The 2024 Presidential Election: Evolving Political Coalitions and Familiar Partisan Divisions
June 29, 2023 |
Political coalitions are complicated and fluid, and they evolve in response to emerging issues, political leaders, and public priorities. A new survey, conducted among more than 6,000 adults living in the United States by the Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, reveals deep fissures currently dividing the American electorate and how they crosscut and define today’s Republican and Democratic parties.
The new survey, detailed below, finds an American public torn between optimism and pessimism for the country but, perhaps surprisingly, largely maintaining faith in the ability of individuals to attain the American dream. Less surprisingly, the public expresses far less confidence in current political leaders’ ability to put the country on the right course. Instead, the public is divided, both between and within parties, on what key priorities political leaders should address.
Despite the partisan rancor so prominent in our country today, supporters of both parties declare a preference for candidates who can appeal to moderate voters rather than remain consistently liberal or conservative. Moreover, when political parties have more moderate reputations, they are generally viewed more favorably than when they are operating at the ideological extremes.
In the early days of the 2024 presidential campaign, we find the probable candidates—Joe Biden on the Democratic side and Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis on the Republican side—to be fairly evenly matched in voters’ current preferences, and we reveal key weaknesses in the coalitions they would hope to assemble to support their candidacies.
However, at least at this early stage, DeSantis appears to be the somewhat stronger Republican challenger. Biden remains a weak incumbent, but his leading opponents have their own liabilities. For example, Biden is viewed without enthusiasm among young voters, a key Democratic constituency, while Trump appears to be losing support among one of his strongest previous constituencies: white evangelicals.
American Optimism and Pessimism
The American public is evenly divided between optimists and pessimists. Forty-eight percent of Americans say they are somewhat or very optimistic about the future of the United States, and 51 percent say they feel pessimistic about America’s future.
Political divisions in views about the country’s future are stark. A majority (58 percent) of Democrats say they are optimistic about the future of the United States, while fewer than four in 10 (37 percent) Republicans say the same.
No racial group is more optimistic about America’s future than black Americans. More than six in 10 (63 percent) black Americans say they are optimistic about the country’s future. A majority of Asian Americans (57 percent) and Hispanics (55 percent) also express a sense of optimism about where the country is headed. In contrast, white Americans feel more pessimistic than optimistic. Only 42 percent of white Americans are optimistic, while 56 percent say they are pessimistic.
Older Americans are slightly more optimistic about the future of the United States than are younger Americans. Less than half (46 percent) of young adults are optimistic about where America is headed, while 51 percent say they are pessimistic. In contrast, half of older Americans (age 65 and older) are optimistic, and 48 percent are pessimistic.
This pattern persists across racial lines. White and Hispanic Americans report the largest age differences. Thirty-nine percent of young white Americans are optimistic, compared to 47 percent of white seniors. Similarly, 47 percent of young Hispanics are optimistic, compared to 56 percent of older Hispanics. On the other hand, the majority of black Americans are optimistic regardless of age. Sixty-three percent of young black Americans are optimistic, compared to 66 percent of older black Americans.
For white Americans, differences in outlook vary by both gender and age. Young white women feel the greatest degree of pessimism. Only 36 percent of young white women say they are optimistic about where the country is headed. Forty-two percent of young white men, 44 percent of older white men (age 65 and older), and nearly half (48 percent) of older white women are optimistic.
No religious group is more pessimistic about America’s future than white evangelical Protestants. Only 35 percent of white evangelical Protestants are optimistic about where the US is headed. More than six in 10 (62 percent) say they are pessimistic about the country’s future. Yet faith does not necessarily predict a pessimistic outlook: 66 percent of black Protestants and 59 percent of Hispanic Catholics are optimistic. In contrast, 43 percent of those who are unaffiliated are optimistic, along with 44 percent of white mainline Protestants and 45 percent of white Catholics—only slightly below the proportion of all Americans (48 percent).
Reasons for Pessimism and Optimism
Americans who feel pessimistic about the country’s future mostly point to two separate reasons: the country’s broken political system (41 percent) and an electorate that no longer shares the same values (29 percent). Nearly one in five cite economic concerns: that America’s economy has underlying weaknesses (9 percent) or too many Americans no longer want to work (7 percent).
While Americans readily point to a couple of reasons the country is in trouble, there is less agreement about what is going right. When it comes to those who feel optimistic about the country, economic reasons are cited more consistently. About half (47 percent) of optimists say they feel positively about the country’s direction because of America’s fundamental economic strength (16 percent) or their belief that most Americans still have an opportunity to succeed (31 percent). Sixteen percent say they feel optimistic because Americans still share the same basic values. Additionally, 9 percent attribute their optimism to Americans’ work ethic, 8 percent to the resiliency of the political system, 7 percent to the strength of America’s military, and 6 percent to America’s technological leadership. Notably, 7 percent of Americans offer some other reason for their optimism, including adding qualifications to their initial response.
The American Dream
Public attitudes about the American dream are somewhat more positive. Most Americans believe they are already living the American dream (32 percent) or that they will reach it in their lifetime (31 percent). Thirty-six percent of Americans say they will not reach it in their lifetime.
Although white Americans are far more likely than others to report that they have achieved the American dream, black (41 percent), Hispanic (40 percent), and Asian (44 percent) Americans generally remain optimistic that it is still within reach. Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) white Americans say they are living the American dream, compared to fewer than one in four Hispanic (24 percent), Asian (21 percent), and black (18 percent) Americans. Despite these differences in experience, more than one-third of black (40 percent), Hispanic (36 percent), and Asian (35 percent), and white (34 percent) Americans believe they will not achieve the American dream in their lifetime.
Understandably, perspectives on the American dream vary with age. Sixty-three percent of retirees (age 65 and older) believe they have already achieved the American dream. An additional 12 percent say they will yet reach it. Older Americans (24 percent) are also least likely to say they will not reach the American dream in their lifetime. Roughly four in 10 young and middle-aged Americans are similarly pessimistic (40 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively).
Education, a core element of socioeconomic mobility, is closely associated with perceptions of the American dream. Twenty-three percent of high school–educated Americans say they have already achieved the American dream, compared to 30 percent of Americans with some college or an associate degree, 42 percent of Americans with a four-year degree, and 47 percent of Americans with an advanced degree. This educational divide is mirrored among Americans who say they will not reach the American dream in their lifetime. Forty-two percent of high school–educated Americans say they will not achieve the American dream, compared to 24 percent of college-educated Americans.
America’s Most Pressing Problems
Roughly six in 10 Americans believe that inflation (62 percent), the affordability of health care (58 percent), and gun violence (58 percent) are all “very big” problems facing the United States. Slightly more than half the public believes that crime (53 percent), drug addiction (51 percent), and the federal budget deficit (51 percent) are major problems. Only about four in 10 Americans cite the affordability of college education (42 percent), the quality of public schools (42 percent), racism (40 percent), climate change (40 percent), and illegal immigration (39 percent). Roughly one in three (35 percent) Americans report that availability of abortion is a very big problem.
Large partisan differences arise on these issues. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Republicans say inflation is a very big problem, compared to about half (51 percent) of Democrats. Conversely, Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say the affordability of health care is a very big problem (70 percent vs. 44 percent, respectively). There’s an even larger partisan gap in views about gun violence. Eighty-six percent of Democrats believe gun violence is a major problem, compared to only one-third (33 percent) of Republicans—a 53-point partisan gap.
The top three cited major problems for Democrats are gun violence (86 percent), affordability of health care (70 percent), and climate change (66 percent). For Republicans, the top three most cited major problems are inflation (74 percent), the federal budget deficit (66 percent), and illegal immigration (64 percent).
Two issues are noteworthy to the degree they showcase partisan division: climate change and illegal immigration. Neither issue is viewed as a major concern among the public, but partisans believe these issues are crucially important. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Democrats say climate change is a very big problem, while only 13 percent of Republicans agree. Roughly as many Republicans (64 percent) say the same about illegal immigration, with only 19 percent of Democrats in agreement.
College-educated Democrats are uniquely indifferent about the issue of crime. Only 37 percent of college-educated Democrats say crime is a big problem in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (64 percent) and Republicans (65 percent) without a college education say crime is a major issue. A majority (55 percent) of college-educated Republicans also believe crime is a big problem.
Republicans with college degrees express their own distinctive perspective on the affordability of health care. Only 37 percent of college-educated Republicans say affordable health care is a major problem in the US, compared to nearly half (49 percent) of Republicans with a high school education or less. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Democrats without a college degree and more than three-quarters (76 percent) of college-educated Democrats report that affordable health care is a huge problem.
The 2024 Presidential Election
Neither Biden nor Trump is especially well regarded by the American public. Roughly four in 10 Americans have favorable views of Biden and Trump (41 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively). A majority of Americans view the current and former presidents negatively. Sixty percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and 54 percent have an unfavorable view of Biden. However, Trump engenders much stronger negative feelings than Biden does. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans have a “very unfavorable” view of Trump, compared to 38 percent with a correspondingly negative view of Biden.
Biden also has a slight advantage over Trump among partisans. Eighty percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Biden, while 75 percent of Republicans view Trump favorably. Nearly one in four (23 percent) Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Fewer (18 percent) Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of Biden.
President Biden’s Weak Position
If the 2024 presidential election is a referendum on the incumbent, Biden could be in trouble. Only 43 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance as president. A majority (57 percent) disapprove of the way he is handling his job. Additionally, Americans who strongly disapprove of Biden’s job as president outnumber those who strongly approve by more than a three-to-one margin (38 percent vs. 12 percent).
Few Americans believe Biden has accomplished much during his first term. Only about one in three (34 percent) Americans say Biden has accomplished a great deal (8 percent) or a good amount (26 percent) during his time in office. More than six in 10 (64 percent) say he has not that much (32 percent) or little or nothing (32 percent) to show for his time in office.
Views of Biden differ sharply across educational lines. Only about one third (34 percent) of Americans with a high school education or less view Biden favorably, compared to nearly half (46 percent) of Americans with a bachelor’s degree. A majority (56 percent) of postgraduate degree holders have a favorable view of Biden.
Across the racial divide, Biden fares much better among college-educated Americans, but the college gap is widest among white, non-Hispanic Americans. Hispanics with a college education are 10 points more likely to have a favorable view of Biden than are those with a high school education or less (50 percent vs. 40 percent). The education gap is most pronounced among white Americans. Nearly half (47 percent) of white college graduates view Biden favorably, compared to only one in four (24 percent) whites with a high school education or less. A majority (55 percent) of whites without a college education have a very unfavorable view of Biden. More than seven in 10 (72 percent) black college graduates have a favorable view of Biden, compared to 64 percent of black Americans without a college education, though the difference is not statistically significant.
The Republican Primary Field
The Republican Party appears far more unified than the Democratic Party does. Former President Trump leads the Republican field by a significant margin. Nearly half (49 percent) of Republican registered voters say that Trump would be their preferred nominee in the 2024 presidential election. One in four (25 percent) Republican voters say they would prefer Florida Gov. DeSantis. Seven percent of Republican voters say former Vice President Mike Pence is their preferred candidate, and 4 percent say former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
The Trump and DeSantis Coalitions
In many ways, Trump and DeSantis supporters—Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who favor each candidate—have similar political profiles. The ideological commitments of the Trump and DeSantis supporters are similar, and their positions on issues such as immigration and abortion track closely.
However, when it comes to socioeconomic status, the two candidates appeal to somewhat different parts of the potential GOP electorate. Trump supporters are less affluent, educated, and politically active. More than half (51 percent) of Trump supporters have only a high school education or less, compared to only 29 percent of DeSantis supporters. The marriage gap is also considerable. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of DeSantis supporters are married, compared to only 52 percent of Trump supporters. Roughly four in 10 (39 percent) DeSantis supporters have household incomes of $100,000 or more, compared to 22 percent of Trump supporters. DeSantis supporters also turn out more regularly. About three-quarters (74 percent) of DeSantis supporters say they always vote, while less than six in 10 (59 percent) Trump supporters say the same.
Another way Trump supporters are distinct is in their views of the 2020 election. Only 18 percent of Trump supporters believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. Less than half (43 percent) of DeSantis supporters say Biden won legitimately, which is more than twice the number of Trump supporters who do. Notably, a majority (69 percent) of Republicans who prefer some candidate other than Trump and DeSantis believe the 2020 election was fair.
While voter preferences this far from a presidential election are generally not predictive of the end result, early polls can help identify candidates’ potential strengths and weaknesses and the coalitions they might be able to assemble. In a head-to-head matchup between Biden and the top two Republican contenders, Trump and DeSantis, Trump appears to be a significantly weaker candidate. At this stage in the campaign, Biden leads Trump by a significant margin among registered voters, although the incumbent has less than majority support. Nearly half (48 percent) of registered voters say they would vote for Biden if the 2024 election were held today, whereas 41 percent of voters would support Trump.
In a matchup between DeSantis and Biden, the electorate is evenly divided. A nearly equal number of voters say they would vote for Biden and DeSantis (43 percent vs. 42 percent, respectively). Fourteen percent of voters report that they are uncertain who they would support in the 2024 presidential election.
Biden’s advantage over Trump in the general election is partly the result of how well he performs among Americans who do not like either of them. More than one in five (21 percent) Americans report an unfavorable view of both Biden and Trump. Among these voters, Biden leads Trump by a significant margin (37 percent vs. 22 percent). However, four in 10 (40 percent) say they are uncertain about who they would vote for if it came down to a choice between these two candidates.
Despite lackluster performance in a head-to-head matchup, Trump still fares well among voters without a college degree. Trump maintains a 10-point lead over Biden among voters with a high school education or less (49 percent vs. 39 percent, respectively). However, Trump faces a huge deficit with college-educated voters. Biden has nearly a two-to-one advantage over Trump with college-educated voters (58 percent vs. 30 percent). Trump’s struggles with college-educated Republicans are especially notable. Less than three-quarters (73 percent) of college-educated Republicans say they would vote for Trump, compared to 88 percent of Republicans without a college degree.
Election Confidence and Conspiracies
Most Americans believe the 2020 election was conducted honestly and fairly, although a sizable minority still believes that Biden’s victory was due to fraud. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans believe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. One in three (32 percent) Americans say the election was not legitimate. Public attitudes have changed little over the past couple of years. In early 2021, 65 percent of Americans said the election was legitimate.
There are stark political divisions in views about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Ninety-six percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents say the 2020 election was fair. In contrast, over one in three (36 percent) Republicans believe the 2020 election was legitimate. Notably, 63 percent of Republicans believe the 2020 election was illegitimate.
Views about the integrity of the last presidential election differ significantly across the educational divide. Nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) Americans with a college degree believe Biden was the legitimate victor of the 2020 presidential election, compared to only 58 percent of Americans without a college degree. The education gap is evident among Republicans as well. Nearly half (48 percent) of college-educated Republicans believe Biden’s victory was legitimate, compared to 28 percent of Republicans with a high school education or less. Regardless of education, Democrats overwhelmingly believe the 2020 election was legitimate. Ninety-nine percent of college-educated Democrats and 93 percent of Democrats with a high school education or less express confidence in the legitimacy Biden’s victory.
Most Americans report confidence that, across the country, votes for state and national offices were cast and counted accurately in the 2022 election. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans say they are very (42 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) confident the 2022 midterm elections were conducted fairly and honestly. Over one-third (34 percent) say they have little or no confidence that votes were accurately counted.
Though relatively few Americans believe the 2020 and 2022 elections were undermined because of fraud, there is somewhat greater concern about the general issue of election integrity. More than four in 10 (42 percent) Americans agree with the statement “voter fraud across the US has undermined the results of our elections.” However, a majority (57 percent) of the public disagrees.
There are vast partisan differences in views about voter fraud. Only 17 percent of Democrats believe recent elections have been compromised by voter fraud. More than seven in 10 (71 percent) Republicans believe the American elections have been undermined due to electoral malfeasance.
Party Perceptions and Political Priorities
Americans hold nearly identical views of the country’s primary political parties’ ideological profiles. Almost seven in 10 (66 percent) Americans believe the Democratic Party is liberal, including 37 percent who say the party is very liberal. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans say the Republican Party is conservative, including 39 percent who say the GOP is very conservative.
Not only do Americans have similar views about the ideological profiles of the Democratic and Republican parties, they generally agree about how the parties have changed over time. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party has become much more liberal (40 percent) or somewhat more liberal (27 percent) in recent years. Six in 10 (60 percent) Americans say the Republican Party has become much more conservative (37 percent) or somewhat more conservative (23 percent).
Few partisans perceive their party as embracing extreme ideological positions. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans believe the Republican Party is ideologically conservative, but only 22 percent say the GOP is very conservative, while 52 percent say it is conservative. Half of Democrats say the Democratic Party is liberal, but only 9 percent say the party is very liberal, compared to 41 percent who say it is liberal. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say their party is politically moderate (37 percent vs. 19 percent, respectively).
Partisans are far more likely to believe the opposing political party is ideologically extreme. Roughly six in 10 (61 percent) of Democrats say the GOP is very conservative, and nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Republicans say the Democratic Party is very liberal.
Republican views of the Democratic Party have not changed much in the past few years. In 2019, 65 percent of Republicans said the Democratic Party is very liberal, slightly fewer than do so today. However, Democrats have very different views of the GOP than they used to. Less than half (49 percent) of Democrats said the Republican Party was very conservative in 2019, a 12-point shift over the past four years.
Although Republican and Democratic elected officials frequently stress their strong ideological commitments to appeal to their respective bases, being viewed as very liberal or very conservative is not a political asset among the public overall. Americans who believe the Democratic and Republican Parties embrace the most extreme ideological position hold less positive opinions of them, a pattern evident among both parties. Only 18 percent of Americans who believe the Republican Party is very conservative view the GOP favorably. Among those who say the party is conservative, a majority express a positive opinion of the party. Similarly, only 9 percent of Americans who say the Democratic Party is very liberal view it favorably. A majority of Americans who say the party is liberal (57 percent) or moderate (57 percent) express a positive view.
A Divide in Views of Party Leadership and Party Voters
Democrats and Republicans have negative views of the opposing party, but somewhat less so of the opposing voters. Nearly nine in 10 Democrats (87 percent) have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, including 67 percent who report having a very unfavorable opinion. When asked about perceptions of Republican voters, Democrats express somewhat less negativity. Although a similar number of Democrats have an overall negative view of Republican voters as they do of the Republican Party, fewer (50 percent) report having a very unfavorable view of GOP voters.
Republican perceptions follow a nearly identical pattern. Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) Republicans have an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party, including 65 percent who express a very unfavorable view. When it comes to views of Democratic voters, over three quarters (77 percent) of Republicans hold a negative opinion, and half (50 percent) have a very negative opinion of these voters.
What Do Partisans Want Their Parties to Do?
Democrats have not coalesced around a single set of political priorities for their party leadership. Instead, Democrats list a wide range of different issues and concerns they believe should be the party’s top priorities. Nearly one in five (19 percent) Democrats say strengthening the nation’s economy is the most important priority. Sixteen percent of Democrats say the top political priority for the party should be keeping abortion legal and available. Statistically identical numbers of Democrats say dealing with climate change (14 percent) and making health care more affordable (12 percent) are issues that deserve the most attention. Eight percent of Democrats say reducing poverty should be the most important priority, while roughly as many (7 percent) say reducing taxes and spending is most important. Only 5 percent of Democrats say investing in the nation’s infrastructure should be the top issue for the party, and 5 percent say reducing crime. About one in 20 Democrats want the party to focus on immigration reform (4 percent), racial issues (5 percent), or improving the education system (5 percent). Less than 1 percent of Democrats say addressing transgender issues should be the top Democratic priority.
Liberal Democrats exhibit greater consensus on the top priorities. More than half cite three issues as top priorities for the party: keeping abortion legal (21 percent), addressing climate change (19 percent), and making health care more affordable (14 percent). Still, there is considerable disagreement among liberal Democrats about what the party should focus on.
Republicans are far more aligned on what their party’s priorities should be. More than two in three Republicans say one of the following issues should be top GOP priorities: strengthening the nation’s economy (31 percent), reducing taxes and government spending (25 percent), and fixing the immigration system (17 percent). No other issue or concern is mentioned by more than 5 percent of Republicans. Notably, conservative Republicans do not differ appreciably from Republicans overall in terms of views about political priorities.
Appealing to Moderate Voters
Both Democrats and Republicans express a preference for candidates who can appeal to moderate voters, although Democrats are somewhat more likely to say this is a priority when selecting a nominee. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Democrats and just over half (55 percent) of Republicans report that they would rather their party’s nominee be able to sway middle-of-the-road voters than uphold consistent ideological commitments.
Liberal Democrats express greater preference for a consistently liberal nominee, but they still prefer a candidate who can garner support from moderates (37 percent vs. 62 percent). Conservative Republicans are divided in what they want in a nominee. Over half (55 percent) say they want a candidate with a consistently conservative voting record, while fewer (43 percent) would favor a candidate who could attract moderate votes.
Notably, Republicans who are looking for a consistently conservative candidate express much greater support for Trump over other Republican contenders. A majority (61 percent) of Republicans who prefer strong conservative candidates say Trump is their preferred 2024 nominee. Among Republicans who want a candidate who can attract moderate votes, only 39 percent favor Trump, while most would prefer a different Republican candidate.
Joe Biden’s Youth Problem
Biden has considerably lower favorability than his democratic predecessor did leading up to his own reelection. Despite supporting Democratic candidates in recent elections, young people are distinctly unenthused about Biden’s presidency. While about one in three Americans overall say that Biden has accomplished a great deal or a good amount, young Americans seem especially unimpressed with Biden’s achievements. Only 27 percent of young adults say Biden has accomplished a good amount or a great deal during his time in office. By contrast, more than four in 10 seniors (45 percent) say Biden has made some significant accomplishments.
Young adults have far less positive views about President Biden than do older Americans. Only about one-third (34 percent) of young adults have a favorable view of Biden. Sixty percent view him negatively. Seniors are evenly split on Biden: 49 percent favorable vs. 48 percent unfavorable.
Biden’s standing among young Americans is remarkably different from the previous Democratic president, Barack Obama. At the close of Obama’s first term in office, young Americans generally thought highly of him. Two-thirds (67 percent) of young adults in 2012 had a favorable opinion of Obama, roughly double the number who now have a positive view of Biden. It’s also notable that Biden is viewed slightly more positively than Obama among seniors, despite being significantly less popular than Obama overall.
Young Democrats—including independents who lean toward the party—express considerable apathy about a second Biden term. Only 15 percent of young Democrats say Biden is their first choice for the 2024 presidential election. Over one third (34 percent) young Democrats say Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is their preferred candidate, while 13 percent say Vice President Kamala Harris would be their pick. Five percent of young Democrats prefer Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and 6 percent prefer Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Notably, almost one in four (24 percent) young Democrats would not pick any of the leading Democrats.
An Emerging Schism Among White Evangelicals
One of Trump’s strongest constituencies has been white evangelical Christians. Over the past couple of years, his standing among white evangelical Protestants has declined, but he still retains considerable support among these voters. Currently, two-thirds (67 percent) of white evangelical Protestants have a favorable view of Trump, and roughly three in 10 (31 percent) have a negative opinion of him.
However, there is an emerging divide among white evangelical Protestants in their views of Trump. White evangelical Protestants with a high school education or less provide much more positive assessments of Trump than do those with a four-year college degree. Three-quarters (75 percent) of noncollege white evangelicals have a favorable opinion of Trump. In contrast, only 56 percent of college-educated white evangelicals express a positive opinion of him.
In a head-to-head matchup with Biden, less than three-quarters (75 percent) of white evangelical voters say they would support the former president, while one in four say they would vote for Biden (15 percent) or remain uncertain (10 percent). White evangelical voters prefer DeSantis over Biden by an even larger margin (77 percent vs. 12 percent).
Trump has a significant advantage among white evangelical Protestants in the Republican primary, but he remains the preferred candidate of less than half (50 percent) of Republican white evangelical voters. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of Republican white evangelical voters say they would like to see DeSantis as the GOP nominee. Eight percent say they would prefer Pence. However, among college-educated white evangelical Republican voters, DeSantis is about tied with Trump (35 percent vs. 34 percent, respectively).
It’s notable that white evangelical Protestants have a more favorable view of Trump than they do of the Republican Party overall. About six in 10 (62 percent) white evangelical Protestants report that they have a favorable view of the GOP.
Democrats Are Losing Hold of Hispanic Voters
One of the remarkable developments of the 2020 election was Trump’s improved performance among Hispanic voters from the 2016 election. He cut into the Democrats’ advantage among these voters by 18 points, according to the big data firm Catalist.
Our survey suggests that further deterioration of Democratic performance among this key demographic is quite possible in next year’s election. Less than half (47 percent) of Hispanic Americans give Biden a positive approval rating, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) say he has accomplished not that much or little or nothing in his time in office.
Matched up against Trump or DeSantis, Biden’s lead among Hispanic voters is quite modest in historical terms. He carries these voters by 12 points against Trump and just nine points against DeSantis. It seems likely that Hispanic voters will be vigorously contested in 2024 and that the final disposition of their vote could, as in 2020, depart considerably from historical norms.
Our country is divided, but not hopelessly so. Faith in the American dream remains strong, and interest in partisan moderation is considerable. But the 2024 election seems likely to present Americans with a choice between candidates who fail to generate much enthusiasm outside of hard-core partisans. The findings in our survey suggest there are abundant opportunities for both parties to reshape political coalitions in their favor, even if they currently seem reluctant to step outside their comfort zones. These opportunities will be explored in depth in a forthcoming AEI report on the evolution of party coalitions from early American history to the present day.
This upcoming report will trace the evolution of American political coalitions from early American history through the current partisan stalemate. The core political dynamic of this period—close elections with power alternating between the parties—is unusual in a historical perspective and suggests a failure of the American party system. But it is likely also a phase that will pass and be replaced by one dominated by a relatively stable majority coalition. Either party may have a path to becoming that next majority. But for either party, that would require a greater awareness of the nature of its failure, which in turn requires a greater awareness of the modern evolution of the party coalitions, the changing demographics and priorities of the electorate, and what it takes to build a durable majority.
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 is focused on public opinion and survey research on topics such as religious change and measurement, social capital, and youth politics.
Ruy Teixeira is a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on the transformation of party coalitions and the future of American electoral politics.
The survey was designed and conducted by the Survey Center on American Life. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 6,014 adults (age 18 and up) living in the United States, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. All interviews were conducted among participants of the NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) AmeriSpeak Panel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US household population. Interviews were conducted between March 27 and May 1, 2023 in Spanish and English.
Randomly selected US households are sampled using area probability and address-based sampling, with a known, non-zero probability of selection from the NORC National Sample Frame. These sampled households are then contacted by US mail, telephone, and field interviewers (face to face). The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Those excluded from the sample include people with P.O. Box only addresses, some addresses not listed in the USPS Delivery Sequence File, and some newly constructed dwellings. While most AmeriSpeak households participate in surveys by web, non-internet households can participate in AmeriSpeak surveys by telephone. Households without conventional internet access but having web access via smartphones are allowed to participate in AmeriSpeak surveys by web. AmeriSpeak panelists participate in NORC studies or studies conducted by NORC on behalf of governmental agencies, academic researchers, and media and commercial organizations.
The data were weighted to adjust for age, gender, census division, race/ethnicity, education, housing tenure, household phone status, age by gender, age by race/ethnicity, and political party identification. The sample weighting is the product of three weights: AmeriSpeak Panel weights, study specific base weights, and study specific final weights.
The use of survey weights in statistical analyses ensures that the demographic characteristics of the sample closely approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The margin of error for the qualified survey sample is +/– 1.68 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.77.
 AEI Survey Center on American Life, “American Perspectives Survey: January 2021,” January 2021, https://www.americansurveycenter.org/download/jan-2021-american-perspectives-survey.
 Public Religion Research Institute, “Public Religion Research Institute PRRI/RNS Poll: May 2012 Religion News Survey,” May 2012, https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/ipoll/study/31096433.