Reaching Apathetic Voters Could Be a Key Strategy For Trump or Biden to Win in November

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 04, 2024

Increasing numbers of Americans feel that the two major political parties no longer represent them, which has given rise to an apathetic attitude towards the electoral process. Independents are now the largest voting bloc in America and are often key determiners of important elections when they break for one side or the other.

Another group that political strategists are trying to figure out how to reach is apathetic voters, also known as ‘double-haters,’ which some polls estimate comprise 15% or more of the voting electorate.

Double Haters

A March poll from USA Today and Suffolk University found that so-called double-haters constituted 15% of their respondents. Other polls put this number closer to one in five.

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This can be a significant number depending on how the vote totals go down on election day. In 2020, Joe Biden only won the state of Arizona by 11,000 votes, speaking truth to the old adage “every vote counts.”

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Not Represented

Apathetic voters feel increasingly disconnected from the world of politics and say it has been a long time since someone has captured their attention.

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Haley Fox, a San Diego-based photographer said the choices make her feel bleak. “There hasn’t been anything that has represented me for a really long time. So, like, 2024, just seeing what we have to choose from — it just feels so bleak.”

Groundhog Day

Other apathetic voters feel like the race this year is essentially a re-run of the previous one. Both Trump and Biden have had a term in office to be judged by, sucking away enthusiasm that a newcomer might bring.

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GOP political strategist Jared Sichel said “It’s essentially two incumbents running against each other, is how it feels. It’s kind of just Groundhog Day for a lot of people.”

Enthusiasm Problem

It’s not just double-haters that are experiencing a motivation problem this election cycle. In California, the country’s most populous state, the Public Policy Insitute of California found that less than four in ten people were “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting for the president this year.

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This low enthusiasm is occurring among Democrats and Republicans, though the study found that independents are more likely than either party to be apathetic.

Primary Slump

The Washington Post reported that in primaries that occurred in the middle of March, only 10% of voters across the country showed up to cast their ballot. 

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This primary turnout is a worrying sign for both Trump and Biden, who depend on their bases to be energized to show up to polls or cast a ballot through the mail.

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Importance of Swing States

Places like Nevada and Arizona are critical swing states analysts are looking towards this election cycle. In 2020, Biden managed to win Arizona for the first time since Bill Clinton in 1996.

The image captures a scenic view during sunset in Arizona, showcasing a large body of water surrounded by lush greenery with rolling hills in the background

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In Nevada, Biden only won the state by only 34,000 votes, and the state has continued to inch towards a Republican majority since then. In the 2022 midterms, the GOP managed to install a Republican governor who replaced Democrat Steve Sisolak.

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Biden Emphasizing Stakes

One of the central rhetorical points of the Biden campaign is to emphasize the importance of this election, framing Trump as an extensional threat to Democracy.

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“The stakes of this election couldn’t be higher, and our campaign is investing our historic resources in reaching voters where they are, earning every vote, and making sure the American people know how much is on the line this November,” senior Biden campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.

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Apocalyptic Rhetoric

Chikita in the statement uses intense language to paint Trump as a dictator that cannot be allowed to win. It seems like gone are the days of two political sides simply disagreeing on policy prescriptions.

Joe Biden speaks on stage to a crowd of supporters.

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“As Donald Trump promises to be a dictator on day one, rip away women’s freedom to choose, and rig the economy for himself and his wealthy friends at the expense of the middle class,” Chikita said. “it’s clear his toxic agenda and lack of resources mean he’s got nothing to win over the voters who will decide this election.”

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And Trump Too

Trump has also dialed up rhetoric around the importance of the election and turning up to vote, seeing himself as the only one who can save America.

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In December Trump called Biden “the destroyer of American democracy” and has also said “This country is finished if we do not win this election. I heard someone say that if we do not win, this may be the last election our country ever has.”

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Is it Working?

Both candidate’s strategy to reach apathetic voters is to continually amplify the stakes and consequences of the election. However, some apathetic voters say this is the same thing they hear every time, and it feels like a chore.

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Even dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the two major candidates report feeling fatigued ahead of the election.

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Consequences of Increasing Stakes

While politicians can hype rhetoric and emphasize increased stakes for each new election, it can only be so far. As “stakes” continue to increase every election cycle, it gets harder to raise them to a new higher level to inspire people who are apathetic to turnout each time.

A person holds up two poker cards with poker chips in the background.

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This election cycle it seems like the “threat to democracy” that either candidate poses is the current high bar, but where will the rhetoric go next after people become used to it?

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