Biden’s Appeal Shifts from Blue-Collar Base to Educated Electorate

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Throughout his time in public service, President Joe Biden has consistently portrayed himself as a steadfast advocate of the middle class. Upon assuming the presidency, he has persistently promoted his economic stratagem as a “blue-collar blueprint” to reconstruct America, spotlighting the number of novel job opportunities related to his flagship policy proposals, which do not necessitate four-year college education.

In allusion to his antecedent, previous President Donald Trump, Biden declared to a labor union congregation on Labor Day that while his opponent saw the world from the vantage point of Park Avenue, he perceived it from the vantage point of Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware. However, the shifting sands of opportunity and vulnerability may steer him towards a diminishing dependency on blue-collar electorates and an augmented dependency on the more educated and affluent electorate in the forthcoming 2024 elections, particularly if there’s a repeat battle with Trump.

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While Biden’s appeal to the more affluent electorate is broadening, because surveys indicate them perceiving Trump as a menace to American democracy and favoring abortion rights, his appeal to working-class voters is wearing thin due largely to their mounting dissatisfaction and uneasiness over the economy and inflation.

Nevertheless, Biden is not without key assets as he endeavors to reclaim support from the working class, including falling inflation trends, more visible outcomes of investments activated by his trio of landmark legislations within the first two years of his presidency, and a sizable campaign fund for flooding swing states with television ads that showcase his economic feats.

However, if the cost of everyday goods in fall 2024 outstrips prices at the onset of his administration – a highly plausible scenario – Biden will likely grapple with a high probability of disapproval of his economic stewardship by most Americans living on modest incomes. Any hopes for a winning coalition for a second term for Biden could rest on persuading voters that despite seeming shortfalls on their interests, voting for him would be the lesser evil as Trump or another GOP candidate would represent a greater blow to their values. Inevitably, this tactic could yield a further swing in Biden’s electorate towards the elite.

Opinions on Biden’s performance largely split along educational lines, according to a recent CNN national poll. While about one-third of non-degree holders and just a quarter of non-college White adults approved of his performance, over half of the degree holders had a more favorable assessment of his performance. Moreover, across both cohorts, there is shared concern over whether he possesses the “stamina and sharpness” to serve effectively as president.

Unsurprisingly, the mounting frustration over increasing prices is particularly felt among voters with reduced resources and financial security, which generally includes those with lesser education. Heightened inflation may cause minor inconvenience to the more affluent, but to those of modest means, even small increases can put immense strain on their limited resources.

Presently, the relentless rise in prices has cast a long shadow over positive economic news, predominantly the historically low unemployment rate. Despite consistent overall economic growth, surveys regularly reveal that most Americans from lower educational and income brackets mistakenly believe that the US economy is spiraling into recession.

Caught in the whirlwind of discontent, Biden’s economic management receives scathing reviews, primarily from voters with less education and income. Several measures underscore Biden’s vulnerability on economic matters is more profound among non-degree holders than degree holders. However, polls also imply that the reverse holds equally true: Biden’s prospects to regain support, particularly against Trump, are higher among degree holders than non-degree holders.

Aside from economic concerns, other significant issues such as abortion rights may play a crucial role. While a sizeable number of non-degree holders are pro-choice, this belief is more prevalent among the educated voters who possibly hold more weightage on this issue. In parallel, the belief that Trump is a threat to American democracy is more widespread among degree-holders than non-degree holders. All these factors contribute to the recurrent deadlock that recent polls have consistently recorded between Biden and Trump, despite the latter’s innumerable criminal indictments.

Ultimately, Biden’s battles on the economic front may never fully dissipate until a significant portion of the populace feels a sense of financial breathing space – something not guaranteed even with consistent wage growth and a sustained slowdown in inflation. While Biden may put forth compelling arguments on his economic performance and accentuate actions taken to alleviate costs for families, his best bet towards a convincing win would be to effectively disqualify his opponent. His strongest armor against Trump, or any other adversary, may well be the matters of abortion rights and caution against potential “chaos” Trump would incite if he returned to power. Notwithstanding Biden’s focus on reclaiming non-college voters, such arguments arguably resonate more firmly among those with advanced education. It’s this demographic, more than ever, “middle-class Joe” as he referred to himself at the Labor Day assembly in Philadelphia, may need to ensure another spell in office.