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Poll: Democracy and Extremism, Not Immigration, Leads as Most Important Issue

The Biden campaign will almost certainly push the issue of Trump's threats to democracy in the 2024 campaign.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during an election night watch party at the State Fairgrounds on February 24, 2024, in Columbia, South Carolina.

A recent poll shows that American voters consider political extremism and threats to democracy to be the most critical issue facing the country leading up to the 2024 election.

That poll, from Reuters/Ispos, was one of the only polls to include “political extremism” as an option. Several news sites across the web were quick to publish the results of a different poll, which claimed that immigration is the top issue for Americans at the moment.

A Gallup poll, for example, found that nearly 3 in 10 Americans, 28 percent, considered immigration the most important topic, just eight months away from the 2024 elections. The ambiguous issue of “government” came in second place, with 20 percent of voters saying it was most important, and the economy came in third place, with 12 percent saying it was most on their minds.

To read solely that poll and the news sites sharing it, one might believe that the issue of immigration — which former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, performs better on than incumbent President Joe Biden — will be the main narrative this election year. But the Reuters/Ipsos poll published on the same date, which received less notice than the Gallup one, suggests otherwise.

Within that poll, the additional option of “political extremism or threats to democracy” was added among the typical topics for respondents to choose from as their most important issue. Twenty-one percent of U.S. voters said that issue was the most important one on their minds at the moment, coming in first in the survey. The economy came in at second place, with 19 percent of respondents saying that issue mattered most, and immigration came in at third, with 18 percent of voters picking that option.

No other poll in recent weeks has included the issue of extremism and democracy in its line of questioning. Indeed, Reuters noted that this is the first time it has included the option in its own polling.

The issue is one that Biden will likely perform much better on, as he can use it to his advantage during the upcoming election season, highlighting Trump’s attempted overturn of the 2020 presidential election results and other efforts by Republicans to quell participation in American democracy.

Indeed, Reuters itself recognized this point, with the report on this poll from the news agency noting that the numbers “show the extent to which Biden’s re-election bid could rely on voters being motivated by their opposition to Trump rather than enthusiasm over Biden’s candidacy.”

The partisan breakdown of polling on this question furthers the idea that Biden will use it to his advantage, as the voters he must court view it as even higher a priority than the toplines of the survey suggest. Among Democratic voters, for example, 44 percent said extremism and threats to democracy was their top issue, with Reuters reporting that almost a third of independent voters also listed it as their top pick, the most out of all the other subjects.

Meanwhile, 38 percent of Republicans predictably listed immigration as their most important issue, with only 13 percent choosing extremism and democracy.

The split in the demographics on the issue — particularly with Democrats and swing voters citing the topic as their most important — gives the Biden campaign even more incentive to push the matter to the forefront of their political messaging in the coming months.

Biden can capitalize, for example, by reminding voters of how Trump reacted to his election loss in 2020, noting his campaign’s scheme to overturn the Electoral College and his incendiary speech on January 6, 2021, encouraging his followers to disrupt Congress as it was certifying the election results. The Biden campaign may also cite Trump’s insistence that he’ll be a dictator for the first day of his presidency, a promise that 60 percent of respondents from across the U.S. in a UMass/Amherst poll from January said would be bad for the country.

The campaign will almost certainly highlight Trump’s legal cases, too, particularly the four federal indictment counts he faces for his attempts to usurp the American political process in 2020. Importantly, while most are well aware of the case, a sizable chunk of Americans have heard little or nothing about it. Bringing attention to anti-democratic charges Trump faces during this year’s presidential campaign could bring the matter of “extremism and threats to democracy” even closer to the forefront of voters’ minds.