Voter enthusiasm, negative partisanship and Wisconsin’s swing status in 2024

A notable number of voters – in Wisconsin and around the nation – say they are so disinterested in the rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump that they don’t want either man to hold that office again.

And because of that, some of them are saying they may not vote at all in the November 2024 election.

In a Gallup poll released April 3, 29% of U.S. adults surveyed said neither Biden nor Trump was fit for the job. And another nationwide poll, released Jan. 25 by Reuters/Ipsos, found that 18% of voters said they wouldn’t vote if it was a Biden versus Trump contest again.

In fact, voters who are so disinterested, disgusted or distrustful of both Biden and Trump that they may sit out the 2024 election are getting so much attention, they even have their own designation – they’re being called “double haters.”

The term “double haters” is new to this election year. The pollsters who have used this description say that those who are in this group make up both Republicans, Democrats and third-party voters.

These “double haters” made up 15% of those surveyed in a poll released March 13 by USA TODAY/Suffolk University.

But these poll numbers aren’t just a national vibe. In Wisconsin, the Marquette University Law School Poll released April 17 showed a sizable drop in voter enthusiasm and an increase in voter disinterest.

“Compared to March of 2020 versus now in early April, it’s down 20 points for people who say they’re very enthusiastic about voting,” said Marquette Law School pollster Charles Franklin on the April 19 episode of Here & Now. “That’s quite a drop.”

Registered voters surveyed in the Marquette Law School poll who said they were “very enthusiastic” to vote dropped from 67% in 2020 to 47% in 2024. And over that same time period, those who said they were “not at all enthusiastic” about voting doubled from 6% to 12%.

What might this mean if even just 10% of voters decline to vote in the November presidential election? For Wisconsin, that could tip the scale for one candidate or the other.

In 2020, just over 3.24 million Wisconsin residents voted for either Trump or Biden. If 10% of them didn’t vote, that would have been 324,000 votes, and Biden won Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes.

In 2016, almost 2.79 million Wisconsinites voted for either Trump or Hillary Clinton. If 10% of them didn’t vote, that would have been roughly 279,000 votes in a race that saw Trump win Wisconsin by about 23,000 votes.

So, even if just 10% of these previous voters don’t cast ballots in 2024, the pendulum could certainly swing one way or the other for either presidential candidate, especially in a razor-thin margin state like Wisconsin. But will that happen?

“It’s a possibility,” said Aaron Weinschenk, a political science professor at UW-Green Bay. “But it also feels like 2016 where people in both parties said they didn’t like the candidate but then the election still had incredibly high turnout.”

Weinschenk added that he sees the most disinterest from younger voters in Trump and Biden because of the candidates’ older ages. “Most of them are incredibly frustrated by politics,” he said, “but young people are also the least inclined to vote.”

Still, Weinschenk is pretty skeptical about regular voters being so turned off that they become the so-called “double haters” who refuse to vote at all.

“People are constantly complaining about [candidate] attributes and their policy choices, but then the turnout has still been pretty high in recent presidential elections,” he said. “So I don’t know if it’s going to translate.”

Another factor is when people aren’t enthusiastic about one candidate in their preferred political party, they vote against the candidate they dislike most.

“There’s this very real negative partisanship that goes on,” he explained. “Some people may not know very much about the candidate they’re supporting, but they know they do not like the person they’re voting against.”

Julia Azari, a political science professor at Marquette University, is also skeptical about “double haters” having significance or holding sway. And, furthermore, she believes negative partisanship can push voters to the polls and that may be more important than enthusiasm.

“You do have two pretty unpopular nominees, and even if that remains the case, what drives people to vote is more that they see a difference between the nominees,” she said. “Fear, anxiety, worry, anger – the negative emotions do seem to be the ones that drive turnout.”

The presidential campaigns and near-constant advertising will stoke those negative emotions for more than another six months to create a stark contrast between the two candidates.

“Whether voters personally like Biden will be less important to them than whether they have some preference between him and Trump. And it’s the same with Trump voters – do they personally like Trump or do they see a significant and important difference between the two candidates, in terms of what they have done or may do,” she continued. “So I don’t see enthusiasm as necessarily that important a driver of turnout.”

Regardless of disinterested voters and enthusiasm gaps, Azari noted that a lot can happen leading up to Election Day on Nov. 5.

“It’s early. It’s very early. The campaigns haven’t really kicked off yet,” she said. “And, this is Wisconsin – everything matters and everything’s close.”

Source: Voter enthusiasm, negative partisanship and Wisconsin’s swing status in 2024

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