Meet the Voters Who Are Up for Grabs in a Biden-Trump Race

Meet the Voters Who Are Up for Grabs in a Biden-Trump Race
Meet the Voters Who Are Up for Grabs in a Biden-Trump Race

Summary

Here are the 26% of “persuadable” voters and what issues might swing their decision.

Americans are unhappy with their choices for president. Nearly three-quarters say President Biden is too old to run again, Wall Street Journal polling finds. More than half say that Donald Trump, his likeliest challenger, took illegal steps to try to reverse his 2020 election loss.

And yet, most voters say their choice for president is already settled, if their options are Biden and Trump. That leaves a small but meaningful share of voters, 26%, as “up for grabs," or persuadable. And these voters are conflicted: They don’t think Biden is doing a good job but dislike some of Trump’s personal qualities. They have a sour view of the economy but favor abortion rights. The findings give clues to how each party will try to reach these voters in the coming months.

The persuadable voters have a negative view of both Biden and Trump, more so than do the rest of the electorate. Some 70% have an unfavorable view of Biden, and 74% have an unfavorable view of Trump.

Biden faces a number of challenges in winning over these voters. Only 29% approve of his job performance. Two-thirds say the economy has gotten worse during his time in office, and few say he has handled economic issues well.

Trump also faces hurdles: The persuadable voters favor abortion rights, which many states rescinded or scaled back after Trump’s Supreme Court nominees helped overturn Roe v. Wade. These voters disapprove of GOP efforts to move toward impeaching Biden, and they think Trump took illegal steps to hold on to power after losing the 2020 election.

Persuadable voters have reservations about the personal qualities of both men. They see Biden as too old to run again and less accomplished than Trump. But they also see the current president as more likable and concerned about average Americans.

In many ways, the persuadable voters look like the electorate overall.

Right now, these voters are less tuned in than most to two of the top political stories of the moment—the indictments of Trump and the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, which are the subject of investigations by federal prosecutors and Republicans in the House.

But they are likely to pay attention as the election draws nearer. High shares of persuadables say they will definitely or probably vote in 2024.

Source: Wall Street Journal telephone and text-to-web survey of 1,500 registered voters conducted Aug. 24-30, 2023; margin of error was +/- 5 percentage points (persuadable voters) and +/- 3 percentage points (full sample).

Methodology

“Persuadable’’ voters were drawn from two survey questions: They included those who were undecided or said their vote for Trump or Biden in 2024 was likely but not definite when offered the choice of only those two candidates, as well as voters who were undecided or picked a third-party candidate on a presidential ballot that included Trump, Biden, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate.

Exact question wording

On abortion: “Which comes closest to your position: Abortion should be: Legal in all cases; legal in most cases but with some restrictions; Illegal except in limited cases, such as rape, incest and when a woman’s life is endangered; or illegal in all circumstances?" On Trump’s Actions After 2020: “Which comes closest to your view of Trump’s actions after the 2020 election: They were a legitimate effort to make sure votes were tallied correctly; or they were an illegal effort to stop Congress from certifying an election that he lost?"

Write to Aaron Zitner at aaron.zitner@wsj.com and Kara Dapena at kara.dapena@wsj.com

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