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NPR election poll shows fundamental divides over concerns for America's future


You've probably heard about polls or even been in conversations that give you an idea that many, many Americans are concerned for the future of their country. This applies to Democrats as well as Republicans, but they have different reasons, according to the latest poll from NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist. NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is here to run us through the findings. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What were you looking for here?

MONTANARO: Well, Marist, which conducted the poll, gave a set of seven options for people to choose from about what concerns them the most about the future of the United States, a rise in fascism and extremism, a lack of values, becoming weak as a nation, people like you having less opportunity and wealth, ignoring the country's flaws, or people like you losing power. Kind of a range of things we hear from people on the campaign trail. You can guess there were very different results by political party.

INSKEEP: OK, what were they?

MONTANARO: Well, Democrats overwhelmingly say that they're most concerned about a rise in extremism and fascism. Nothing else really came close - almost half of Democrats selected that. No surprise given this election. I called up one of the poll's respondents, Jim Dumm (ph). He's 73, a Democrat, lives in South Carolina. He picked a rise in fascism and extremism as his biggest concern and points squarely at Donald Trump.

JIM DUMM: Well, I'm extremely concerned that if Donald Trump is elected president again that we're going down a very dangerous path. And I don't know if our democracy can survive four more years of him.

MONTANARO: So we hear that all the time, you know, not just in polls but on the campaign trail, too, from Democrats when we're talking to voters. It's also not surprising, you know, Biden is making this central to his campaign messaging. That Donald Trump represents a threat to democracy is what Biden's been saying.

INSKEEP: So that's what you hear from Democrats. What about Republicans?

MONTANARO: Well, it's a mix, but more than two-thirds of Republicans point to either a lack of values or becoming weak as a nation as their biggest concerns. I spoke with Amy Moore (ph). She's a Republican from southwest Virginia, which is a pretty conservative part of the country. She chose becoming weak as a nation. And she blames Biden for what she sees as a decline in U.S. standing abroad, specifically when it comes to the war in Gaza and the protests that we're now seeing on college campuses.

AMY MOORE: Specifically with, like, everything that's going on with Israel and Palestine right now, I felt the president should be stepping up and condemning the antisemitism. And he's not really doing that. He's kind of staying quiet on it to probably, in my opinion, get voters in swing states to vote for him or to not do the uncommitted like they did in the primary.

MONTANARO: So you can hear her saying that she feels Biden hasn't condemned antisemitism and is staying quiet to get swing voters in swing states - a political calculation, she's saying. These protests and the war in Gaza specifically have been a pretty tough issue for Biden politically with his base. The White House has been putting out statements condemning antisemitism in the protests, but you haven't seen a big speech like Obama might have done. Biden is facing lagging support from young people in part because of his standing firmly with Israel as a U.S. ally in its war against Hamas. But this idea of becoming weak, it's certainly something we hear from Trump all the time talking about this on the campaign trail.

INSKEEP: It's interesting this survey also asked people, what values do you want to instill in your children? What are the responses?

MONTANARO: Yeah, really big differences. Democrats overwhelmingly said teaching children to treat others as you would want to be treated, aka, the golden rule, is most important. That was followed farther back by education being the key to success and to be happy and follow your dreams. Republicans, on the other hand, said it's most important to instill children with faith in God and teaching them that hard work and discipline will pay off. Very different core values that are instructive to trying to understand the nature of the fissures in this country. And we're divided even down to our fundamental values and what it means to be American.

INSKEEP: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.