GOP debate

Six of eight 2024 Republican presidential candidates who joined the first debate raise their hands to say they would support former President Donald Trump as the party's nominee on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

From Quashing Teachers Unions to Pardoning Trump, Voters Reject GOP Positions: Poll

"The first Republican debate was nothing but a race to the bottom," said the head of Data for Progress. "Major candidates succeeded in turning off Independent voters and failed to offer voters a positive vision."

Polling results released Friday in the wake of the first 2024 Republican presidential debate this week show that majorities of Independent voters and those across the political spectrum disagree with key GOP positions addressed during the event.

While former U.S. President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner, skippedFox's debate, eight candidates participated: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The progressive think tank Data for Progress found that 67% of all likely voters—including 85% of Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 49% of Republicans—oppose shutting down the U.S. Department of Education, a plan backed by Burgum, DeSantis, Pence, and Ramaswamy.

Meanwhile, Christie and Scott have taken aim at organized educators, with the senator declaring on the debate stage Wednesday that "the only way we change education in this nation is to break the backs of the teachers unions."

But, as Data for Progress found, that position is unpopular with voters, with 58% of respondents—including 78% of Democrats, 54% of Independents, and 39% of Republicans—saying they oppose breaking up teachers unions.

The group further found that majorities of voters oppose requiring citizens to pass a poll test before voting, sending U.S. military forces into Mexico to fight drug cartels, and pardoning Trump for any criminal charges against him.

Trump—who recorded an interview with former Fox host Tucker Carlson as counterprogramming to the debate—faces 91 charges in four ongoing cases. He was first indicted in April, related to the Manhattan district attorney's investigation of alleged hush money payments during the 2016 election cycle.

The former president is also facing federal charges related to a pair of probes led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, one regarding classified documents, and another stemming from his efforts to overturn the last presidential election. Trump's failed attempt to reverse his 2020 loss is also the subject of the Fulton County, Georgia case, for which he was booked on Thursday.

Wednesday night, all candidates but Christie and Hutchinson signaled they would support Trump if he is selected as the party's 2024 nominee, even if he is convicted of a crime, and some are even willing to consider or issue a pardon. Data for Progress found that 52% of voters—including 83% of Democrats, 53% of Independents, and 17% of Republicans—would oppose such a pardon.

As Common Dreamsreported Thursday, during the debate, several candidates expressed support for various forced-pregnancy policies, including a federal abortion ban. A plurality of all voters surveyed, 48%, told Data for Progress they would not support a 15-week national abortion ban; that included 70% of Democrats, 47% of Independents, and 25% of Republicans.

"The first Republican debate was nothing but a race to the bottom. Major candidates succeeded in turning off Independent voters and failed to offer voters a positive vision for what the future of America could look like," Data for Progress executive director Danielle Deiseroth said in a statement.

"Rather than rolling back the progress made during the Biden administration, voters would rather see our country promote clean energy production, expand Medicare and Medicaid, and increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy," Deiseroth added.

Specifically, 77% of all voters—including 93% of Democrats, 76% of Independents, and 62% of Republicans—support expanding the production of clean energy in the United States, according to the poll. Similarly, 72% support addressing climate change.

Additionally, Data for Progress found, 93% support lowering prescription drug prices, 88% support holding Big Tech accountable to the law, 84% support increasing access to affordable housing, 76% support expanding Medicaid and Medicare to more people, and 75% support tax hikes for corporations and the rich.

Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are seeking reelection and—with only a few longshot presidential challengers—are expected to face the GOP candidates next year.

Harris said that during Wednesday's debate, "one by one, each extremist Republican candidate laid out a vision for an America that is less fair, less free, and less safe. These candidates want to raise costs for working families in order to benefit special interests and the ultrawealthy. To gut Social Security and Medicare. To strip fundamental rights and basic freedoms from millions of people. And to reverse the Bidenomics strategy that has helped create 13 million jobs, the strongest two years of small business creation in history, and record-low unemployment."

"President Biden and I will continue to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out and build a nation in which all people can truly thrive," she pledged. "We are laser-focused on finishing the job we've started: to create good jobs, lower costs, fix America's roads and bridges, create a clean energy economy, protect a woman's right to make decisions about her own body, keep our children safe from gun violence, and make sure all Americans can dream about their future with ambition and aspiration."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.