Most voters who endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020 believe he should face debates with other Democratic presidential candidates, according to a new poll conducted for news week.

A Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll conducted on April 30 found that 79 percent of eligible voters who voted for Biden agree that the Democratic Party should hold televised primary debates.

Biden is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and outspoken anti-vaccine activist, self-help author and 2020 Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson.

The Democratic Party has been criticized for the fact that no debates are planned, but neither major party has held primary debates when they have an incumbent in the White House seeking re-election since modern presidential debates began in the 1970s. .

Joe Biden addresses a conference
US President Joe Biden addresses the Construction Unions of North America legislative conference at the Washington Hilton April 25, 2023 in Washington, DC. A poll conducted for Newsweek shows that a majority of eligible voters want Biden to take on the Democratic primary debates.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Support for Democratic Debates

Despite the precedent of holding no debates when an incumbent runs again, the Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll found that 68 percent of eligible voters believe the Democratic Party should hold televised debates, compared with 15 percent who answered “no” and the 17 percent who responded. “I don’t know”.

The general survey was conducted among 1,500 eligible voters in the US.

The number of support for the debates was even higher among those who said they had previously voted for Biden, with 79 percent agreeing that there should be debates in the Democratic primary.

Another 11 percent said there should be no debates and 10 percent didn’t know.

Those who voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 overwhelmingly agreed that the GOP should hold primary debates, with 79% in favor of the idea, 12% against it and 9% answering “I don’t know.”

‘Nothing to gain’

The Democratic Party remains unlikely to hold debates with Biden and his rivals. Political scientists who spoke with news week suggested that the president has little reason to welcome the primary debates.

“Biden has nothing to gain and everything to lose in the Democratic primary debates,” said Mark Shanahan, an associate professor of politics at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. He is co-editor of The Trump Presidency: From the Election Campaign to the World Stage.

“So the chances of him agreeing to participate are between none and even less,” Shanahan said. news week. “If Trump is the GOP nominee, he is running against Biden and the current president will almost certainly win. If another GOP candidate emerges, the picture becomes much more interesting and the race is likely to become much closer.”

Shanahan said that “there is no value in Biden offering his best lines before he gets to the Democratic showdown with the GOP, or giving his opponent any ammunition to use against him.”

He described Biden as “a cunning old political bird who will do everything he can to run the 2024 campaign on his own terms. The Democrats know all too well what happens when they lose control of the process. It happened in 2016.”

dissatisfied voters

While Biden continues to lead Kennedy and Williamson in recent polls of likely Democratic primary voters, the desire for debates could indicate voters are unhappy, according to Thomas Gift, founding director of the Center for US Politics (CUSP). ) from University College London.

“The fact that such a high percentage of the Democratic electorate wants to watch primary debates confirms that polls show just how dissatisfied ordinary voters are with their choice of Joe Biden,” Gift said. news week.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter because a messy primary battle would be a nightmare for the Democrats, and the leadership would never accept debates that have the potential to weaken Biden heading into the general election.”

“But it is clear evidence of the lack of enthusiasm that will haunt the Biden campaign heading into November 2024,” Gift added.

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