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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Divided Democrats still would vote for Biden again

Polls show the party is split over the president but he remains their choice to try and keep Donald Trump from returning to the White House.
President Joe Biden (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Only about half of Democrats think President Joe Biden should run again in 2024, a poll shows, but a large majority say they’d be likely to support him if he became the nominee.

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 26% of Americans overall want to see Biden run again — a slight recovery from the 22% who said that in January. Forty-seven percent of Democrats say they want him to run, also up slightly from only 37% who said that in January.

The ambivalence among Democratic voters comes as Biden is preparing to formally announce his 2024 reelection campaign as soon as next week, according to people briefed on the discussions. The president has been eyeing Tuesday, April 25 — four years to the day since he entered the 2020 race — although no final decisions have been made.

Despite the reluctance of many Democrats to see Biden run for another term, 78% of them say they approve of the job he’s doing as president. And a total of 81% of Democrats say they would at least probably support Biden in a general election if he is the nominee — 41% say they definitely would and 40% say they probably would.

Interviews with poll respondents suggest that the gap reflects concerns about Biden’s age, as well as a clamoring from a younger generation of Democrats who say they want leadership that reflects their demographic and their values. Biden, now 80, would be 82 on Election Day 2024 and 86 years old at the end of a second presidential term. He is the oldest president in history.

Jenipher Lagana, 59, said she likes Biden, calling him an “interesting man” who has had an “incredible political career.” She praised Biden for providing a “breath of fresh air” and said she approves of how he’s been doing his job as president.

But “my problem with him running in 2024 is that he’s just so old,” said Lagana, who is retired and lives in California. “I would love to see somebody younger, like (Transportation Secretary Pete) Buttigieg or (California Gov. Gavin) Newsom be able to get in there and handle things maybe a little differently just because they’re a younger person.”

Donna Stewart, 48, a program director for a nonprofit in New York, also pointed to Biden’s age as a concern.

“I voted for him. I like him as a person. I like him as a leader for the country,” she said. “However, I just feel that he’s still lacking the up-to-date knowledge of what needs to be done.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden appeared to hint that he would limit himself to just one term in the White House, framing his candidacy as a bridge to a new generation of Democratic leaders. But while in office, Biden has made his intentions clearer that he would run again for a second term, saying as recently as last week in Ireland that he’s “already made that calculus” and that the announcement will happen “relatively soon.”

With only nominal primary challengers and a chaotic Republican field, the president and his senior aides have felt little pressure to formalize a reelection campaign. Instead, Biden has focused on governing, holding events at the White House and traveling across the country to sell his top legislative achievements such as a bipartisan infrastructure law and a sweeping climate, health care and tax package.

The president and his senior political advisers are meeting with Democratic donors in Washington next week in an event meant to energize the party’s top contributors ahead of Biden’s expected reelection campaign.

Biden has also batted away questions about his age, saying that voters simply need to “watch me” to determine whether he’s up to the job as president.

And while many Democrats remain tepid on Biden because of his age, others said it was actually an asset.

Stephen Foery, 47, said Biden’s decades in Washington — first in the Senate and then as vice president — proved to be valuable in the first two years of his presidency “because he’s done a lot to fix the country in a very short amount of time.”

“I think that one of the benefits of living a long life is that you have a lot of wisdom to impart,” said Foery, a creative services manager in Pennsylvania. “If you gain as much experience as Biden has throughout his life, it would be a shame to simply disregard him because of his age.”

Biden’s job approval rating stands at 42%, a slight improvement from 38% in March. The March poll came after a pair of bank failures rattled an already shaky confidence in the nation’s financial systems, and Biden’s approval rating then was near the lowest point of his presidency. Thirty percent of Americans call the national economy good, a slight improvement from 25% a month ago.

Younger Democrats remain a reluctant part of Biden’s coalition — just 25% of those under age 45 say they would definitely support Biden in a general election, compared with 56% of older Democrats. Still, an additional 51% of younger Democrats say they would probably vote for Biden in a 2024 general election.

“It’s really hard to support somebody who is such a career politician, who has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo when the status quo doesn’t work for me,” said Otis Phillips, 20, who lives in Washington state.

Phillips, a student, said he has been pleased with some of Biden’s initiatives, including his student loan forgiveness program and his focus on climate policy. But he emphasized: “I don’t like maintaining the status quo. And so I want things to change, and I don’t think Biden’s how we’re going to get that in the next four years.”

Both the current and former president could face resistance from the public as a whole in a general election. A total of 65% of U.S. adults say they would definitely or probably not support former President Donald Trump if he is nominated in a general election, including 53% who say they definitely would not. Biden’s obstacles are smaller by comparison but still substantial: 56% of Americans say they would be unlikely to support Biden in a general election, including 41% who say they would definitely not.

Biden has long bet that once voters are presented with a binary choice — either him or a Republican candidate, particularly if it is Trump — that a majority of the electorate will side with Democrats. He often quotes his father, Joseph R. Biden Sr., in his public remarks: “Joey, don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”

“The only reason why I would not want him to run is because of his age. Like, that’s the only thing,” said Shakeen Magee, 45, a self-employed Georgia resident.

But she said that if Biden does officially become the Democratic nominee in 2024, she would definitely support him “because we can’t take another Trump.” Magee added that “if we were to get another Republican in that office, it would just undo the little progress that Biden has been able to make.”

AP White House correspondent Zeke Miller and AP writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.

The poll of 1,230 adults was conducted April 13-17 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press

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