Biden’s Support for Genocide May Cost Him Key Swing States

A new poll reports that 20% of voters in five key swing states are less likely to vote for Joe Biden because of his support for Israel’s war on Gaza. It suggests that his policy has been not just morally monstrous but maybe politically disastrous too.

A voter from the pro-Palestine uncommitted campaign rallies outside of a polling location at Maples Elementary School on February 27, 2024, in Dearborn, Michigan. (Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

A new poll of voters in five key battleground states has found that President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israeli assault on Gaza is greatly impacting his chances of reelection — with some 20 percent ​“less likely” to show up for him at the ballot box in November.

The poll, released Tuesday and conducted by YouGov, was commissioned by Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action), a political group, and voters were surveyed in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where Democrats narrowly won in 2020, as well as in Minnesota, where Democrats and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton edged out Donald Trump in 2016.

“What this opinion poll suggests is that Biden cannot continue to ignore the convictions and demands of a large segment of the Democratic electoral base if he wants to preserve his chances of winning,” said Osama Abuirshaid, AJP Action’s executive director.

“A large percentage of Democrats oppose his handling of the Israeli war in Gaza,” Abuirshaid said. ​“A larger percentage of them want to see a change in his policy and an immediate and permanent cease-fire.”

A news release about the poll from AJP Action noted that ​“across all five states, a critical margin of voters — roughly one in five — are less likely to vote for Biden on account of his handling of the war in Gaza.” The YouGov poll ​“included a representative sample of 500 registered Democratic and Independent voters” in each of the five states, according to a summary of the report from AJP Action.

Halah Ahmad, who worked as a researcher on the YouGov poll, shared an analysis of the narrow vote differentials and margins for both the 2016 and 2020 elections for president in those five states.

Arizona, Ahmad reported, had a differential of 91,234 votes in 2016 and 10,457 in 2020. Pennsylvania showed 44,292 votes in 2016 compared to 80,555 in 2020, while the Uncommitted campaign there netted 57,951 votes. In Wisconsin, the vote differential was 22,748 in 2016 and was even smaller in 2020, when 20,682 votes separated Biden from Trump.

Michigan saw a difference of 10,704 votes in 2016 and 154,188 in 2020, while some 101,436 voters chose “uncommitted” this year. Minnesota saw 44,765 votes in 2016 and 233,012 in 2020, along with 45,913 votes for “uncommitted” in the most recent primary.

All five states included in the poll have sizable Arab and Muslim American populations and contain large urban areas that will be key to Democrats’ and President Joe Biden’s efforts to secure enough votes to beat former president Donald Trump and overcome the typically narrow margins in those states.

Those five states were also home to surprisingly successful primary campaigns that are part of the ​“uncommitted” national movement that has upstaged Biden in many states, even as he carried them.

The uncommitted movement first exploded in Michigan, which held its primary on February 27 and saw more than 100,000 people cast ballots for ​“uncommitted,” which was about 20 percent of all votes cast. Biden won Michigan by only about 150,000 votes in 2020.

On April 2, ​“uninstructed” received nearly 50,000 votes in Wisconsin, more than double the campaign’s goal of 20,000 votes, which represented the slim margin of victory for Biden in 2020.

The uncommitted movement is still spreading, and there are even uncommitted delegates who will be at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. The movement resonates with many Democratic voters who feel as though they cannot vote for Biden as long as his administration continues to fund, fuel, and enable the Israeli genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

“President Biden’s backing of Israel’s war in Gaza has fractured his party, with one in five voters less likely to support him in November,” offered political analyst and Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid.

“However, Biden has a path to reuniting his coalition,” added Shahid, the former spokesperson for Justice Democrats, ​“by ending weapons transfers to [Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.

Saqib Bhatti, the co–executive director of the Action Center on Race & the Economy, wrote in an opinion article for In These Times in late October that ​“I am done voting for the lesser of two evils. I will not vote for Joe Biden in 2024.”

At the time, some political observers believed that Bhatti’s position was something of an outlier. But it soon became clear that Bhatti spoke for a large number of US voters who also felt that ​“you’re allowed to be a single-issue voter if the issue is genocide.”

But even as the uncommitted movement gained traction and primary after primary showed how dejected many voters are with the Biden administration’s support for the Israeli assault on Gaza, the poll released Tuesday illuminates the dramatic contours of the uphill battle Democrats face in their effort to keep Biden in the Oval Office.

“This puts Biden before a choice: either he does the morally and politically right thing and preserve his chances in the November elections, or he continues on the current path and risks jeopardizing his reelection bid,” Abuirshaid said. ​“What is certain is that the war in Gaza has turned into an electoral issue this year.”

Reema Ahmad, a Palestinian organizer in Wisconsin who helped lead the uninstructed campaign, said the poll’s results are ​“not surprising” but nonetheless ​“sobering.”

“It’s always helpful to have data that reflects and sheds more light on conversations that we’re having in community with voters,” Ahmad said.

​“We know that elections are close in Wisconsin, and that we can expect that they’ll be close yet again in the general election in November. So these stats are sobering,” she said. ​“I hope it continues to put pressure on the administration to make the policy changes, to take the actions that a majority of Americans continue to push for — and certainly a majority of Biden’s base that elected him in 2020.”

The YouGov poll follows the release of Times/​Siena polls about a week ago that also highlighted voters that were or may be abandoning Biden because of his position on Gaza.

“Around 13% of the voters who say they voted for Mr. Biden last time, but do not plan to do so again, said that his foreign policy or the war in Gaza was the most important issue to their vote,” wrote Nate Cohn of the New York Times in the article ​“Trump Leads in 5 Key States, as Young and Nonwhite Voters Express Discontent With Biden.”

“Just 17% of those voters reported sympathizing with Israel over the Palestinians,” wrote Cohn, who went on to quote a thirty-year-old Georgia voter who supported Biden at the polls in 2020 but currently plans to vote for a third party in November.

The new YouGov poll also found that at least 40 percent of Democratic and independent voters in each of the states surveyed ​“say that imposing an immediate and lasting cease-fire, conditioning aid to Israel, and ensuring full entry of humanitarian aid would make voters more likely to vote for Biden in November.”

Kyle Johnson, political director of the Milwaukee-based organization Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), supported the uninstructed campaign and said that whether or not Biden takes those actions could successfully sway him to turn out for the incumbent. But, Johnson said, that would also depend on how Biden talked about those decisions and whether enough is done to address the harm his support for the genocide has already inflicted on many voters and communities across the United States.

“If it’s referenced in more of a political manner or something to be celebrated as a victory lap, then that’s crass and it’s unacceptable,” Johnson said. ​“If it’s a reckoning and a realization that this is something that we should have never even been participating in, in the first place, and the right time to address this harm was six, seven, eight months ago, but we’re here now, then that’s a different conversation to have. I think that would be meaningful for people.”

Halah Ahmad, the researcher, noted that ​“these results are hard to dismiss.”

“Even when taking into account the counterpoint, voters who approve of Biden’s handling of the war also support a cease-fire and other de-escalatory policies,” she said. ​“While Israel has renewed its bombardment on Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza and other areas at levels we haven’t seen since October, this poll is a stark reminder for the administration that voters in states that matter are paying attention — Biden can’t afford to pretend otherwise.”

Dahlia Saba, one of the organizers of the student encampment on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, said those actions ​“would make people reconsider” whether they would vote for Biden, but ​“it’s important to note that those criteria are the bare minimum for a lot of people.”

“This is not an issue of messaging. This is an issue of policy,” Saba said. ​“If [Biden] wants to get reelected, he needs to make sure that his policy is in alignment with what young voters want, which is to stop supporting Israel — especially as it commits a genocide — and to protect the human rights of Palestinians.”

Omar Mussa, an organizer with the Pennsylvania uncommitted campaign, said that for the administration to take action now ​“wouldn’t hurt.” But for some, it may be too late.

Mussa said that they ​“have friends that lost ninety-nine family members since October” and that others have ​“lost forty, fifty” friends and family members in the Israeli military’s mass murder of Palestinians since October.

“What does it mean to lose not just mothers and fathers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles, but to completely obliterate an entire family line of family tree off the face of the earth?” Mussa asked.

“What people are most devastated about is that we know the power of America,” Mussa said. ​“We know that a simple phone call from the president could have put a stop to this in October.”

“Now is the time for this administration to make the policy changes on a whole host of issues, including on the genocide underway in Gaza,” Ahmad said.

Regardless of how many voters might be swayed by Biden taking clear actions that would represent a significant shift in his positions on Gaza, Ahmad said she returns to what is fundamentally a moral question that is in front of the president.

“Now is the time for this administration to make the policy changes on a whole host of issues, including on the genocide underway in Gaza,” Ahmad said.

“Make those policy decisions now. There will be a time for voters to decide how and who they will vote for, but we have a whole five months for people to be making those decisions,” she said.

“Meanwhile, every single day people are killed through our tax dollars. The very least that this administration could do is listen to what a majority of Americans have been calling for for the last seven months.”