Biden, Trump facing apathetic voters who may decide election

Even though Haley Fox, 30, frequently discusses politics with friends and family, she says, as soon as the phrase “2024 election” comes up, she feels her body fill with dread.

“It’s been a long time since anything represented me,” said Fox, a San Diego-based photographer. “So like 2024, just seeing what we have to choose from, it’s so bleak.”

For Fox and many other Americans, election year boredom is setting in. President Biden and former President Trump became their parties’ presumptive nominees a few weeks ago, capping one of the shortest primary seasons in U.S. history and paving the long road to the general election .

“It’s basically two incumbents going against each other, that’s what it feels like,” said Jared Sichel, a GOP strategist and co-founder of the Costa Mesa-based Republican marketing firm Winning Tuesday. . “It’s kind of Groundhog Day for a lot of people.”

Voters who want neither option – the “double haters,” as they are known – make up about 15% of the electorate, according to a poll last month by USA today and the University of Suffolk. Other polls show their share is closer to a fifth of the electorate. In a neck-and-neck race between Trump and Biden, the bloc will be crucial in November.

But whether they will vote is a million-dollar question. Most Californians are not looking forward to voting for president this year, according to a February report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Although 84% of Californians agree that the 2024 election is “very important,” fewer than 4 in 10 say they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting for president. Democrats are less enthusiastic than Republicans, and independents are more apathetic than both parties, the study found.

Palpable voter apathy has translated into low turnout in primaries across the country. Elections in presidential years typically receive all the national media attention. But the Washington Post found that only 10% of voters nationwide had cast ballots in primaries through mid-March.

California saw only 34% of registered voters cast ballots on Super Tuesday, according to the Secretary of State – the second lowest participation rate in the primaries of the presidential year in state history. (Only 31 percent of the state’s registered voters cast primary ballots in 2012, the year President Obama was re-elected.)

Despite having more voting options than ever, Los Angeles County was among the five California counties with the lowest turnout in the March 5 primary, with 29% of registered voters casting ballots, according to the report. Secretary of State reported. The low turnout came even though California moved its primary day to Super Tuesday, to align with 14 other states and American Samoa and encourage more voters to participate.

The Biden campaign, which was mostly quiet until Super Tuesday, launched its big offensive after the president’s State of the Union address two days later. His fiery speech, which experts widely called a way to combat the narrative that he is too old at 81 for another four years as president, kicked off a multi-week tour to across key states.

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff stopped by Nevada, Arizona and even California. Biden and his surrogates have headlined several fundraisers, racking up more money to add to the campaign’s growing $155 million coffer, according to the latest financial reports. Its funding far exceeds the $42 million the Trump campaign had available at the end of February.

“The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher, and our campaign is investing our historic resources to reach voters where they are, win every vote, and ensure the American people know how much is at stake in November “Biden said. campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.

“As Donald Trump promises to be a dictator from day one, to strip women of their freedom to choose and to rig the economy for him and his rich friends at the expense of the middle class,” she said. continued, “It is clear that his toxic agenda and lack of resources means he has nothing to convince the voters who will decide this election.”

Trump, meanwhile, has been busy with court appearances for his multimillion-dollar civil fraud judgment and preparations for the first of his four criminal trials. scheduled for April 15. He also continued to be active on Truth Social, his social media platform, lambasting Biden and independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

“The more Trump is able to stay out of the news, or at least (if) what he says focuses on Biden, he will probably be able to turn out some of the more independent voters,” said Sichel. “I think turnout for the Biden campaign will depend much more on concern about Trump than on enthusiasm for Biden.”

But as rival campaigns struggle for relevance with apathetic voters, their messages don’t always cut through the noise.

“He’s the boy who cried wolf,” Fox said. “OK, here we go again: democracy is at stake.”

“That was the theme of the 2020 campaign … fighting for the soul of the nation,” said Mark Gonzalez, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. “Every time we say that, it’s the most important election of our lifetime. But this one, in particular, shows, under (Trump’s) presidency, all the damage he has caused.”

County parties share a rare moment of unity in their message to encourage participation and combat apathy: vote local.

The polling place at the Boyle Heights Senior Center was almost empty at times on Super Tuesday, due to voter apathy about the 2024 election.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“Our message as a county party is that there are no elections more important than those for City Council, Board of Supervisors, State Assembly and Senate. State,” said Los Angeles County Republican Party volunteer Roxanne Hoge.

Hoge’s challenge is to make disgruntled Republicans living in overwhelmingly Democratic Los Angeles County understand that the best way to channel their frustration is to vote.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So don’t complain. You know things aren’t going well,” Hoge said. “You have a ballot; you will receive one in October – return it.

Breanne Deam, 34, did not vote in 2020 or 2016. And although the Yucaipa resident said she regularly complains about politics with her friends and family members, she said that she probably wouldn’t vote this year.

“I know that voting makes a difference. I think so,” said Deam, an independent. “But they’re just not my candidates.”

Biden hasn’t kept his campaign promises, Deam said, and she worries about his age. Trump brings too much baggage to appeal to enough voters, she added, making this election particularly tense. She finds supporters of both candidates angry and believes America needs a candidate who can unite voters.

“It looks like a divorce. It looks like one is the mom, one is the dad and we are the kid,” Deam said. “At the end of the day, they don’t care about anyone but themselves.”

Fox, the San Diego photographer, voted half-heartedly for Biden in 2020, seeing him as a better choice than Trump. But she observed with dismay his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

“As someone whose grandparents emigrated from Palestine, I cannot vote for Biden,” she said.

But Trump is also a no-go for the registered Democrat — and she couldn’t remember the name of the third-party candidate who once piqued her interest. (She later recalled that it was Claudia De la Cruz of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.)

Fox was once an enthusiastic follower of politics, tuning into presidential election debates and staying up to date on current events. Although she wants to stay informed, Fox said, she has taken a step back from the daily noise of politics.

“Now it’s become something that feels like a really depressing chore,” Fox said. “Like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll figure out what’s going on for the election I don’t want to vote in.’ »

All she can do now, she says, is watch a few videos or opinion pieces about the Middle East conflict before logging off and watching casual TikTok videos to lighten the mood.

But the road between the primaries and the general election in November is long and a lot can change in the next seven months.

“I don’t know to what extent candidates or campaigns will be able to drive turnout as much as events that are beyond their control,” said Sichel, the Republican strategist. “Because, you know, who doesn’t already know where they stand on Trump and Biden?

When Lynne, a 70-year-old voter from Long Beach who declined to give her last name, cast her ballot on Super Tuesday, she encouraged her fellow voters to stay focused.

“We can’t think too much about the president; we’ll go crazy,” Lynne said. “Just focus on your own little part of the world. Improve your own little part of the world.

California Daily Newspapers

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