Donald Trump’s Secret Weapon in Biden Fight

Former President Donald Trump may have a secret weapon in his 2024 fight against President Joe Biden, an analysis of the latest New York Times/Siena College poll shows.

Trump appears to have strong support among the “did not vote” demographic that could decide this year’s election in November. Nearly half of voters who did not cast a ballot in the 2020 election, 49 percent, said they are more enthusiastic about Trump compared to 33 percent for Biden, according to the NYT/Siena poll released Saturday.

Not only are those voters more excited about Trump, more of them think he’ll win the 2024 election, regardless of who they support. The survey found that 57 percent think Trump will be the next president, while 29 percent believe Biden will be reelected.

Trey Hood, the director of the survey research center at the University of Georgia’s School of Public & International Affairs, told Newsweek that while these are findings among voters who don’t vote, “If someone like Trump can activate participation from a group that’s not participating prior to that, that’s something.”

Donald Trump Secret Weapon
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at the Gaylord National Resort Hotel and Convention Center on February 24 in National Harbor, Maryland. Voters who did not vote in the 2020 election appear…

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Hood said enthusiasm for Trump among voters who did not vote in 2020 could be driven by people who have been very effected by the current economic conditions, like inflation and cost of living, and that could help the former president in key battleground states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And while the majority of the “did not vote” Americans, 62 percent, told pollsters that they don’t believe Biden’s policies have made much of a difference in their lives, 28 percent said his policies have hurt them personally, compared to 8 percent who say his policies have helped.

Those numbers come as a troubling sign Biden, who is facing strikingly low approval ratings and trails Trump in polls with eight months until Election Day. Saturday’s poll showed Trump with a five-point lead among registered voters.

Steven Schier, the Emeritus Congdon professor of political science at Carleton College, told Newsweek that the findings are similar to another focus group he observed, where the group of swing voters could call to memory Trump’s White House accomplishments much easier than they could Biden’s.

“Biden won’t win unless more voters become aware of his arguments in favor of his administration’s record,” Schier said. “It’s a difficult problem for the Biden campaign. If voters don’t give his record much credit now, how can the Biden campaign turn that around by November?”

Hood said he is always skeptical about the preferences of non-voters because the best predictor of whether someone is going to vote in an upcoming election is whether they voted in the past. But he noted that reflecting on the 2016 election, one of the things that came up was “a real enthusiasm gap between Trump supporters and [Hillary] Clinton supporters.”

“To the extent to which Trump can really energize people—and there’s an enthusiasm gap between his supporters and Biden supporters—a group like this could be a tipping point,” he said. “If you have a very close election, anything could be a tipping point.”

Strategist Alex Patton told Newsweek that because presidential elections are won at the margins, “everything is important and yet not decisive.” Patton added that he was hesitant to make any useful or confident prediction on the winner of November’s election this early in the race, and noted that the poll’s margin of error, +/- 3.5 points for registered voters and +/- 3.8 points for the likely electorate, “is too large to draw any detailed conclusions this far out from the election.”

Doug Kaplan, a pollster and the president of Kaplan Strategies, agreed that while the NYT/Siena poll is “the gold standard of polling,” he thinks it’s unlikely that voters who sat out of the 2020 election would decide to vote in 2020.

“It’s sort of like a group of football fans,” Hood said. “They’re very energetic and supportive, but they’re never going to get into the game.”