The Boring Democratic Basics That Can Help Biden Win November

Back-to-basics, economic populist messages—notably distinct from those focused on Trump’s personal character—are ones for Biden to prominently center as the general election season progresses.

 

✓  Back-to-basics, economic populist messages—notably distinct from those focused on Trump’s personal character—are ones for Biden to prominently center as the general election season progresses.
✓ A message centering the famous “Buffett Rule,” that no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a teacher, resonated with voters, as did Biden’s promise to not raise taxes on middle-class voters.
✓ 60% of voters believe that Trump’s tax cuts benefited people who are richer than they are, and 53% of voters—including 56% of independents—are worried that Trump will pass tax policies that favor the very rich but not middle-class Americans.
✓ The five best-testing policies: banning junk fees; increasing the number of prescription drugs that Medicare can negotiate the price of for seniors; mandating that pharma companies charge Americans the lowest price they charge consumers in foreign countries; capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it; and protecting Medicare and Social Security from funding cuts or increases in the age of eligibility.

Two new polls from Blueprint (April 24 and April 18) show that one of the best tools President Biden has at his disposal when he draws a contrast between himself and Donald Trump is their policy records and stances on economic fairness and tax policy. Voters don’t hold Trump’s tax cuts in high regard, and believe they mostly benefited the very wealthy. Meanwhile, Biden’s pro-middle-class health-care policies are overwhelmingly popular. 

 

Our recent poll on voters’ views of tax and economic policy demonstrated that the same line of attack that Barack Obama used against Mitt Romney in 2012—that the Republican presidential candidate’s economic and tax positions help billionaires and large corporations, not working- and middle-class people—remains appealing to Democrats and persuadable voters today. Indeed, about 60% of voters believe that Trump’s tax cuts benefited people who are richer than they are, and 53% of voters—including 91% of Democrats and 56% of independents—are worried that Trump will pass tax policies that favor the very rich but not middle-class Americans.

We tested messages that Biden could use to expose Trump’s vulnerabilities, and the ones that voters found most compelling focused on economic fairness and how that should be reflected in public policy—not on Biden and Trump’s respective characters, biographies, and backgrounds. For example, the most persuasive message, chosen 69% of the time in a comparative test, read:

“President Biden believes no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a firefighter, a teacher, a sanitation worker, or a nurse. Everyone should pay their fair share, with the wealthiest Americans and big corporations finally contributing what they rightfully owe.” 

The second most appealing message, selected 62% of the time, was:

“Under President Biden’s tax plan, nobody earning less than $400,000 will pay an additional penny in federal taxes. Joe Biden is looking out for the middle class, not the millionaires and billionaires.”

In contrast, the least popular anti-Trump messages were “Donald Trump is a candidate for people who own yachts and multiple homes, not those who work hard every day to make ends meet” (42%), “Donald Trump is a selfish con man who is always looking out for himself and trying to make a buck rather than acting in the interests of the American people” (38%), and, “Donald Trump is uncommitted to his family and has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not a good role model for younger Americans; Joe Biden is a respectable family man who has acted with dignity and honor throughout his time in public life” (36%).       

The back-to-basics, economic populist messages—notably distinct from those focused on Trump’s personal character—are ones for Biden to prominently center as the general election season progresses.

Meanwhile, Blueprint’s latest survey, conducted in partnership with The Liberal Patriot, showed that many of the policies that are most popular with voters can be used to make the case that Biden is the candidate for average Americans while Trump is the candidate who advocates for the interests of the very rich. Among the 40 policies we tested, the most popular ones are those that crack down on corporations, lower the prices of health care and everyday services, and protect Medicare and Social Security. 

Specifically, the five best-testing policies are banning junk fees (83% support, 7% oppose); increasing the number of prescription drugs that Medicare can negotiate the price of for seniors (82% support, 6% oppose); mandating that pharma companies charge Americans the lowest price they charge consumers in foreign countries (82% support, 7% oppose); capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it (80% support, 6% oppose); and protecting Medicare and Social Security from funding cuts or increases in the age of eligibility (81% support, 9% oppose). 

Just as the most effective tax and economic policy messages in the poll centered on those topics, none of these stances are particularly sexy or novel; instead, they are positions that are easy to imagine any Democrat supporting over the last decade. Trump has many qualities and vulnerabilities that make him distinct from run-of-the-mill Republicans of the past and present, which are tempting to focus on in paid and earned media. But our polling shows that ahead of November, Biden would be wise to highlight boring-but-popular policies that he supports in order to drive home the overall contrast between himself and Trump on tax policy and economic fairness. 

ABOUT THE POLL

The tax and economic policy poll Blueprint was informed by a sample of 1,039 respondents, fielded on April 12 and April 13, and weighted to education, gender, race, respondent quality, and 2020 election results. The margin of error is +/- 4.5. The full toplines can be found here and crosstabs here.

The Blueprint and The Liberal Patriot survey, conducted by YouGov, used a sample of 4,038 voters from March 29 to April 5, 2024. The survey was conducted in English, and its margin of error is ±1.8 percentage points. Full toplines and crosstabs are available here.

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