The Upcoming Supreme Court Decisions Will Influence How Independents Vote in 2024

Posted in: Politics

A June 19 Fox News poll contained surprisingly good news for Joe Biden. It found that the President now has a two-point lead over Donald Trump and that “Biden’s current 50% support is his best this election cycle; he hasn’t been ahead of Trump since October 2023 and that was by just 1 point (49%-48%).”

Trump reacted quickly and predictably. “The latest Fox News poll is TRASH!” Trump said in a Truth Social post. “They used a biased, Democrat-leaning sample of voters, polling more Biden 2020 voters than Trump 2020 voters to skew the results in favor of Crooked Joe.”

“I am leading BIG in virtually every other poll,” Trump insisted, “including in all of the key battleground states, like Wisconsin, where I just held a massive rally, and Pennsylvania, where I will be on Saturday.”

“Fox News polls,” Trump complained, “have never treated me, or MAGA, fairly! Don’t worry, we will WIN!!!”

His surrogates took to the airwaves to amplify Trump’s dismissal of the Fox polling results. One, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders even made an appearance on Fox News to argue that no one should “put much stock in national polls.”

Among the Fox News poll’s most important findings was a startling shift of sentiment among independent voters. The poll found that they now favor Biden by 9 points. That’s an 11-point shift from May, when they favored Trump by 2 points.

Developments in the next week, including Thursday’s upcoming debate, will also influence whether this shift continues. In addition, what the Supreme Court decides when it issues its final opinions of the term will also be important.

As the New York Times notes, “The justices will issue rulings in about a dozen major cases,” including “ones on the opioid crisis, homelessness, social media and the power of administrative agencies.”

Among those cases, the most consequential will be the decisions on emergency abortion care, January 6 obstruction charges and presidential immunity. If the Court goes hard right in deciding them, especially the immunity case, what it does may play a decisive role in shaping how independents vote in November.

Surveys show that 55% of independents do not think Presidents should have immunity for actions taken while they are in office. If the Supreme Court decides to the contrary, it would confirm their view that the nation’s highest court is “too conservative,” a view already held by 41% of independents.

Independents are, according to an ABC News survey, “split roughly evenly regarding whether the court rules mainly on the basis of the law or of politics. And only 40% of independents approve of the Court’s performance.”

They may already be leery of casting their votes for someone who is eagerly taking credit for moving the Court to the right.

In addition to the Fox News poll, other evidence suggests that independents may be very much in play this year and that they will be paying careful attention to unfolding events, like what the Supreme Court does.

For example, a few days before the release of the Fox polls, Politico reported that Trump’s criminal conviction in the Stormy Daniel’s hush money case is costing him support among independent voters:

21 percent of independents said the conviction made them less likely to support Trump and that it would be an important factor in their vote…. Just 5 percent of them said that the conviction is important to how they will vote and that it makes them more likely to support Trump.

A plurality of independents said that they thought that the New York verdict “was the result of a fair and impartial process (46 percent), while others disagreed (27 percent) or said that they did not know (24 percent).”

“Taken as a whole,” Politico noted, “the results of the poll suggest that Americans’ views on the Trump verdict may still be malleable.”

Other evidence about the tendencies of independents is mixed.

For example, in California, surveys show that many independent voters want “someone other than Joe Biden or Donald Trump to be the next president… Twenty-six percent of independent voters said they want “someone else” when asked their preferences.”

Other surveys show that the news is not all good for Biden among independents. In New York, for example, 71 percent of independents “disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president. In a head-to-head, Trump wins with that group 45-28 in New York.”

In addition, on a lot of issues, independents in New York are “much closer to Republicans than they are to Democrats.”

In February, the New York Times did a focus group with independents and found they were, at that time, trending toward Trump. Many of them worried about Biden’s age and questioned his competence.

A survey in May found that 41% of independent voters had an “unfavorable view of to both candidates, up from 27 percent in 2016 exit polls. At 41 percent, given that independents made up 26 percent of voters at the presidential level in 2020, it could represent around 11 percent of the electorate in 2024. This means the election could be decided by voters who are unfavorable to both candidates.”

In 2024, such “double haters” will be “a crucial group of swing voters.”

Eight years ago, they broke for Donald Trump by nearly 20 points over Hillary Clinton, according to the NBC News exit poll. And in 2020, they swung for Joe Biden over Trump. In 2024, “they’re completely up for grabs between Biden and Trump.”

And this year, independent voters like them will be more important than ever. This is because party affiliation nationwide has been on a downward trajectory for a very long time.

“The percentage of Americans who consider themselves political independents has been on the rise. The proportion of Americans who identify as independent now registers at about 43 percent, according to Gallup, while only about 27 percent of Americans identify as Republican and another 27 percent as Democratic.”

“It’s not so much that voters’ values are changing,” Politico observes, “It’s that here and around the country, they are removing themselves from the party-led political process…. It’s one reason that the two parties may be increasingly beholden to fringe figures and less responsive to what voters say are their actual concerns.”

At the same time, there is some reason to be skeptical of the findings about what independents are saying. For a long time, scholars have highlighted what they have called “the myth of the independent voter.”

They contend that “most so-called independents leaned strongly toward one of the two parties and resemble—in all important respects—either Democrats or Republicans.”

Still, as Politico explains, “millions of Americans today are attracted to the independent label. Parties have a bad reputation…and there’s something appealing about the idea of thinking independently rather than blindly supporting a party.”

Increasingly, the Supreme Court also has a bad reputation. Its recent hyper-partisanship has been a turn-off for independent voters.

While last Friday’s decision upholding a law that disarms domestic abusers may reassure them, they will likely be paying special attention to what the Court does as it brings its term to an end. A decision granting Trump immunity from prosecution would certainly be a victory in his legal battles, but it might just come at a high political cost and propel independents to vote for Joe Biden.

Posted in: Politics

Tags: Donald Trump, Joe Biden

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