The riots and unrest sweeping America’s urban centers this year are perhaps the biggest wildcard in the election — and not just the presidential contest, either. These mainly take place in Democrats’ most robust strongholds, where demographics and geography combine to produce their most powerful electoral forces. But has the calculus changed after months of rioting, crime waves, and progressive demands for abolishing or vastly reducing the presence of police?
According to a Rasmussen poll taken late last week and reported yesterday, it certainly seems to have had a big impact. Even if one is inclined to skepticism about Rasmussen, this reaction seems pretty understandable:
Three-out-of-four voters who’ve had violent anti-police protests in their community rate those protests important to their vote in the presidential election. Among these voters, a sizable majority like the job President Trump is doing. …
Among all voters, 65% say the violent protests are important to their vote in the presidential election this fall, with 41% who say it’s Very Important.
Among those who have had violent protests in their community, even more (76%) rate them important to their vote, including 54% who say they are Very Important. Sixty-three percent (63%) of these voters Strongly Approve of the job Trump is doing versus 35% who Strongly Disapprove.
There are a couple of caveats to keep in mind. The proximity to protests is self-reported by respondents, for whom the definition of “your community” might be flexible. Does that mean within a mile of home, within your specific city, or do they live in the suburbs of a city with protests? Also, it’s worth noting that this poll does not ask the question about voting, so its predictive value is indirect at best.
With that in mind, though, only 42% say their communities have seen anti-police protests. In the 2016 election, urban voters accounted for 34% of the overall vote, with suburbs at 49% and rural areas at 17%. The self-reporting on protests might be a little higher than one would expect, but it’s not off by much — and the balance could be coming from first-ring suburban voters that closely identify with cities. Of those respondents, only 48% have said those protests turned violent. All of this seems to indicate that the demo of violent-protest-impacted voters isn’t unreasonably large.
With that said, the import of “violent protests” is high among almost all demos in this survey. Even among Democrats impacted, it’s 63/35 on importance to the presidential vote in November. Among black voters, that rises to 72/17. It’s far more important to conservatives (82/17) than moderates (55/40) or liberals (49/49), but still significantly important in all three categories.
Most interestingly, it’s more important to people earning under $30,000 a year (67/28, 57% very important) than any other income category. That’s one of the few demos in which “very important” alone has a majority, and the only non-partisan or non-ideological demo — except for African-Americans (56%). That strongly suggests that the traditional Democratic voting blocs may be looking elsewhere for answers this year, or at least open to a law-and-order message.
The poll doesn’t ask exactly how the importance of the violent protests will impact their choice of president, but it’s pretty clear that it’s a major concern for voters in the impacted areas. And it’s also pretty clear that this will impact other choices on the ballot as well. That House majority won by Democrats in 2018 could go up in flames in 2020 … almost literally.