This Hidden Voting Bloc Could Swing the 2024 Election
This Hidden Voting Bloc Could Swing the 2024 Election

By Janice Hisle

Tina DeMedeiros, 53, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is a typical “Trump-or-bust” voter.

After casting her first presidential election ballot for Democrat Bill Clinton in her early 20s, Ms. DeMedeiros had been disconnected from anything related to politics.

Donald Trump became a notable exception.

Ms. DeMedeiros voted for him in 2016 and again in 2020. But she didn’t cast a ballot in 2018, nor in 2022; she said that most of the people she knows don’t vote regularly, either.

“I don’t really like politicians. But I like Donald Trump,” she told The Epoch Times. “I don’t look at him like a politician.”

Pollster Rich Baris calls these people Trump-or-bust voters—less-likely voters who tend to cast ballots only when they know the name “Donald J. Trump” will appear.

They now form a critical constituency that other analysts are beginning to acknowledge.

“Republicans cannot win without them,” Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times. “The math just isn’t there if they do not show up.”

Pro-Trump voters include many who had never voted before or rarely voted in the past, Mr. Baris said.

Many pollsters might label these people “unlikely” or “less-likely” voters and may discount their responses or weed them out, based on the assumption that they won’t cast ballots.

But Mr. Baris said that in the case of President Trump’s voters, that premise is flawed. He sees a pattern: These previously unmotivated, sporadic voters now seem to behave rather predictably.

Supporters listen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Geneva, Ohio, on Oct. 27, 2016. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Trump-or-Bust phenomenon is evident among interviewees whom Mr. Baris’s Big Data Poll (BDP) surveyed this fall. Mr. Baris produced one of the few polls that correctly showed that then-candidate Donald Trump was poised to win in 2016. BDP has conducted polling in the past for The Epoch Times.

For example, BDP’s map shows a 38-year-old man from rural Shelby County, Ohio. He described himself as unmarried, childless, not religious, and working full-time for an annual salary of at least $50,000.

This man, Mr. Baris says, is a typical Trump-or-bust voter, like Ms. DeMedeiros.

She started following Donald Trump when she was 15. That’s when she made her first trip to New York and visited Trump Tower, piquing her curiosity about the real estate tycoon’s success. She started watching Mr. Trump on TV talk shows, such as Oprah Winfrey; she became a fan of his reality TV series “The Apprentice.”

Yet Ms. DeMedeiros was so politically unaware that she was stunned to learn Mr. Trump was seeking the presidency.

He declared his candidacy in June 2015, but she knew nothing about it until her husband mentioned Mr. Trump was going to debate Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton in September 2016. “I said, ‘Oh my God, he’s running for president?'” she recalled.

By then, Ms. Clinton had already declared that Donald Trump’s supporters could be lumped into “a basket of deplorables.” She said these people were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”

Her comment ignited a backlash. And when Ms. DeMedeiros heard about it, she predicted, “He’s going to win.”

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” she said.

But she saw signs that waves of support were building for Mr. Trump, partly out of resentment toward Ms. Clinton. “People had signs out in front of their houses saying, ‘A Deplorable Lives Here,'” Ms. DeMedeiros said.

Intrigued, she started learning about the future president’s proposed policies; to her, they seemed to be based on “common sense.” She supports his tough-on-illegal immigration policies, his defense of Constitutional rights, and his plans to cut government bureaucracy.

Supporters of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stand in line for a rally in Hershey, Pa., on Nov. 4, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

She said President Trump has her support. Although she conceded that he may engage in too much name-calling, she said, “I like it when he goes after people who come after him.”

She said she’s used to that brash personality as a New Englander: “I like people who have fire inside of them.”

“And I think he’s done a lot for this country,” she said. “If I had his money, I don’t know that I’d keep going on while being under constant attack.”

Ms. DeMedeiros said that some wealthy Democrats in Cape Cod who were once anti-Trump now instead bad-mouth President Joe Biden’s economic policies. They want President Trump back in office, she said. To them, she says, “Welcome aboard!'”

Although Ms. DeMedeiros said she senses that President Trump is headed for a 2024 election win, she also said she remains concerned that Democrats will try to sabotage it.

Days after Ms. DeMedeiros expressed that worry to The Epoch Times, the left-leaning Colorado Supreme Court ruled President Trump ineligible for that state’s primary election ballot. The Colorado GOP has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Making Politics Relevant

McKayla Rose, 36, of Dallas, exemplifies another category of President Trump’s supporters: Those who were once disinterested in politics but became uber-engaged because of him. (To avoid reprisals, the married mother of two asked The Epoch Times to use her online pseudonym for this article.)

Concern for her children motivated her to “start paying attention” to politics, she said. That happened after Ms. Rose learned that schools “were trying to teach kids about homosexuality and ‘trans’ this, ‘trans’ that,” she said, referring to transgenderism.

Ms. Rose started to see the vital role that the U.S. president plays in guiding the nation’s policies and setting the tone for trends in American society. That realization motivated her to delve deeper.

She began listening directly to President Trump’s speeches and became convinced that many mainstream media reports mischaracterized him.

Rich Baris, the “People’s Pundit” and director of Big Data Poll, speaks at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Naples, Fla., on Feb. 24, 2022. (Courtesy of Rich Baris)

So, for the first time in her life, Ms. Rose, who was then in her early 30s, voted—for President Trump in the 2020 election. She said she agrees with his contention that the election was rigged or stolen and that she intends to vote for him again in 2024.

But unlike the Trump-or-bust voters, Ms. Rose said she did cast a ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. She now considers herself an informed, active member of the electorate.

Jeff Bloodworth, a professor of U.S. political history at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, said Ms. Rose and the Trump-or-bust voters strike him as “a very typical kind of person who has been brought into the political system by Donald Trump.”

Although President Trump’s critics say the drama surrounding him is exhausting, it has captured the attention of citizens who used to find politics painfully dull and irrelevant to their lives. The former president seems to have a knack for reaching those people, showing them how politics matter, and inspiring them to get involved, Mr. Bloodworth told The Epoch Times.

“He makes politics kind of understandable. And, oddly, some people believe he’s more relatable, even though he’s a billionaire from New York,” he said. “Trump has found a way to make politics interesting to a wider swath of the electorate.”

Mr. Bloodworth said he thinks many pollsters still need to figure out how to ferret out and fully gauge President Trump’s supporters.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in front of a capacity crowd at a rally for his campaign in Rochester, N.Y., on April 10, 2016. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Pennsylvania Picture

Recent poll numbers for both President Trump and President Biden fit Mr. Bloodworth’s observations about the political climate in Pennsylvania.

Polls show that President Biden, who hails from Pennsylvania, is in danger of losing the state if current trends hold.

Mr. Baris’s BDP shows President Trump 3.5 percentage points ahead of the incumbent in the Keystone State.

Asked to comment on BDP’s Pennsylvania findings, Mr. Bloodworth said, “I guess I was most surprised by the urban numbers, especially in Philadelphia.”

In 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden won Philadelphia County by about 63 percentage points. That support level has dropped by 16 percentage points, according to BDP.

The poll detected a similar decline among President Biden’s supporters in Pittsburgh, where he won by about 20 percentage points in 2020. Now his Pittsburgh lead has shrunk to about 4 points, BDP found.

These findings mesh with other polls showing that nonwhite people’s support of the current president has been dropping; some Democrat strategists have acknowledged that these polling numbers constitute warning signals about President Biden’s reelection bid.

Simply put, the numbers show that “Biden is vulnerable,” Mr. Bloodworth said. “And I think even Joe Biden understands that.”

However, some of the incumbent president’s allies are discounting the importance of polling at this stage of the game.

President Joe Biden talks about his proposed fiscal 2024 federal budget during an event at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia on March 9, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democrats, Others Urge Caution

Asked to comment on the recent downward trends in President Biden’s poll numbers, Washington-based Democrat strategist Matt Angle told The Epoch Times last month: “Horse race polls a year out are not predictive, and treating them like they are is dumb on the part of individuals and irresponsible on the part of journalists.”

Similarly, Mr. Baris told The Epoch Times: “People should remain skeptical of polling, educate themselves about it.”

They also need to remember that polling “was never intended to identify margins with pinpoint accuracy.” Instead, polling is intended to identify trends and record voter sentiments at a given moment in time; they’re snapshots recording the present, not crystal balls glimpsing the future.

Most polls contain “sampling errors” that can skew results, typically plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points. Thus, a lead within those margins is not a comfortable one. And so far, most Biden-Trump poll results fall within that margin of error.

Mr. Angle said President Biden’s poll rankings are probably suffering in the face of “virulent opposition” from President Trump’s “ideologues” in right-wing news media.

Many recent reports are critical of President Biden’s handling of the economy, immigration issues, and foreign affairs, including the Israel–Hamas War. In addition, President Biden faces an impeachment inquiry over millions of dollars that allegedly flowed from foreigners into his relatives’ bank accounts. He has denied wrongdoing.

President Biden’s supporters say the influence-peddling scandal is small potatoes compared with the 91 criminal indictments lodged against President Trump. The allegations stem from his challenge of the 2020 election results along with his handling of business records and government records.

The former president has repeatedly stated that he did nothing wrong. He says he is the target of an unprecedented political witch hunt designed to damage his candidacy and interfere with the 2024 election.

He also has repeatedly touted his polling performance as an indicator that the American people see the criminal cases as “political persecution” and that they appreciated the work he did in the White House.

President Donald Trump (R) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 22, 2020. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

Assuming a Biden–Trump rematch, voters face a choice between two candidates who are both old, Mr. Angle said. President Trump is 77 and President Biden 81.

But of course, there are significant differences between the two men.

Mr. Angle said he considers President Trump “dangerously destructive,” dishonest, and a threat to American democracy.

President Trump and his supporters dismiss that characterization as a Democrat talking point. They retort that President Biden has stumbled over his words and his feet, signs that his age is affecting him and making him appear weak on the world stage. But President Trump, they say, remains quick-witted and seems resilient despite a demanding schedule of court appearances and campaign events.

Mr. Angle called President Biden “capable, accomplished, [and] patriotic,” even if he is “less than exciting.”

President Biden’s critics accuse him of failing to “put America first.” Under his watch, record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants have flooded across the U.S.–Mexico border.

Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin (L) interviews Vice President Kamala Harris during an event in New York City on Nov. 29, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at the DealBook Summit in New York on Nov. 29, stopped short of dismissing recent poll findings, and she cautioned that polls represent an incomplete picture of people’s values and beliefs. But she expressed confidence that voters will support President Biden’s reelection after they get a chance to “to hear firsthand” what she and the president are committed to.

She said that, as she has been evangelizing that message on behalf of President Biden across the nation, people “believe in the leadership, and they applaud the leadership.”

Trump Top in Rust Belt

Nevertheless, his recent downward trend in various opinion polls is undeniable. And President Trump has been shining in what BDP calls the Rust Belt’s “Big Six” states: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Right now, much national attention is centering on Iowa. On Jan. 15, that state will hold the nation’s first 2024 contest to decide which Republican candidate voters will recommend as the party’s nominee to challenge President Biden or another Democrat in November.

Mr. Baris’s big takeaway from interviews with people in the Hawkeye State: President Trump’s supporters “are dug in like Alabama ticks,” he said during a recent podcast.

Nearly 7 out of 10 supporters of President Trump said they “cannot be persuaded to change their mind at the caucus,” Mr. Baris said.

Justine Olson, 17, of Thor, Iowa, holds a placard that former President Donald Trump autographed after a rally at Fort Dodge Senior High School in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Nov. 18, 2023. (Janice Hisle/The Epoch Times)

In contrast, supporters of President Trump’s Republican challengers were less strongly committed, BDP found.

About 3 in 10 supporters of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and 2 in 10 supporters of former North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said they couldn’t be swayed.

As of Dec. 21, according to the RCP polling average, President Trump was leading Mr. DeSantis in Iowa by 34 points; nationally, he was outpacing the Florida governor by 52 points. Although Ms. Haley has been gaining ground in recent weeks, Mr. Baris said the latest polls were reflecting “a reshuffling of the bottom of the deck” among President Trump’s intra-party rivals.

Looking ahead to a hypothetical Biden–Trump rematch in 2024, Emerson College and the Des Moines Register have both released polls showing President Trump leading by double digits in Iowa.

BDP’s Biden–Trump polling for Iowa was not available. But among five states where BDP disclosed findings of such a rematch, the two men were locked in a statistical dead heat in one state, Minnesota. But President Trump was leading in the other four states.

Out of that bunch, President Trump’s strongest showing was in Ohio, a state he won by 8 percentage points in 2020. Now, BDP is showing him leading President Biden by at least 13 points “in all hypothetical matchups,” including those factoring in third-party candidates and declared independents Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West.

The Ohio Republican Party took the unusual step of announcing its endorsement of President Trump on Dec. 1, more than three months ahead of the state’s primary election, set for March 19.

Biden Behind in Other Key States

Meanwhile, BDP showed President Trump was leading slightly in Wisconsin but enjoying somewhat larger margins in Pennsylvania (3.5 percent) and Michigan (4.7 percent).

RealClearPolitics (RCP) analyst Sean Trende reported that, as of Nov. 28, “Trump leads in the RCP average in Michigan for the first time, ever.” It’s the same for Pennsylvania.

“He narrowly trails Biden in Wisconsin but has already led in almost as many polls as he led in the state in 2016 and 2020 combined,” Mr. Trende wrote.

President Trump’s Wisconsin polling, putting him less than 1 point behind President Biden, represents an improvement over August 2020, when he trailed by 3.5 points. That was President Trump’s best previous poll showing against President Biden in that state, Mr. Trende wrote. He said he sees President Trump as the favorite to win in 2024.

Wisconsin went into the win column for then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. However, in 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden was declared the winner there.

In both 2016 and 2020, the margin of victory in Wisconsin was less than 1 percentage point.

Supporters of President Donald Trump attend a campaign rally at GreenBay-Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis., on Oct. 30, 2020. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mr. Trende’s column also mentions President Trump’s performance in several other closely watched states.

In Florida, “Trump has led or tied in every poll, including some double-digit leads,” he wrote. He leads by 5 points in Arizona and by 6 points in Georgia.

In a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll released in October, President Trump was leading President Biden in five of seven swing states: Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all of which except North Carolina President Biden won in 2020.

In that poll, President Biden was ahead in Nevada and was tied with President Trump in Michigan.

Recent reports about President Trump’s poll performance produced “a deluge of panicked articles” and social media posts, “reassuring readers that polls aren’t predictive and providing a variety of reasons that things will improve for President Biden,” Mr. Trende noted.

“Elections analysts seem to know that they are obliged to mouth the words that Trump can win, but deep down, they don’t believe them,” he wrote. “The notion that Biden is the favorite is deeply internalized, likely for a variety of reasons.”

Some pundits are reluctant to acknowledge that a victory for the former president is a distinct possibility, not a far-fetched one, Mr. Trende said.

While noting that conditions could improve for President Biden before the election next November, Mr. Trende wrote, “Trump is better positioned in the polls to win this election than any GOP nominee since at least 2004.”

He cited multiple state and national polls to support that assertion, including President Trump’s 2.6-point lead over President Biden in the RCP average.

That’s the biggest lead that the 45th president has opened against his Democrat opponent “ever,” Mr. Trende said. The two men started campaigning against each other four and a half years ago, during the run-up to the 2020 election.

Lessons from 2016, and Earlier

Polling is a tricky business. Even the best-designed poll can go awry because of voters’ whims.

Those who proclaim they were “certain” to vote might not follow through; those who vowed allegiance to a candidate days, weeks, or months ago can change their minds by the time they step into the voting booth.

When Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, she was favored to win; the RCP polling average showed her 3.2 percentage points ahead.

Perhaps because it seemed Ms. Clinton was a shoo-in, many Democrats and independent voters stayed home instead of casting ballots, analysts have said.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) and Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the final presidential debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 19, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Likewise, if President Trump maintains his commanding lead in the polls, he also runs that risk. Some of his supporters may not bother to vote if they perceive he’s on his way to a blowout. Such a lack of response can turn an impending victory into a defeat.

The former president has addressed this concern at recent rallies. Repeatedly, he has urged people not to take his win for granted and “get out and vote!”

President Trump also runs the risk that a second bloc of voters will stay home: those who agree with his contention that the 2020 election was “rigged” or “stolen.” Some of these supporters have publicly lamented that the “fix is in,” so their votes won’t count anyhow.

If a significant number of President Trump’s would-be voters adopt that attitude, his chances of winning plummet.

But it’s impossible to guarantee a fraud-proof election, and Mr. Baris has advice for all voters.

“You’re never going to stop people from cheating in elections,” he said. “But you can beat the cheat … with overwhelming participation.”

Poll workers check in a box of absentee ballots in the gym at Sun Prairie High School in Sun Prairie, Wis., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Andy Manis/Getty Images)

Each legitimate vote that is cast removes a potential illegitimate vote that cheaters can “fudge,” he said in a recent edition of his podcast.

“A finite number” of voters exist in every jurisdiction, he said. Therefore, the number of ballots cast cannot exceed the number of registered voters.

“There’s this slight misconception that they’ll just keep adding ballots, as many as they need. That’s not true,” he said. “They’re adding ballots that you left on the table.”

Samantha Flom contributed to this story.

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