An Unsettled Electorate: How Uncertainty and Apathy Are Shaping the 2024 Election

May 28, 2024 | Daniel A. Cox, Kyle Gray, Kelsey Eyre Hammond

Introduction

With just under six months until the 2024 presidential election, a new survey of more than 6,500 adults finds considerable uncertainty among the American public, with few paying close attention to issues that may define the election. Americans are evenly divided between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. At this stage in the election cycle, neither candidate is particularly well-liked: Comparable numbers of Americans hold negative opinions of Trump or Biden as say they favor either candidate. Half of voters say things will get worse if either Biden or Trump wins reelection. Still, Americans tend to believe that the candidate options for the 2024 presidential election present an easy choice, though young voters, especially young women, are less certain.

Young people support Biden, but not by a huge margin. Fifty-four percent of young voters say if the election were held today, they would support Biden, and 46 percent say they would support Trump. Young men and women differ by about 12 points in their support for either candidate. A majority of religiously unaffiliated voters (69 percent), Black Protestants (88 percent), and Hispanic Catholics (55 percent) support Biden. However, Trump holds an advantage among white Catholics (58 percent), white mainline Protestants (59 percent), Latter-day Saints (69 percent), and white evangelical Protestants (83 percent).

Optimism about the state of the country is in short supply. Americans are primarily pessimistic about the national economic outlook, their local economic outlook, and the American Dream as a whole. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Americans say the national economy is worsening. Half (49 percent) say their local economy is getting worse. Most Americans, including large percentages of young Americans, say the American Dream is not easy for people like them to achieve.

The survey reveals widespread disagreement over how privilege operates in America. Distinct groups of Americans say they have benefited from male privilege, white privilege, or class privilege relative to others. Educational, ideological, racial, and gendered disagreements emerge on these issues: College-educated women are most likely to say their gender has made things harder for them, while liberal Americans are far more sensitive than conservatives to their class backgrounds and how much these experiences help or harm them. Conservatives are far less likely than liberals to believe their economic background matters one way or another. Perceptions of whom the political parties represent have evolved considerably over the past few decades. More than three decades ago, nearly three-quarters of Americans said the GOP represented wealthy Americans’ interests, but today, only about half the public believes this. Similarly, most Americans once believed the Democratic Party looked out for poor Americans, but far fewer—only 42 percent—believe this today. Notably, few Americans currently believe either party represents the interests of America’s middle class.

Tuning In or Tuning Out: News About the 2024 Election, Abortion, the Israel-Hamas Conflict, and the Southern Border

American news media spends considerable time covering major issues, such as the 2024 election, abortion laws, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and events at the southern border. Are Americans paying close attention?

The 2024 Election

Plenty of Americans are not paying close attention to the election at this early stage in the campaign. Fifty-nine percent of Americans report they are following news about the 2024 presidential election very closely or fairly closely. Four in 10 (40 percent) Americans say they are not paying close attention to the 2024 election or following it at all.

Members of the two major political parties are about equally attentive to the 2024 presidential contest. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (65 percent) and of Republicans (68 percent) say they are paying very or fairly close attention to the 2024 election.

Abortion Laws and Restrictions

Only about half (51 percent) of Americans report they are following news about abortion laws and restrictions. Seventeen percent of the public say they are following this topic very closely, and 34 percent say fairly closely. Nearly half (48 percent) report they are not following news about abortion closely or at all. Fewer Americans are paying attention to the issue today than were doing so in 2022, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In fall 2022, 60 percent of Americans said they were following news about abortion laws and restrictions very or fairly closely.[i]

Americans concerned about the lack of abortion access are following news on this topic more closely than those supporting greater restrictions are. Seventy percent of self-identified liberals say they are following news about abortion laws closely, compared to less than half (48 percent) of conservatives. Among Americans who strongly oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, 64 percent are following news about abortion laws very or somewhat closely.

Democrats, especially Democratic women, are more focused on the abortion issue than are other Americans. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of Democratic women and 63 percent of Democratic men report paying close attention to news about abortion laws and restrictions. Less than half of Republican women (49 percent) and Republican men (45 percent) report they are paying close attention to this issue.

The Israel-Hamas Conflict

Although college protests over the conflict in Gaza have received significant news coverage, most Americans say they are not following this news very closely. Less than half (47 percent) of Americans say they are following news about the conflict very or fairly closely. More than half (53 percent) report they are paying little or no attention to it.

Young adults are paying far less attention to the conflict than are older Americans. Only 32 percent of young Americans (age 18 to 29) say they are following news about the conflict very or fairly closely. Seniors are far more tuned in: 70 percent of Americans age 65 and older report they are closely monitoring news about the conflict. Notably, young full-time students are not paying any more attention to news about the conflict in Gaza than are young adults overall. Among full-time students under age 30, 31 percent say they are paying attention to news about the war between Israel and Hamas.

No group of Americans is following the conflict more closely than are Jewish Americans. Eighty-five percent of Jewish Americans say they are following news about the war between Israel and Hamas closely, including nearly half (48 percent) who say they are paying very close attention to it.

The Southern Border

About half (52 percent) of the American public say they are following the “current situation at the U.S. border with Mexico” very or fairly closely. Roughly as many (48 percent) say they are not paying close attention to news about the southern border.

Republicans are paying closer attention to news about the southern border than are Democrats or independents. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Republicans say they are following news about the southern border very or fairly closely. Only about half of independents (51 percent) and Democrats (48 percent) say they are paying close attention to news about the border.

The 2024 Election

American voters are about equally divided in their vote preference at this stage in the 2024 presidential election. Forty percent of voters say they would cast a ballot for Biden if the election were held today, while 39 percent say they would vote for Trump. One in five voters say either that they would support another candidate (7 percent) or that they are unsure whom they would vote for (14 percent).

American voters who did not select either major party candidate were subsequently asked whether they were leaning toward casting their vote in one direction or another. While these leaners split toward each candidate in equal numbers, most say they will not vote. Once leaners are accounted for, support for either candidate increases by just 4 percentage points, bringing support for Biden to 44 percent and for Trump to 43 percent. Twelve percent of voters maintain they will not vote. President Biden is in a statistical tie with former President Trump in the two-party vote. Among registered voters who express a preference, 51 percent report they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, and 49 percent would vote for Trump.[ii] Voters’ preferences between the two major party candidates vary substantially by their education, religious affiliation, gender, and race.

Biden’s Hispanic Voter Problem

At this point in the 2024 election, the voter preferences of American racial and ethnic groups are remarkably similar to those in 2020, with one crucial exception. This year, 86 percent of black voters favor Biden, and 14 percent support Trump. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Asian or Pacific Islander voters report they are voting for Biden this time. White voter preferences also roughly align with 2020 voting patterns: 57 percent of white voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, and 43 percent say they support Biden. Compared to how he fared in 2020, Biden is significantly underperforming among Hispanic voters. Only 55 percent of Hispanic voters say they would support Biden; 45 percent would vote for Trump.[iii]

The (White) Education Gap

Americans with more years of formal education support Biden in much larger numbers than do those with less schooling, continuing a pattern from recent elections. Sixty percent of registered voters with a high school education or less are voting for Trump, and 40 percent support Biden. The pattern among college-educated voters is reversed: 61 percent report they would vote for Biden, and 39 percent support Trump.

The education gap is most pronounced among white, non-Hispanic voters. More than seven in 10 (71 percent) white voters with a high school education or less support Trump. In contrast, less than half (44 percent) of white voters with a college degree are voting for Trump; a solid majority (56 percent) are backing Biden at this stage in the presidential contest.

There is no significant education divide in black voters’ preferences. More than eight in 10 (82 percent) black voters without a high school degree report they are supporting Biden in the 2024 election. Similarly, 86 percent of black voters with a college degree are voting for Biden.

The education gap is more modest among Hispanic voters than white voters. Hispanic voters with a high school education or less are evenly divided between Biden (52 percent) and Trump (48 percent). In contrast, Biden has a 26-point lead over Trump among Hispanic voters with a college degree (63 percent vs. 37 percent).

Familiar Religious Fault Lines and the White Christian Gender Gap

Trump’s most loyal religious voters continue to be white evangelical Protestants. Eighty-three percent of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today. White Catholic and white mainline Protestant voters continue to prefer Trump over Biden by wide margins. Nearly six in 10 white mainline Protestant (59 percent) and white Catholic (58 percent) voters support Trump.

Biden continues to fare well among black Protestant voters and religiously unaffiliated voters. Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) black Protestant voters say they would vote for Biden if the election were held today. Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) religiously unaffiliated voters also indicate they would support Biden. Biden has a more modest advantage over Trump among Hispanic Catholic voters (55 percent vs. 45 percent).

The strong support Trump enjoys among white Christian voters conceals a notable gender gap in candidate preferences. Across religious traditions, white Christian men support Trump significantly more than white Christian women do. More than six in 10 (63 percent) white Catholic male voters support Trump, while white Catholic female voters are more evenly divided. Fifty-three percent of white Catholic women support Trump, and 47 percent prefer Biden. Similarly, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of white mainline Protestant men report they would vote for Trump, compared to 53 percent of white mainline Protestant women. The gender gap almost disappears among white evangelical Protestants. Similar numbers of white evangelical male (86 percent) and female (81 percent) voters support Trump.

The Youth Vote Gender Gap

At this stage in the campaign, Biden has a modest advantage among young Americans who are registered to vote. Fifty-four percent of young voters say if the election were held today, they would support Biden, and 46 percent say they would support Trump.

Young men and young women demonstrate starkly different vote preferences. Sixty percent of young female voters say they are voting for Biden, compared to 40 percent who are backing Trump. Young men are more evenly divided: 52 percent are backing Trump, and 48 percent support Biden.

The 2024 Vote: A Difficult Decision?

Despite many voters’ apathy about their choice of candidates in the 2024 presidential election, few voters say their choice will be difficult. According to 72 percent of registered voters, deciding whom to vote for this year will be easy. Roughly three in 10 (27 percent) say the decision will be difficult. Four years ago, a somewhat greater share of voters said this choice would be easy. In 2020, 81 percent of registered voters said their voting decision would be easy.

Equal numbers of Republican (79 percent) and Democratic (80 percent) voters say deciding whom to vote for this year will be easy. Far fewer independent voters say the same: 61 percent believe it will be easy. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) say the decision about whom to support will be difficult. Independent female voters express the greatest uncertainty about their voting decision, with 44 percent saying it will be difficult. Younger voters are more likely than older voters to say the decision of whom to support in 2024 will be difficult. Seventy-nine percent of senior voters say the decision will be easy, compared to 64 percent of young voters. Thirty-five percent of younger voters say the decision will be difficult. Notably, there is a sizable gender gap among younger voters regarding the ease of deciding whom to support in the 2024 election. Whereas 71 percent of young male voters say the decision will be easy, only 57 percent of young female voters say the same.

An Election of Unlikable Candidates

Nearly as many Americans hold negative opinions of both presidential candidates as say they favor Biden or Trump. Twenty-seven percent of Americans view both candidates unfavorably. Thirty-four percent view Trump but not Biden favorably, while 33 percent view Biden but not Trump favorably. Just 3 percent of Americans view both candidates favorably. Compared to Americans over age 65 (17 percent), younger Americans are more likely (36 percent) to hold unfavorable opinions of both candidates. However, young women drive this trend: 42 percent report unfavorable views of both candidates, 10 points more than the share of young men who do so (32 percent).

The Most Important Election of Your Lifetime?

Most voters do not believe the 2024 election is a uniquely important contest. Only 27 percent of registered voters say the 2024 election is the single most important election in their lifetime. About four in 10 (41 percent) say it is more important than most other past elections but not the most important, and about one in three (31 percent) say it is as important as or less important than past elections.

Voters 20 years ago had remarkably similar views about the 2004 election, which pitted Republican George W. Bush against Democrat John Kerry. In 2004, 32 percent of voters said the upcoming election was the single most important one in their lifetime.[iv] Thirty-six percent said it was more important than most other elections but not the most important, and about one-third (32 percent) said it was as important as or less important than past presidential elections.

In 2024, Democratic and Republican voters’ views on the election’s importance are almost identical. Nearly one in three Democratic (31 percent) and Republican (31 percent) voters say the 2024 election is the single most important one of their lifetime. More than four in 10 Democratic (42 percent) and Republican (43 percent) voters say the 2024 election is more important than most other elections but not the single most important. Roughly one in four Democrats and Republicans each say it is as important as or less important than other elections (26 percent and 25 percent, respectively).

The Meaning of a Trump or Biden Victory

For most voters, the 2024 election is shaping up to be more about preventing a negative outcome than assuring a positive one. Overall, few registered voters believe Biden’s reelection would improve conditions in the country. Only 21 percent of voters say things in the country would get much better or somewhat better if Biden is reelected. Twenty-eight percent of voters say things in the country would mostly stay the same. Just over half (51 percent) of voters believe things would get worse if Biden wins reelection.

Even Democratic voters do not hold much optimism that keeping Biden in office would improve the country. Less than half (47 percent) of Democratic voters say Biden’s reelection would lead to positive change for the country. Forty-two percent of Democratic voters say things would not change. Meanwhile, 10 percent of Democratic voters say they expect conditions in the country to worsen if Biden is reelected. Nearly nine in 10 Republicans (88 percent) believe that if Biden is reelected, things in the country would get worse, including 71 percent who say they would get much worse.

American voters do not have a much more positive outlook about a second Trump administration. Forty-two percent of voters say Trump’s election would improve things in the US; 8 percent say it would not change things much. Half (50 percent) of voters say things in the country would be worse than they are right now if Trump is reelected. Young men and young women are predictably divided here. A majority (53 percent) of young women say the country would get at least somewhat worse if Trump is elected, compared to only 44 percent of young men. Older men and women show more parity in their perceptions of the county’s direction if Trump is elected.

Republican voters stand out for their belief that Trump’s election would improve conditions in the country. Eighty-three percent of Republican voters say things in the country would improve if Trump is elected. By contrast, 90 percent of Democratic voters say things in the country would get at least somewhat worse following a Trump election; 77 percent of these voters say things would get much worse.

Politics, Pessimism, and Privilege in America

On net, Americans are pessimistic about the state of the country. Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) say America’s best days are behind it. Forty percent say America’s best days are yet to come. This marks a significant reversal from 2020, when Americans were on the whole optimistic about the country’s future. Then, 54 percent said America’s best days were ahead and 46 percent behind.[v] Current views of the country’s political and economic future vary considerably along partisan and educational lines.

American Optimism Is in Short Supply

Americans’ optimism is stratified by educational attainment. Americans with more years of formal schooling tend to be more optimistic about the country’s future. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans with a college degree—and more than half (51 percent) of those with an advanced degree—say America’s best days lie ahead. Only about one in three (34 percent) Americans with no college education share this optimism about the country’s future.

There are stark partisan divisions of opinion about the country’s future. Democratic men are among the most optimistic about America’s future. Sixty-one percent of Democratic men and half (50 percent) of Democratic women say America’s best days are ahead. Less than one-third of Republican men (31 percent) and Republican women (27 percent) say the country’s best days lie ahead.

The National Economic Outlook

More than six in 10 Americans (61 percent) say the national economy is worsening. Twenty-two percent of Americans say the economy is staying about the same, and just 16 percent say the economy is improving.

Partisan differences in economic outlook are stark. More than four-fifths of Republicans (82 percent) say things are getting worse. Democrats have a more positive outlook but are hardly bullish. Thirty-six percent say the economy is getting worse, one-third (33 percent) say it is improving, and 30 percent say things are about the same.

Public views of the national economy are also sharply polarized by education level. Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans with a high school education or less believe the US economy is trending in the wrong direction, a view that 50 percent of all college graduates hold and less than half (42 percent) of Americans with a graduate-level education share. Younger Americans report greater pessimism than do older Americans. Among Americans age 18 to 29, 70 percent say the economy is worsening, compared to 54 percent of American seniors (age 65 and older). Fully one-quarter of seniors say the economy is improving, a view that fewer than one in 10 (8 percent) young Americans hold. Older and younger Americans are equally likely (21 percent) to say things are staying about the same.

The Local Economic Outlook

Public perceptions of the local economy are notably more positive but still largely negative overall. Forty-nine percent of Americans believe their local economy is getting worse. Thirty-four percent say things remain the same, and 17 percent say things are improving.

Again, Republicans are the most pessimistic. Just over six in 10 (63 percent) Republicans say the economy is getting worse locally. Fewer than one in 10 (7 percent) Republicans say things are improving locally. Democrats are as likely to say things are improving as they are to say things are getting worse (30 percent vs. 31 percent), and roughly four in 10 (39 percent) say their local economic outlook is staying about the same.

Educational differences in economic outlook persist. Fifty-five percent of Americans with a high school education or less say their local economy is getting worse, compared to 38 percent of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more. Americans with a college degree are more than twice as likely as those without one to say things are improving locally (24 percent vs. 11 percent). Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree (38 percent) are only slightly more likely to see no change in the local economy than those without one (33 percent).

The American Dream and Educational Requirements for Success

Most Americans (84 percent) believe that achieving the American Dream is not easy for people like them. Only 14 percent say they believe the American Dream is easily achievable for people like them. Fifty percent say it is somewhat hard to achieve, and 34 percent say it is very hard.

Young adults are more likely than older Americans to believe the American Dream is very difficult to achieve. The age gap is especially pronounced among men. Young men are twice as likely as senior men to say the American Dream is very difficult to achieve (38 percent vs. 19 percent). Young women are also much more likely than older women to believe this. Forty-three percent of young women say achieving the American Dream is very hard, compared to 29 percent of women age 65 or older.

Americans also vary in their views of whether advanced education can put the American Dream within reach. Half (51 percent) of Americans say some college education or a trade degree is required to get ahead in life. Roughly two-fifths of Americans say either a four-year college degree (19 percent) or a high school diploma (20 percent) is required for success. Just 8 percent of Americans say a postgraduate degree is necessary.

Views about the importance of education are closely related to partisan identity. About one in three (34 percent) Democrats believe one needs at least a four-year college degree to succeed, while only 21 percent of Republicans share this view. Americans age 65 and older are considerably more likely than Americans age 18 to 29 to say some college experience is required to get ahead (64 percent vs. 44 percent). Conversely, younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to say a high school degree is all one needs (26 percent vs. 13 percent).

American Privilege: Gender, Class, and Race

The public’s understanding of privilege in the United States is complicated. Americans typically believe life in the US is easier for people with certain demographic attributes or economic experiences and more difficult for others. Many white Americans reject the notion that their racial background is advantageous. Most men view the concept of male privilege similarly.

Male Privilege

Most men reject the idea that their life has been easier because of their gender. Fewer than four in 10 (39 percent) men say their life has been easier because they are a man. Forty-three percent say it has not made any difference, and 15 percent say things have been more difficult for them because of their gender.

Perceptions differ markedly among Americans with higher levels of educational attainment. More than half (52 percent) of college-educated men believe their gender has generally made things easier for them, but only 28 percent of men with a high school education or less agree they have had an advantage in life because of their gender. White men with a college degree are particularly likely to believe their gender has given them advantages. Fifty-eight percent of white men with a college education say being a man has generally made things easier for them, compared to only 35 percent of white men with a high school degree who say the same.

While more college-educated men than men with less education believe they benefit from their gender, women with and without a college education believe the inverse: Women who are more highly educated are more likely than those with less education to believe they are disadvantaged by their gender. Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) women with a college degree believe that being a woman has made their life more difficult than it otherwise would be. Far fewer women without a college degree share this view. Only 41 percent of women with a high school education or less believe their gender has been a liability. Among these same women, 44 percent say their gender has not made a difference, and 12 percent say it has made their lives easier.

There are pronounced ideological divisions as well. Liberal women are far more likely than conservative women to believe their life has been harder because they are a woman. Sixty-nine percent of liberal women say being a woman in American society has made things more difficult, a view that only 33 percent of conservative women share.

Young men are far less likely than older men to believe their gender has given them an advantage in life. Only 33 percent of young men say things have been easier for them because they are a man, but half (50 percent) of men age 65 or older believe they have benefited because of their gender. Twenty percent of young men say their gender has made their life more difficult.

Young women likewise differ significantly from older women in their views about how their gender has affected their lives. Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) young women say being a woman has left them at a disadvantage in American society. Less than half (43 percent) of women age 65 or older embrace this view.

Class Privilege

Americans raised in upper-middle-class or upper-class households believe they have enjoyed advantages in American society. Among Americans who report that they grew up in an upper-class or upper-middle-class household, 60 percent say this experience has made their life easier. In contrast, Americans raised in middle-class homes are far less likely to believe that they had much of an advantage or that they were disadvantaged. One in three (34 percent) Americans raised in middle-class homes say it made things easier for them. Roughly half (49 percent) of Americans raised in middle-class households say their class background did not affect them either way.

A similar share (48 percent) of Americans raised in working-class homes believe their experience neither helped nor harmed them. Only 35 percent of Americans raised in working-class homes believe the experience made their life more difficult. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans who report being raised in a lower-class household say this made their life more difficult.

More liberals than conservatives believe their economic upbringing influenced their life, both positively and negatively. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of liberals raised in upper-class or upper-middle-class families say their upbringing has made things easier for them, while less than half (47 percent) of conservatives say they have had an easier time because of an economically advantageous upbringing. Liberals raised in middle-class households are also more likely than conservatives to say this experience benefited them (47 percent vs. 30 percent).

The ideological divide persists among those raised in working-class households, but in reverse. Nearly half (47 percent) of liberals raised in working-class households say their life has been harder because of it. Only 29 percent of conservatives raised in working-class households share this opinion.

White Privilege

The extent to which white, non-Hispanic Americans believe their race has advantaged them in American society heavily depends on their educational background. Overall, nearly half (49 percent) of white Americans say being white has made things easier for them. Thirty-nine percent say their race has made no difference in their life, and more than one in 10 (11 percent) say it has made things more difficult.

More than six in 10 (63 percent) white Americans with a college degree say things have been easier for them because of their race. Only 35 percent of high school–educated white Americans without a higher degree share this view.

College-educated white women are more likely than college-educated white men to say their race has advantaged them in life. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of white college-educated women say being white has made their life easier, compared to 60 percent of white college-educated men.

An educational divide is also apparent in black Americans’ views about how their race has influenced their life. Overall, more than six in 10 (61 percent) black Americans say things have been more difficult for them because of their race. Views vary substantially among those with more and fewer years of formal schooling. Black Americans with a college degree are much more likely than those without a degree to believe their race has made their life more difficult (73 percent vs. 56 percent).

Young white Americans are nearly as likely as older whites to say they are better off because of their race. However, this figure masks an important gender divide. Young white men are less likely than old white men to believe their race benefits them. Only 39 percent of young white men say things have been easier for them because of their race, compared to a majority (55 percent) of white senior men. The pattern is reversed among women. Sixty-one percent of young white women say they are better off because of their race; 54 percent of white women age 65 or older express this view.

Which Parties Represent Wealthy People, Poor People, and the Middle Class

Perceptions of whom the major American political parties look out for have changed dramatically over the past few decades. Americans increasingly do not believe Democrats represent poor and middle-class Americans, and fewer Americans associate the GOP with the wealthy’s interests.

The public is evenly divided over which party works to further the interests of middle-class Americans. While 31 percent say Democrats better represent middle-class interests, 29 percent of Americans say Republicans better represent middle-class Americans. According to 15 percent of Americans, neither party stands up for the middle class. By contrast, in 1990,[vi] Democrats held a substantial edge over Republicans regarding which party was considered to be looking out for the middle class. Then, nearly half (48 percent) of Americans said Democrats better represented middle-class interests, while about a third (34 percent) said Republicans better represented the middle class.

Americans are generally more likely to say that Democrats better represent poor Americans’ interests than that Republicans do. More than four in 10 (42 percent) Americans say Democrats better represent poor people, while 16 percent say Republicans do. Notably, one-quarter (25 percent) of the public say neither party does. This, too, represents a stark change from 1990, when two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans said Democrats better represented the interests of low-income Americans. At the time, just 22 percent of Americans said Republicans better represented those with low income.

On the other end of the spectrum, slightly more than half (51 percent) of the public believe the Republican Party better represents wealthy people’s interests. Thirteen percent say Democrats have the richest Americans’ interests in mind, while 22 percent say neither party represents the most well-off. In 1990, Americans were far more unified in their views: 73 percent said the GOP better represented rich people’s interests. At that time, 17 percent said the Democratic Party did so, and just 2 percent of Americans said neither party represented these interests, a clear consensus.

Perceptions of which parties represent whom vary by education. Fifty-three percent of college-educated Americans say the Democratic Party better represents poor people’s interests, 19 points more than the share of Americans with a high school education or less who hold this view (34 percent). High school–educated Americans are more likely than college-educated Americans to say that neither party (28 percent vs. 22 percent) represents poor people better or that both parties are equally representative (17 percent vs. 9 percent).

College-educated Americans also identify the GOP as representing rich Americans’ interests more readily than do high-school educated Americans (60 percent vs. 44 percent). While college-educated Americans are as likely as those with a high school degree or less to say Republicans better represent the middle class (28 percent vs. 29 percent), they are far more likely to say the Democratic Party answers to middle-class interests (40 percent vs. 24 percent).

Has the Country Gone Too Far in Promoting Gender Equality?

Overall, roughly half (47 percent) of Americans say the country has not gone far enough in giving women rights equal to those of men. About four in 10 (39 percent) say the country has made enough progress at this point, and 11 percent of Americans say it has gone too far.

The views of men and women on this issue are significantly different. A majority (56 percent) of women say the US has not done enough to address past gender inequalities. Only 38 percent of men agree there is more work to do. The gender gap is particularly pronounced among younger Americans. Nearly one in five (19 percent) young men say the country has gone too far in giving women equal rights with men, compared to 9 percent of young women. Six in 10 (60 percent) young women say the country has not gone far enough to address gender inequality, a view that only 37 percent of young men share. Notably, young men’s views have changed significantly in the past few years. In 2017, less than half of today’s number of young men (8 percent) said the country had gone too far in ensuring women have equal rights with men.[vii]

Conclusion

American voters at this early stage in the presidential race remain unenthusiastic about their candidate options, and few are paying close attention to the upcoming election. Roughly equal numbers of Americans have negative perceptions of Trump and Biden, and the race will likely come down to which candidate voters dislike least.

Biden continues to struggle with key demographics, including Hispanic voters and young voters.

Although young voters have more positive views of Biden than of Trump, Biden is capturing a less than robust majority. What’s more, there is a critical gender divide in young adults’ voting preferences. Six in 10 young female voters prefer Biden, but young male voters are about equally divided between the two candidates.

As the campaigns ramp up, much will change, but for now the abortion issue does not appear as salient to Americans as in 2022. The war between Israel and Hamas also inspires little public interest, especially among young adults. More Americans say they are following news about the southern border, but interest in the issue is highly polarized, with Republicans paying much closer attention than Democrats. Few Americans believe the 2024 election is uniquely important. In fact, more Americans said the upcoming election was uniquely important in 2004 than say so today.


About the Authors

Daniel A. Cox is the director of the Survey Center on American Life and a senior fellow in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute. Under his leadership, the center conducts public opinion and survey research on topics such as religious change and measurement, social capital, and youth politics.

Kyle P. Gray is a research associate at the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life.

Kelsey Eyre Hammond is a program coordinator and researcher at the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life.


Methodology

AEI’s Survey Center on American Life designed and conducted the survey. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 6,597 adults (age 18 and up). All interviews were conducted among participants in the Ipsos KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US general population, not just the online population. Interviews were conducted in Spanish and English between March 29 and April 15, 2024.

The Ipsos KnowledgePanel recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the US Postal Service’s latest Delivery Sequence File—a database that fully covers all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available US households. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in to complete surveys online.

Because of these recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status, and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population. KnowledgePanel members receive a per-survey incentive, usually the equivalent of $1 (though for some it is $2) in points, that can be redeemed for cash or prizes. Panelists receive a unique log-in to the survey and can complete it only once. Two reminder emails were sent for this study.

The data were weighted to adjust for gender, race and ethnicity, education, census region, household income, language dominance, race by gender, race by age, race by education, and 2020 presidential vote. The sample weighting was accomplished using an iterative proportional fitting process that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables. The use of survey weights in statistical analyses ensures that the demographic characteristics of the sample closely approximate those of the target population. The margin of sampling error for the qualified survey sample is +/–1.3 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.12.


Notes

[i] Karlyn Bowman and Daniel Cox, “Gender, Generation, and Abortion: Shifting Politics and Perspectives After Roe,” American Enterprise Institute, October 14, 2022, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/gender-generation-and-abortion-shifting-politics-and-perspectives-after-roe.

[ii] This analysis excludes respondents who are not registered to vote and respondents who support a third-party candidate or expressed uncertainty about whom they would vote for in the 2024 presidential election.

[iii] Ruth Igielnik, Scott Keeter, and Hannah Hartig, “Behind Biden’s 2020 Victory,” Pew Research Center, June 30, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/06/30/behind-bidens-2020-victory.

[iv] Newsweek and Princeton Survey Research Associates International, PSRA/Newsweek Poll 2004-NW18: 2004 Presidential Election/Iraq/Flu Vaccine, version 2, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, 2004, https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/ipoll/study/31096839.

[v] Daniel A. Cox, Jacqueline Clemence, and Eleanor O’Neil, Partisan Attachment: How Politics is Changing Dating and Relationships in the Trump Era, AEI Survey Center on American Life, February 6, 2020, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/partisan-attachment-how-politics-is-changing-dating-and-relationships-in-the-trump-era.

[vi] ABC News and Washington Post, “ABC News/Washington Post Poll: October 1990 [Roper #31105224],” Cornell University, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, October 7, 1990, https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/ipoll/study/31105224.

[vii] Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, and Renee Stepler, Wide Partisan Gaps in U.S. over How Far the Country Has Come on Gender Equality, Pew Research Center, October 18, 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2017/10/18/wide-partisan-gaps-in-u-s-over-how-far-the-country-has-come-on-gender-equality.


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