“President Biden still isn’t what you’d call popular, but he’s closer to popular than he’s been in some time. On Jan. 11, Biden hit a 44.1 percent approval rating in FiveThirtyEight’s average — his highest mark since October 2021. That was 3 percentage points higher than it was on Nov. 9, which isn’t a huge increase in the grand scheme of things, but in this polarized age where any movement in the president’s approval rating is rare, it’s a veritable Bidenaissance.
This is the part of the story where you expect me to explain why this is happening. Which is understandable, except it’s impossible to know for sure what’s behind this shift. One leading theory, though: It’s because inflation has been slowing down. Prices in December 2022 were just 6.5 percent higher than they were in December 2021, which was the lowest inflation rate in over a year. Gas prices, another highly visible metric of the strain on Americans’ wallets, also plummeted from an average of $3.80 per gallon in November to $3.32 per gallon in December. These seem like pretty compelling explanations, considering how closely Biden’s approval rating was tied to the inflation rate and gas prices last year.”
“But is Biden’s luck about to run out? The discovery of a handful of classified documents from the Penn Biden Center and Biden’s Delaware home has generated arguably the first bad news story for Biden in months, and it’s fair to wonder whether it will reverse — or at least halt — his miniature political comeback. The few polls that have been conducted since these revelations suggest that Americans think Biden acted badly, and that could be dragging down his approval rating.”
“Inflation, abortion, the economy, and crime were the top issues for voters overall, the poll notes. Voters who saw inflation as the sole election issue broke for Republicans. Voters who also cared about abortion and jobs as top issues (but still cared about inflation) broke for Democrats.
The big lesson for Republican candidates comes further down the results when they asked people who voted Republican what their reasons were behind the vote. The very top reason people voted for Republicans was to “reduce government spending and get inflation under control.” Forty-nine percent of the people who voted Republican in the survey tagged this as their reason. It was followed by crime fears, immigration fears tied to the flow of drugs (even though it’s almost never immigrants who are responsible for drug trafficking at the border), and bolstering domestic energy production and getting gas prices down.
All the way at the bottom of the list was culture war agitation. Only 21 percent said they voted for Republicans to “combat cancel culture and protect freedom of speech.” Only 20 percent said they voted for Republicans to “keep transgender athletes out of girls’ sports teams and stop the promotion of transgender surgeries on our children.” Parents’ rights and getting “political agendas” out of classrooms fared a little better but still drove less than a third of Republican votes.”
“Our data indicates that some respondents who lean toward the Republican Party are less likely to take part in follow-up surveys. But we didn’t find ourselves in a situation where all Republicans were not answering, and we were able to find a few clues as to who exactly these Republican non-respondents could be.”
“This more mainstream version of the replacement theory hides behind justifications that the criticism of changing American demographics is about politics and power. It’s a narrative so prevalent on the right that nearly half of Republicans believe that immigrants are being brought to the country for political gains. According to a poll conducted in December by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 47 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.”
But those justifications are built on false assumptions about American demographics and immigration: that white people will soon be a minority in this country, that immigrants and non-white voters are all Democrats, and that no longer being the majority group means a loss of power. When those assumptions are torn down, the true justifications for these fears become transparent.
The theory’s first inaccurate assumption is that white Americans will soon become a minority population. But using any nuanced reading of the data, that’s not true. Yes, in 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau published a population projection that by the year 2044, non-Hispanic white Americans would no longer be a numerical majority in the country. But not being the majority is not the same as being a minority: Even in that projection, non-Hispanic white Americans would still make up a plurality of the population compared with any other race. And non-Hispanic white Americans are not the only white Americans. When you include American Latinos who identify as solely white, you wind up with “more than 70 percent of the population identifying at least in part as white in 2044 and over two-thirds in 2060,” according to research published last year in the journal “Perspectives on Politics.””
“The same research showed that presenting the demographic-shifts story as “majority-minority by 2044” prompts white Americans to say they feel more anxious and less hopeful. But when you present the same demographic changes in a more nuanced (and accurate) narrative around a rise in multiculturalism and Americans who identify as more than one race, white Americans’ self-reported anxiety was lower, even compared with a control group presented with basic facts about demographic changes with no narrative framing, according to the same study.
It’s almost like inaccurately framing demographic shifts as a zero-sum game leads to inaccurate perceptions among Americans that can amplify fear and resentment.”
“Another plot hole in the mainstream replacement narrative is the assumption that immigrants will solely support the Democratic party. Stefanik’s campaign ran a Facebook ad in September that echoed replacement-theory rhetoric. “Radical Democrats” were planning “a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” the ad claimed. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”
Carlson, too, has repeatedly warned of a so-called Democratic plot to “import an entirely new electorate from the Third World and change the demographics of the U.S. so completely they will never lose again.”
But even he concedes that this narrative is flawed, pointing out in his show last week that many non-white and immigrant voters are, in fact, Republican. In the 2020 election, roughly 2 in 5 Latino voters cast a ballot for then-President Donald Trump. And, as my colleague Alex Samuels has written, messaging about racial grievances might, perhaps counterintuitively, attract some Latino voters to the Republican Party. In fact, the GOP attracts voters from every racial group, and while white voters may be its base, not all nonwhite or immigrant voters are Democrats.”
“Acutely aware of the need to get distance from the president, the four most endangered Democratic incumbents — Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan — are increasingly taking steps to highlight their independence from the president and underscore their differences.
Their public pushback against Biden’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 is the most visible expression of the effort to get distance from the president. But the four Democrats are also finding other ways of signaling to voters. They’ve visited the border wall and blocked his nominees. A month before a Trump-appointed judge struck down Biden’s mask mandate on mass transit, three of the four voted in favor of a Republican bill to do just that.
On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time.
“In these four states, these are senators just doing the work, keeping their head down, getting things done for their states while the Republicans are obviously tearing each other apart in these primaries,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic ad maker who previously worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“They are not people who go looking for conflict, they’re not grandstanders. They’re hard working senators willing to say, ‘Yes, I agree with Biden on child tax credits or health care, but look, I’ve got an issue on this issue, or that issue.’””
“According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, only 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans said there is “a lot” of discrimination against Black people in today’s society. That number rose to 26 percent when Republicans were asked whether they believed white people faced “a lot” of discrimination. And intense white racial resentment remains present both among Trump’s base and in our politics today. Case in point: Trump, who’s a (very, very early) favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is still hitting that same drum; during a recent political event, the former president went so far as to falsely claim that white people were currently being discriminated against and sent to the “back of the line” when it came to receiving COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.”
“Trump is not the first white person to feel like a victim of discrimination or to make claims in that spirit. This phenomenon started long before him. But in the U.S., if we look at things like the racial wealth gap, mortgage denial rates, COVID-19 vaccination and illness rates, police violence rates or myriad other data sets, we quickly see plenty of systemic biases against Black Americans and other minority groups (such as increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans). You can’t, however, find such widespread evidence for anti-white discrimination. So why have many white Americans started to see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination?”
“2020 was the first year on record that the majority of Americans said they did not belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque; from the 1930s to the turn of the 21st century, around 70 percent of Americans did belong to one. Americans, particularly younger ones, increasingly report that they have no religious preference, or as some have put it, it’s “the rise of the nones.” But perhaps “none” doesn’t quite tell the whole story.”