Shocker: Americans uneasy about violence in the streets…

…. and, it’s showing up in the polls with big implications.
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Let’s start with the big picture…

Prior to each Presidential election, Pew surveys Americans to find out which issues are most important to them.

Below are Pew’s results for 2016 and 2020

image

Here’s how to interpret the chart and the key takeaways…

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First, how to interpret the chart:

  • A red connecting line indicates that an issue has moved up on the list from 2016 to 2020
  • A green connecting line indicates that an issue has moved down on the list from 2016 to 2020
  • A green box indicates that an issue made the list in 2016 but not in 2020
  • A red box indicates an issue that is on the 2020 list but wasn’t on the 2016 list

Got it?

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Key Takeaways

> The Economy was the top issue in 2016 and remains so in 2020

> Terrorism was 2nd on the 2016 list and isn’t on the 2020 list … apparently signaling that voters consider it to be under control

> Social Security, Education, Trade policy and LGBT treatment were on the 2016 list but not on the 2020 list … again, apparently signaling that voters consider these issues to be under control

> Health care was high in both years, moving higher on the list from 2016 to 2020 … probably reflecting higher awareness during the coronavirus

> Supreme Court appointments moved up on the list from 2016 to 2020 … probably reflecting feelings about Trump’s appointees and the  likelihood of future vacancies

> Racial treatment & equality issues were on both lists with little change in position between 2016 and 2020 … Note: The 2020 poll was taken between  July 27 and August 3

> Coronavirus and Violent Crime were not on the 2016 list but are high (#4 and #5) on the 2016 list Note: The 2020 poll was taken before Kenosha and the conventions.

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Biden’s Dilemma

Here’s where things get dicey for Biden.

The issue of “race & ethnic equality” is an important issue to 74% of Democrats … but only 24% of Republicans.

Conversely, “violent crime” is important to 74% of Republicans … but only 46% of Democrats.

image

In the current environment, “violent crime” is probably being interpreted by many as a catch-all category for urban murder rates … and rioting, looting, assaulting, arson, etc.

Biden has to walk a very fine line.

If he stays silent or wishy-washy on crime, he cedes the “law & order” issue to Trump.

If he comes out strongly against crime, he may alienate some in his base … and, elevate his controversial sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill and Kamala’s record as a prosecutor.

He’ll likely try to position the current level of crime as isolated and exaggerated .. and, simply accuse Trump of fueling the violence and trying to divert attention from the coronavirus.

Good luck with that one, Joe.

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P.S. Unfortunately, Pew doesn’t report the numbers for Independents … my bet: they split the difference between the two issues.

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