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Poll: Washingtonians worried, anxious about the 2024 election

The presidential race is still a year away, but the latest Crosscut/Elway poll shows voters are already dreading a rematch between Biden and Trump.

By Joseph O’Sullivan, Crosscut
Published: November 16, 2023, 6:02am

Washington voters across the political spectrum are already looking toward next year’s presidential elections with trepidation and concern, according to a new Crosscut/Elway poll.

Asked to describe their feelings about the coming presidential election they didn’t hold back: scared, frightened, discouraged, uneasy, pessimistic, unenthusiastic.

A year from the 2024 general election, Washington voters are already dreading what looks to be a rematch between Democratic President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, a Republican.

The sentiments come from voters on both the left and right, according to pollster Stuart Elway.

“It’s safe to say that voters are not looking forward to this election,” Elway said, adding. “A lot of ‘dread,’ ‘depressed,’ ‘horror show,’ which is the family-friendly version [of what] they said,” he said.

The latest Crosscut/Elway Poll was conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, with a mix of cell phone, landline, and online survey questions. It has a 5% margin of error at the 95% confidence level. That means that if the survey had been run 100 times, the results would be within five percentage points of these results in at least 95 of those scenarios.

The election is still a year away, and the nomination process for the political parties is only starting to ramp up. But voters are already well acquainted with the two likely nominees – and it shows in the polling.

Asked how they’re inclined to vote in the election, 39% of respondents said they preferred Biden, with 29% saying Trump. Meanwhile, 22% said they’d prefer someone else, 1% said they wouldn’t vote, and only 8% were undecided. Biden holds a 12-point lead in this poll, but he won Washington by 19 points in 2020.

Only 8% were undecided; Elway said that shows how familiar voters are with the likely nominees.

“Everybody knows these two guys,” he said. “They don’t need to learn more about the candidates.”

Vicki Sloan, 64, a Republican from Curtis, Washington, voted for Trump in 2020 but would prefer another choice this time. The poll participant said the word she would use to describe the 2024 election – and really any election lately – is “disappointed.”

“I don’t think people want to run for office because they are so beat down by the time they get there,” she said. “We’re not getting the best candidates.”

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Sloan, an elected fire commissioner for her volunteer fire department, had a lot to say about the people who run for office and their lack of honesty and integrity – and she wasn’t just talking about the presidential race.

The poll asked a separate question including a pair of independent presidential candidates – anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and public intellectual Cornel West.

With those names added to the mix, Biden drew 37%, Trump had 25%, Kennedy took 9% and West clocked in at 3%.Of the rest, 14% said they were undecided, 11% said they would prefer someone else, and 2% said they would not vote.

“Kennedy hurts Trump worse than [he hurts] Biden” in the survey, according to Elway.

Asked about the candidates, many of those polled focused on the age of the two men – Biden is 80, Trump 77 – and on concerns about corruption.

Poll respondents were given descriptions and asked which applied to the two men. Asked if the candidates were too old to be president, 37% percent said Biden was and 12% said Trump was. Another third of voters said both men were too old.

Asked who was a danger to democracy, 46% percent of those polled said Trump was a danger and 33% said Biden was. Another 14% said both of them were a threat to democracy.

Meanwhile, 45% of respondents described Trump as “corrupt” and 29% said the same about Biden. Another 18% said both men were corrupt.

That could signal some of the big factors as voters go next year to cast their ballots.

“It’s going to be Biden’s age versus Trump’s corruption and then the threat to democracy,” Elway said.

Meanwhile, asked which candidate cared about people like them, 41% of respondents named Biden, 32% named Trump, and 21% said neither.

Asked which man was good for the economy, it was a close match: 39% named Trump, 36% said Biden and 21% said neither.

The poll also asked voters to step back and say how they thought America’s political system was working in general. Asked to give the system a grade, only 1% said A for excellent and 11% said B for good. The majority of people gave the country a failing grade, with the poll-wide average being a D for unsatisfactory.

The negative ratings about our political system were also reflected in voters’ lack of confidence in other areas of public life, including the major issues facing the country. Majorities were pessimistic about immigration, gun violence and the economy. Pluralities were pessimistic about climate change, inequality in America, race relations and the place of the United States in the world order.

While Democrats were more pessimistic about climate change, gun violence and inequality, Republicans were more concerned about the economy and immigration.

Kristin Ely, a poll participant from Tacoma, said she was optimistic about the 2024 election, but her answer was deceptively positive.

“I feel like there’s no other way to go. We’ve hit rock bottom,” said Ely, 34.

The Democrat plans to vote for Biden again because “It seems like that’s going to be the best option,” but she’s not a big fan of the president and wishes there could be a better alternative.

As a mom of two kids in child care and an executive at a human-services nonprofit, Ely’s concerns include the high cost of early education, housing, homelessness and the environment. She would like to vote for a president who shares her middle-class family concerns.

Ely adds, however, that she is happy with the politics closer to home. “I’m optimistic about our state for sure. I personally feel well-represented by my current elected officials, from the city level all the way up,” she said.

The poll also asked about Democrat Maria Cantwell’s bid for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. It’s been three decades since Washington voters sent a Republican to the Senate, and the survey shows Cantwell with a solid lead over Republican candidate Raul Garcia.

As things currently stand, 43% of those polled said they would support Cantwell while 23% chose Garcia, a moderate Republican and emergency-room physician from Central Washington. Another 25% said they were undecided, while 3% said they would prefer another Democrat and 6% said they would prefer another Republican.

Crosscut is a service of Cascade Public Media, a nonprofit, public media organization. Visit crosscut.com/donate to support nonprofit, freely distributed, local journalism.
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