A large majority of voters who say they’re likely to cast ballots in the November congressional elections agree with a description of President Joe Biden’s Sept. 1 speech in Philadelphia as a “dangerous escalation in rhetoric” that was “designed to incite conflict among Americans.”
Biden’s speech was delivered at Independence Hall, where the Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to write the Constitution. During his remarks, Biden condemned former President Donald Trump and his “MAGA Republican” supporters as representing “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
But the results of the Atlanta-based Trafalgar Group’s survey of 1,084 likely voters, conducted in the three days immediately following Biden’s prime-time televised speech, suggest that most of those who will decide the outcome of November’s midterm elections view the president as a representative of political extremism.
Each of the respondents was asked, “What is your opinion of President Biden’s recent primetime address to the nation in which he accused his political opponents of representing ‘an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic’?”
Among all respondents, 56.8 percent agreed with the statement that Biden’s speech “represents a dangerous escalation of rhetoric and is designed to incite conflict among Americans.” Meanwhile, a little more than a third of the respondents, 35.5 percent, instead agreed with a description of Biden’s address as “acceptable campaign messaging that is to be expected in an election year.”
Of the Democrats who responded, 70.8 percent agreed that Biden’s speech was acceptable, with only 18.7 percent saying it represented a danger. Republicans reacted even more intensely in the opposite fashion, with 89.1 percent viewing the address as dangerous, and less than 5 percent as acceptable.
Politically, however, the most significant results of the survey came from independents, the voters in the middle who often provide the decisive votes that determine winners in congressional elections.
Nearly 2 out of 3 of the independents, or 62.4 percent, agreed with the description of the president’s words as a “dangerous escalation,” with 31.2 percent saying it was acceptable campaign season language.
The survey has a 2.9 percentage point margin of error and a 95 confidence rate. The Trafalgar Group was founded by Robert Cahaly and was one of a tiny group of polling firms that successfully predicted Trump’s 2016 victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The day after the speech, Biden himself seemed to be trying to backtrack on his rhetoric.
“I don’t consider any Trump supporters a threat to the country. I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, refuses to acknowledge an election … changing the way you count votes, that is a threat to democracy,” Biden said, without elaborating.
Then, during a Labor Day campaign speech in Milwaukee on Sept. 5, Biden described his predecessor’s supporters as “extreme” and “Trumpies.” Later that day, during an address in Pittsburgh, he said of Trump: “It’s clear which way he wants to look. It’s clear which way the new MAGA Republicans are … very extreme.”
Biden’s rhetoric in Philadelphia and on the campaign trail over the Labor Day weekend contrasted sharply with his comments during his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2021, when he declared that “history, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.”
“We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors,” Biden said. “We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.”
Mark Meckler, president of Convention of States, for which Trafalgar Group conducted the survey, said in a statement on the results that “these numbers reveal that most voters were sickened and deeply disturbed by what they saw [on Sept. 1]” in Biden’s speech.
“When you couple this finding with previous polling we did indicating a majority of voters also hold President Biden responsible for America’s divisions, it’s clear that the man who promised to unite the nation has become the most divisive President in American history,” he said.
“When voters tell you they think that the prepared remarks of a sitting President of the United States is a dangerous escalation and was designed to incite conflict, we are living in terrifying times.
“Perhaps even more terrifying is the fact that a huge majority of Democrats think this was just a routine, election year stump speech.”