AP-NORC Poll: Trump evokes more anger and fear from Democrats than Biden does from Republicans


ATLANTA (AP) — Many Americans are unenthusiastic about a November rematch of the 2020 presidential election. But presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump appears to stoke more anger and fear among Americans from his opposing party than President Joe Biden does from his.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that Democrats are more likely to report feeling “fearful” or “angry” about the prospects of another Trump term than Republicans are about the idea of Biden remaining in the White House.

The emotional reaction Trump inspires may work in his favor too, though, since the poll also found that Republicans are more excited about the prospect of a Trump win than Democrats are about a Biden victory.

Seven in 10 Democrats say the words “angry” or “fearful” would describe their emotions “extremely well” or “very well” upon a Trump victory. A smaller majority of Republicans – 56% – say the same about a Biden triumph. About 6 in 10 Democrats cite both emotions when contemplating a Trump victory. Again, that exceeds the roughly 4 out of 10 Republicans who said they would feel both angry and scared about Biden prevailing.

The findings are notable in an unusual campaign pitting an incumbent president against his predecessor, with both men facing doubters within their own parties and among independents. Consolidating support from Republicans who backed Nikki Haley in the GOP primary could be a challenge for Trump. Biden faces disenchanted progressives to his left and concerns over whether his age, 81, is a liability in the job.

Excitement about the two candidates will be an important factor in a race where turnout from each side’s base will be key. But dislike can motivate voters as much as enthusiasm.

“If there was a third-party candidate who had a chance in hell I would vote for them,” said Austin Healey, a 26-year-old Democrat. Healey, who describes himself as “very liberal,” said his mixed reviews of Biden take a back seat to his concerns that Trump’s comeback bid “looks like a clear ploy for trying to abolish democracy.”

Though he is “not excited about it,” Healey said, that means a vote for Biden.

Derrick Johnson, a Michigan voter who identifies as a liberal independent, offered plenty of critiques against Biden, as well. But the 46-year-old caregiver and food service worker made his bottom line clear: “Donald Trump is a madman. I’m afraid he’ll have us in World War III. My message is anybody but Trump.”

Democrats’ intense feelings about Trump account for the overall differences in how Americans view the two rivals. Altogether, about 4 in 10 U.S. adults say “fearful” would describe their emotions “extremely” or “very” well if Trump is elected again, while roughly 3 in 10 would fear a second Biden term. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults said they would be angered by Trump winning in November while 28% said the same about Biden.

The poll’s findings on negative emotions could be especially important for Biden given his other weak spots, including that Republicans remain more excited about electing Trump again than Democrats are about reelecting Biden. Slightly more than half of Republicans, 54%, said “excited” describes their feelings about another Trump term “extremely well” or “very well.” For Biden, that number was just 4 in 10 among Democrats.

“We know what we’re getting with Trump,” said Republican John Novak, a 54-year-old maintenance worker who lives in swing-state Wisconsin and counted himself among those GOP loyalists who would be excited by another Trump term.

“I knew who he was when he came down that escalator in 2015, and we were never getting Boy Scout material,” Novak said. “But he put conservatives on the Supreme Court, he was firm on immigration … and he’s a conservative who handled the economy.”

The latest AP-NORC poll showed Biden with an overall approval rating of 38%. U.S. adults also expressed discontent about his handling of the economy and immigration – and not all of the disapproval is driven by partisan loyalties. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults approve of Biden’s stewardship of the economy, roughly equal to his overall job approval rating.

On specific issues, about 3 in 10 Democrats disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy; about 4 in 10 disapprove of his approach to immigration or border security.

“The situation at the border really bothers me,” said Johnson, the Michigan liberal. “The border crossings are just getting out of control.”

The president and his campaign advisers tout the Biden administration’s legislative record, especially on infrastructure, an improving economy and new spending intended to combat climate change. But the president and his allies are also unsparing in lambasting Trump as interested only in “revenge and retribution” for his defeat in 2020 and the pending criminal prosecutions and other legal troubles that have followed.

They have seized on Trump’s praise of authoritarians like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Victor Orban and recirculated the former president’s statement that he would be willing to act like a dictator for a day to close the border and expand drilling for fossil fuel.

Trump has countered with searing attacks on Biden’s mental acuity and physical fitness for the presidency and even mocked Biden’s stutter. But the latest poll results suggest Trump has not yet maximized the potential benefits of those attacks — or perhaps that they simply have a lower yield for him.

Biden sometimes turns his version of the argument into a humorous quip he used often in 2020, when he was vying to unseat Trump: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.”

Indeed, that is what resonates with reluctant Democrats and some independents.

“I voted for Trump (in 2016) because I wanted somebody to shake up Washington,” said Neil Murray, a 67-year-old retiree in Jonesboro, Arkansas, who identifies as an independent. “He certainly did that, but he couldn’t do anything productive with it.”

Frustrated with Trump’s negative qualities that he overlooked in 2016, Murray voted for Biden in 2020 — but not enthusiastically. He called Biden “disingenuous on some things” and too close to his left flank on economic policy.

But in November, Murray said, he will have no reservations when casting a second vote for the Democrat, because, “Donald Trump is a screaming lunatic.”

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Sanders reported from Washington.

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The poll of 1,282 adults was conducted March 21-25, 2024, 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 3.8 percentage points.



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