving,” he said. “And it’s the only night where you don’t yell at each other about the elections.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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