New Poll Shows Biden and Trump Voters Are Living Different Realities

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For about half of this country, former President Donald Trump’s boorish behavior is reason enough to pass on signing up for another four years of his bombast in the White House. Even after his 34 felony convictions last week, the ex-President seemed incapable of demonstrating contrition or remorse, and appeared ready to defy anything that ran afoul of his self-confidence. It all seems like a lot to stomach, and knowingly so.

But if you actually take a moment to study the universe of Americans—especially American voters who support Trump—it becomes apparent really quickly just how well the billionaire reality star understands his base, and in particular their views of nostalgia for a past that wasn’t quite as “great” as they like to believe. It might seem alien to those who back President Joe Biden, but it’s worth remembering that his base is just as mysterious to Trump’s constituents.

A massive new poll from the Pew Research Center asked thousands of Americans about virtually every major culture war issue, from guns to abortion to marriage equality. Many of the results are exactly what you would expect. But a few responses do a particularly good job at illuminating how a large chunk of this nation of immigrants remains deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of America continuing to change and becoming more diverse. 

What polite society would deem far afield from acceptable rhetoric, Trump’s loyalists and Biden’s stans see as obvious truths. Consider the following:

  • Asked if white people declining as a share of the total U.S. population is good or bad for society, 39% of Trump supporters said it was bad. Among Biden supporters, 10% took the same view.
  • Among Biden voters, 79% say slavery’s legacy still affects Black people, while just 27% of Trump supporters agree. 
  • A decade after the Supreme Court extended marriage equality to all Americans with the Obergefell ruling, Biden supporters were more than five times as likely as Trump supporters to say the expansion of marriage equality was good for society, with a 57%-11% split.
  • Regarding the more than 10 million immigrants in the U.S. without legal status, most Trump supporters—63%—want “a national law enforcement effort to deport undocumented immigrants.” Among Biden supporters, that number sinks to 11%. 

The pattern held even when pollsters didn’t couch their questions in terms of race or sexual orientation or documented status. Asked if diversity strengthens or weakens the United States, 82% of Biden supporters said it makes the country stronger, while just half (49%) of Trump’s supporters hold that view and 19% of them say diversity weakens the U.S. position. It’s a similar story on the question of whether Americans’ openness to outsiders is part of the nation’s identity. (Spoiler alert: It is.) Almost all Biden supporters—87%—agree with that sentiment, while only 36% of Trump supporters say the same.

Pew interviewed 8,709 adults, including 7,166 registered voters for one week in April. For those who don’t know much about polling, securing this many respondents is a massive undertaking, one that is unlikely to make these results an outlier.

But to be sure, pollsters found that affirmed supporters of Biden or Trump do leave out part of the electorate. Generally, the nation as a whole is somewhere in the middle of these two poles represented in the polling. For instance, 41% of all voters think undocumented immigrants already in the country should not be allowed to stay, while 66% of Republicans think they need to go and 16% of Democrats say the same. (This question has been asked since 2017, so the framing is not one rooted in the 2024 nominees but rather by party.) But overall, an openness to allowing undocumented immigrants to stay where they are has declined.

More broadly, the survey shows the wide—perhaps impossibly so—chasm between Trump and Biden supporters on the cultural flashpoints that color so many choices in our lives. Trump voters think guns mean safety while Biden backers think otherwise, with a split tracking at 86%-23%. Some 81% of Trump supporters say the criminal justice system isn’t tough enough, while 40% of Biden voters say the same. Roughly a quarter (23%) of Trump voters say women’s gains have come at the expense of men, while 9% of Biden voters agree. (Not shockingly, that sense of victimhood among Trump voters is strongest among men under 50, notching a full 40%.) 

And when it comes to families, 59% of Trump supporters say America is a better society when marriage and children are priorities, while 19% of Biden backers share that value. 

Neither party’s leader seems equipped to bridge the gap between their constituencies, and it doesn’t seem either audience is even open to hearing the other side. That dynamic is one that foretells both parties largely talking past each other without any real respect for the opposing view. Americans are largely used to this interplay at this point, but it makes the dichotomy no less jarring—or irrational. Both Trump and Biden this year are writing off most of their skeptics and making plays directly for the parties’ bases. That means Trump has to tailor his message to his die-hard supporters and feed them a steady diet of baked-in assumptions. Biden, too, has to adopt a similar stream of pandering to his base. Both are hoping to nurture a sufficient chunk of the base to prevail with less effort made at swapping in the middle mush. So if 2024 feels like a race toward the poles, the polling backs up that feeling. 

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