Election 2024: How Voters Describe the Trump-Biden Rematch in One Word

It’s no secret that many voters are not looking forward to the election in November.

A New York Times/Siena College poll from February found that 19 percent of voters held an unfavorable view of both President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump. And 29 percent of Americans believe that neither candidate would be a good president, according to a March poll from Gallup.

At the same time, the prospect of a new president is exciting for many, and nearly half of Republican primary voters are enthusiastic with Mr. Trump as their nominee, the Times/Siena poll found. About a quarter of Democratic primary voters said the same about Mr. Biden.

Those findings are broad measures of an issue Americans have complex feelings on. To dig a little deeper, we asked respondents in that Times/Siena poll to summarize their feelings about the upcoming rematch in just one word.

We received hundreds of distinct responses from a representative sample of more than 900 registered voters across the country. We combined responses like “anxious,” “apprehensive,” “concerned” and “worried” into a category we labeled “scared”; responses under the umbrella of “excited” and “hopeful” became “happy.” “Disappointed,” “annoyed” and “frustrated” were classified as “angry.”

About a third of voters gave responses indicating anger, disappointment or resignation. And nearly as many respondents — 30 percent — replied with words indicating that they were scared or apprehensive.

Fewer than 15 percent of voters in our poll gave some variation on happy, excited or hopeful.

Voters who said they planned to vote for Mr. Trump were about twice as likely to say they felt happy about the election as those who were planning to vote for Mr. Biden. Even so, Trump voters were still more likely to give a response indicating anger or fear than to say they were happy or excited.

Perhaps less expected is that nearly the same percentages of Trump voters and Biden voters said they felt scared or angry about the election. Biden voters were a bit more likely to say so in both cases, though, even accounting for the poll’s margin of error.

To hear more, we asked some respondents to explain why they chose the words they did.

“I truly believe we are at a crossroads,” said Chris Dozois, 52, a Democrat from Castle Pines, Colo. He chose the word “historical” to describe his feelings about the election, which he believes has existential stakes.

“If Donald Trump wins, with the current Supreme Court and the rhetoric that I hear from him, I actually fear that we could have a constitutional crisis immediately,” Mr. Dozois said. “I could see him pardon himself.”

Mr. Dozois, who works in marketing, worries that re-electing Mr. Trump could have immediate consequences for his family members. “My oldest son is gay, so it’s an existential threat to him,” he said. “I have a daughter; they’re taking away body autonomy.” He added, “All of these things are terrifying, ”

“I think it is absolutely possible you could see the country we recognize and our democracy — you could see this whole thing unwind,” Mr. Dozois added.

Catherine Donnelly, a Republican in Somerset, Mass., is not simply happy about the election — she is ecstatic.

“I am a Republican 100 percent,” said Ms. Donnelly, who is in her mid-50s. “And when Donald Trump was in office, I actually favored every single one of his policies.”

Ms. Donnelly, who works as a nurse, said she had felt a rush of confidence last month after the Supreme Court ruled against efforts to bar Mr. Trump from appearing on the ballot in Colorado. “I feel even stronger,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone can say no to him.”

Ms. Donnelly said that she had benefited from Mr. Trump’s economic policies and that she was hopeful for their return.

“I’m a homeowner,” she said. “I have children. I want someone to understand that this country has to be run like a business.”

Susan Fairchild, 55, expects the election will be manipulated in favor of Mr. Biden.

“I can’t believe — no matter how hard you try to do the right thing — that we’re going to end up right where we’re at,” said Ms. Fairchild, who is the vice president of operations for a company that distributes exercise equipment and who lives near Tampa, Fla.

“Their algorithm and how they cheat is just going to be better than ours is,” echoing Mr. Trump’s disproved claims of fraud during the 2020 election. “We’re not going to cheat,” she added.

Ms. Fairchild said she had felt safer when Mr. Trump was in office. “I felt I could trust more of what was being said because President Trump took questions in front of everyone a lot,” she said. “And he had no teleprompter.”

There was a hint of anger in the voice of Hayden Carlos, 29, of Youngsville, La., as he described his feelings about the election.

Mr. Carlos, who works as a lawyer, is an independent voter who cast a ballot for Mr. Trump in 2016 and one for Mr. Biden in 2020. He plans to vote for Mr. Biden again in 2024. During the Trump presidency, he learned he disagreed with Mr. Trump’s policies on issues like immigration.

“What I think I bought into was the provocateur-type stuff,” said Mr. Carlos, who said he had volunteered for Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016. “It was childish and immature and fun at the time, and I didn’t realize the real-world effects of the things he said and did and implemented.”

After the 2016 election, Mr. Carlos said, “I was educating myself and made changes in my personal life and the way I thought about things.”

He added, “And I just think I get frustrated seeing that other people can’t do the same thing.”

Rebecca Murphy, 39, a stay-at-home mother and a Biden supporter who lives in Dickinson Center, N.Y., said she was apprehensive but “not scared or angry as of yet.”

“I know that those votes are out there” to re-elect Mr. Biden, she said, “but I’m just worried that they’re not actually going to show up.”

Fueling her feeling of anxiety, she said, was her sense that since Mr. Biden has been in office, the tumult of the Trump years has faded from collective memory.

“Things are OK” at the moment, Ms. Murphy said. “Protections are being put back in place. It’s back to normal. There’s this level of normalcy.”

But, she added, “It’s easy to forget how bad and how scared we were.”

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