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The 2024 Presidential Election: The Issues

Michael Sistak

Director, Advocacy & Political Management

photo credit: Edgar Colomba | Pexels

As the presidential primaries rapidly wind down, both the Biden and Trump campaigns are going to start focusing exclusively on their messaging for the general electorate in November. Much will be said by both candidates, much will be written as the calendar marches toward Election Day, but it is important to set the stage now for the overarching issues that will determine whether President Biden gets to stay in office or if former President Trump returns for a second, nonconsecutive term.

President Biden will be focusing on two issues. The first will be democracy. Since Trump first entered office after the 2016 election, Biden and his fellow Democrats have been warning that the Republican Party under Trump is a threat to the stability of American democracy. Biden points to Trump’s contention that the election of 2020 was fraudulent and the events of Jan. 6 to support his argument. Other issues, such as the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade and Republican-led states imposing abortion restrictions, have been included in Biden’s messaging that Republicans are seeking to undo the laws and norms that have governed the country for decades.

Biden’s second overarching issue will be the economy, though this has not been a strong point for him. While stock markets have surged to record highs, unemployment remains near record lows, inflation has significantly moderated and consumer confidence has climbed higher from its 2022 dip, few Americans are giving Biden credit on the economy. A February poll from Quinnipiac University found that 42% of voters approve of the president’s handling of the economy while 55% disapprove. Biden and his campaign surrogates will argue heavily until Election Day that he entered office at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has overseen an end to the pandemic and started the economic comeback.

Former President Trump will also be focused on the economy, as well as border security. On the former, Trump has been arguing that the country’s economic outlook was better on his watch. This has been reflected in polling, with a recent survey from The New York Times finding that 59% of voters overall trust Trump to handle the economy over Biden. On border security and immigration, Trump and Republicans have been hammering Biden’s handling of the issue. The Quinnipiac poll found 63% of Americans do not approve of Biden’s management of the border.

Issues aside, questions of age and temperament for office loom over both candidates. On Election Day, Biden will be 81 and Trump will be 78, making them the oldest major party nominees to contend for the White House. This is especially detrimental to Biden, who 67% of voters says is too old to serve effectively, according to Quinnipiac. 41% say Trump is too old. On the questions of ethics and temperament, roughly half of the country say Biden meets the standards they expect while about 60% of the country says Trump does not.