Biden’s Pivot to the Center Aligns with Independent Voters
While Biden’s shift to the middle on climate, immigration, and crime has drawn criticism from the left, it aligns with the independent voters who broke decisively for him in 2020 and will choose whether he keeps his job in 2024.
Independent voters are to the right of Democratic orthodoxy on core issues such as climate, immigration, and crime. An analysis by The Welcome Party of newly-released national survey data from the 2022 Cooperative Election Study shows that President Biden’s shifts to the center through hot-button issues like the Willow Project, toughening border security, and overturning the DC crime bill are moving him closer to what crucial swing voters believe and are concerned about.
Independents overwhelmingly support increasing fossil fuel production: One of the big decisions at the core of Biden’s center pivot was his decision to approve of the Willow Project, a significant oil drilling project in Alaska. The project has sparked controversy on the left, but is likely supported by most independents. The survey found that independents overwhelmingly support “increas[ing] fossil fuel production in the U.S. and boost[ing] exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas” by a margin of 62% to 37%.
Independents disproportionately support increasing border patrols: Biden has taken a more centrist stance on immigration, considering tougher enforcement policies at the Southwestern border. This, too, aligns with CES data on independents, among whom the vast majority (68%) support “increas[ing] the number of border patrols on the US-Mexican border,” with only 32% in opposition.
Independents are significantly more likely than Democrats to support increasing police presence: Biden ruffled feathers when he supported the overturning of DC’s newly-overhauled criminal code, which would have eliminated mandatory minimum sentences and reduced maximum penalties for crimes including robberies and carjackings. But while independents are more moderate on the issue of crime. While Democrats are largely opposed (62% to 38%) to “increas[ing] the number of police on the street by 10%,” independents are evenly split on the question.
Data from the comprehensive survey also bears out that independents are simultaneously a more moderate and less ideological cohort than partisans, with a plurality (44%) rating their own ideology as “middle of the road” and the second largest group (20%) saying they are “not sure” about their ideology. By contrast, only 24% and 4% of Democrats say the same, respectively, as do just 15% and 7% of Republicans.
Biden’s pivot to the center can be understood as a savvy play by the president to keep middle-of-the-road independents in his camp heading into 2024. Expect to hear more about it as the campaign ramps up.
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