The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Maybe Democrats should run on overwhelmingly popular issues

Yoonie Yang, with Students Demand Action, during a vigil to remember the victims of the El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings and to call for lawmakers to take action against gun violence on Aug. 11 in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Erin O. Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

Democrats certainly have the advantage on some key issues. The latest Quinnipiac University poll should tell them that their position on the environment, guns and race enjoy broad, and in some cases bipartisan, support.

The poll finds that “56 percent, say that climate change is an emergency, while 42 percent do not. Democrats say that climate change is an emergency 84 - 14 percent, independents say the same 63 - 36 percent, and Republicans say that climate change is not an emergency 81 - 18 percent. Among 18 to 34 year old voters. … 74 percent say that climate change is an emergency, while 24 percent do not.” With the GOP in the grips of climate change denial, Republicans will find with each passing election (because the older you are, the more likely you will vote), a greater share of the electorate strongly disagrees with their ostrich-like approach. Moreover, 67 percent, a high for this poll, says the United States is not doing enough about climate change. In short, the longer Republicans’ willful ignorance continues, the greater political danger they will find themselves in.

On guns, Democrats are in an even stronger position. “Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence say 72 percent of voters, including 50 percent of Republicans, 93 percent of Democrats, and 75 percent of independents. Voters say 60 - 34 percent that they support stricter gun laws in the United States. An identical 60 percent support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, including 37 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of Democrats, and 60 percent of independents.” Eighty percent back “red flag” laws, 82 percent support gun licensing, and 93 percent favor universal background checks.

The numbers are even more stunning when you look at prized suburban voters who, in 2018, started shifting strongly toward Democrats. Among those voters, 96 percent favor background checks, 62 percent favor an assault weapons ban, 82 percent favor red flag laws, and 85 percent support gun licensing. As this has become a bigger and bigger issue, especially for female voters, they’d be wise to put this front and center in 2020. Where Democrats lose voters is on mandatory assault weapons buybacks. (“46 percent of voters support the concept, including a meager 18 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Democrats, and 47 percent of independents.”)

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

When the issue moves to race, even Republicans acknowledge that things are worse under Trump. “In general, 64 percent of voters believe that the level of hatred and prejudice in the United States has increased since the 2016 election, with 28 percent saying it hasn’t changed, and 6 percent saying it has decreased.” Even more striking, “56 percent of voters say that President Trump’s language and behavior have played a role in motivating white supremacists to commit violence, while 40 percent disagree.” Even 38 percent of Republicans think “the level of hatred and prejudice in the U.S. has increased” since Trump’s election. Seventy-four percent of voters think prejudice against minorities is a very or somewhat serious problem. On the generic question, only 26 percent of voters (23 percent of women) say he makes them feel more safe.

In virtually all these questions, the percentage of women, white women and college-educated voters (both men and women) leans more heavily in Democrats’ favor than the population at large. For example, 73 percent of white women (vs. 60 percent of all voters) favor banning assault rifles.

Henry Olsen

counterpointGun rights advocates do themselves no favors by not addressing gun violence

As we have seen in issue and candidate polling over the past year or so, Republicans under Trump are losing key groups that were part of the GOP winning coalition in the past. Trump has doubled down on his base, but in total, numbers show that he has adopted positions off-putting to many more voters. If Democrats make clear they take climate change seriously, will pursue an array of gun safety laws and take prejudice seriously, they will very likely increase their chances of holding on to these precious voters. If they do that, Trump and the GOP will be toast.

Read more:

Eugene Robinson: To get sensible gun control, Democrats must take the Senate

Paul Waldman: The single clearest choice voters will face in 2020

E.J. Dionne Jr.: The 2020 issue that matters is democracy itself

Doug Sosnik: Swing voters hold the key to 2020. Here’s who they are.

Paul Waldman: Why gender will define the 2020 election