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Live Case Study: New Poll Shows Biden’s Sweet Spot on Crime
The GOP’s advantage on crime is vulnerable to Biden’s track record, including today’s DC crime bill vote. Meanwhile, DeSantis’ pitch on public safety craters under Florida’s bad brand.
How can Democrats win over the swing voters needed for a majority?
We’ve been going to school to learn how Democrats best engage independent and swing voters by putting together case studies on how to “Win The Middle”.
As the Senate votes on the DC crime bill, we are in the midst of a real-time case study. For those who haven’t been following, here’s the situation:
In November, DC’s progressive city council voted to move forward with a sweeping overhaul of the city’s criminal code, which would (among other things) eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and reduce maximum penalties for crimes including robberies, carjackings, and murder.
In early January, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser vetoed the bill, arguing that it “does not make us safer” and citing concerns about reducing penalties and putting too much strain on the city’s court system.
A few days later, DC’s city council overrode Mayor Bowser’s veto.
Last week, House Republicans brought a resolution to the floor that would block the proposed changes from taking effect. The resolution passed, but 174 House Democrats voted against it — and the NRCC has already announced an ad campaign in 15 critical swing districts using the vote to paint Democrats as soft on crime.
As part of a real-time case study on the DC crime bill, The Welcome Party sponsored a national online poll of 1,006 registered voters with PFP (MOE ±3.7%). Conducted yesterday, the survey reveals that voters hold nuanced and malleable views on criminal justice issues.
Here’s what we found:
Voters have a nuanced view aligned with the direction of President Joe Biden. Voters are generally more aligned with Republicans on issues of crime and criminal justice, but they place Biden to the center of his party, agree with his stance on the DC crime bill, and support his role in the 1994 crime bill.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis starts in the strongest position on criminal justice, with 68% believing his stance should stay where it is or get more conservative. But the Florida Governor is susceptible to the Florida Man brand: by more than 2:1, voters believe their own communities are safer than Florida. And just 4 in 10 voters choose DeSantis’ Florida blueprint and “defund” attacks over Democrats’ track record of funding the police.
This weakness for DeSantis breaks with favorable initial views of his party when it comes to fighting crime. 65% of voters believe the GOP is in the right place or should get more conservative on crime and criminal justice issues, compared to 58% who believe Democrats should stay in the same place or get more liberal.
By a significant margin, voters believe Democrats should move in a more conservative direction (42%) instead of a more liberal direction (24%) on issues of crime and criminal justice. On average, voters place themselves at a 6 on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most conservative when it comes to where they stand on such issues. Biden starts at an average of 3 on that scale, but he edges toward the overall average after voters are informed of his role in the crime bill and DC veto threat. The share of voters placing him in the middle (4-6) jumps from 33% to 36%.
Biden made the following statement in opposition to the changes proposed by DC’s City Council:
This statement draws significant support from voters. 63% of all voters agree with President Biden, while 22% disagree. Biden’s statement also likely had its intended effect with swing voters: 67% of Republicans and 52% of independents agree. Of those undecided in a Trump vs. Biden 2024 matchup, 50% agreed, while only 24% disagreed.
Mayor Bowser opposed the DC criminal code overhaul. Joe Biden and a likely majority of Senate Democrats (including Majority Leader Schumer) do as well. It’s not surprising that a majority of mainstream voters agree.
On March 7th, PFP surveyed 1,006 registered voters on behalf of The Welcome Party via online web panels. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, Census region, and 2020 Presidential vote choice. Respondents were selected from online panels to be representative of registered voters. The margin of error on the poll is ± 3.7%.
The poll toplines can be accessed here.