President Joe Biden’s campaign is focusing on the threat of Donald Trump to democracy, with polling and early primary results suggesting that Democrats and some independents are open to the message. A recent AP-NORC poll found that Americans believe the 2024 election would impact the “future of democracy” in the U.S. more than any other issue besides the economy and government spending. Concerns around democracy beat out immigration, abortion, and climate change, among other voter priorities.
A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll from last month also found that a slim majority of Americans think Trump is a threat to democracy. This could help Biden “get voters to look past high grocery prices.” However, the Biden campaign has not seen similar success in its messaging on other key issues in the 2024 race. The same Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that a majority of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, immigration, and foreign policy issues like the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Biden’s overall job approval numbers are well below 50 percent, and he is running neck and neck or trailing Trump in national and battleground state polls.
Biden’s reelection campaign got off to a strong start with victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina against two long-shot primary challengers. Democratic strategists argued that Biden’s threats-to-democracy messaging contributed to Trump’s relatively poor showing with moderate Republicans and independent voters in the New Hampshire Republican primary last month. Republicans argue that Biden is focused on threats to democracy and protecting access to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, because they don’t have many other issues to fall back on to energize Democrats in a likely general election matchup against Trump.
The threats-to-democracy messaging could cut both ways in 2024, as it highlights public disapproval with the government at a time when Biden is in power and gives oxygen to a debate about which forces pose the greatest threat to American democracy.