What do voters want in 2024? Democrats want a unifier, Republicans want a fighter

Republicans and Democrats are split on almost everything, but partisans on both sides want a nominee who can win.

  • Most Republican voters think they already have the right candidate for 2024: Donald Trump.
  • Democratic voters are more eager for a change in the party and a new face for the 2024 race.
  • Democrats want a unifier in their 2024 nominee, while Republicans are looking for a fighter.

It's not just that Democratic and Republican voters disagree about who should be the next president. A new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds they also have different visions of the crucial characteristics to do the job.

Democratic voters say they want most of all a unifier who will focus on bringing the country together and finding compromises, while Republican voters value first and foremost a fighter who will battle on behalf of "the freedom and dignity of all Americans."

Partisans on both sides do want this: a nominee who can win.

Chris Hastings, 80, a conservative retiree from Hoover, Alabama, who was among those surveyed, wants a contender who is "strong enough to fight the media," a quality he sees in former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"I can't stand mealy-mouthed Republicans that just let themselves get pushed around," he said.

Talina Tantall, 54, a stay-at-home mom and a Democrat from Buckley, Michigan, has other traits in mind.

"Someone who really cares about other people, isn't out for their own political gains or their own monetary gains," she said. She wants a president who understands "what's happening with everyday people – you know, the struggles, the worries, the conflict."

As jockeying begins for the 2024 election, the survey finds a political landscape shaped by a familiar partisan divide. The contrasting views of how presidents should act and what issues they should focus on complicates efforts to address the nation's most pressing problems, or even to agree on what they are. 

Early 2024 scorecard: Could Biden face a challenger? Could Pence beat Trump? What about Cheney?

More from Ipsos:Republican voters still see Trump as the GOP's leader

Donald Trump and Joe Biden faced off during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020.

Asked to rank nine traits by their importance in the next presidential candidate, Democrats put "bringing the country together" at the top; Republicans rank that characteristic midway down, at fourth. Republicans put a lower premium on having "strong policy knowledge and expertise" than Democrats do.

Both rank as second "fights for the people they represent." 

"Republican voters in this poll tell us they clearly want a fighter in 2024, and they see Trump as their champion,” Ipsos President Cliff Young says. “On the other hand, Democrats want someone who is both a fighter and a unifier. Right now, (President Joe) Biden falls short on meeting these two dueling ideals.”

The online poll of 2,345 adults, taken Aug. 18-22, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. 

Jack McCain:Four years after the death of John McCain, my father's legacy is more important than ever

Time for a younger generation?

Most Republican voters think they already have the right candidate for 2024. Fifty-nine percent say Trump should be the nominee; just 41% say it is time for a change in the GOP.

That said, several Trump supporters in follow-up interviews expressed reservations about the former president's age and persona.

"He did some things that I liked," said Tyler Geyer, 35, a mail carrier from Kenna, West Virginia. For 2024, though, "I would like somebody from a younger generation to run the country and someone who's maybe not so bombastic." He mentioned DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Democratic voters are more eager for a change in the party and a new face for the 2024 race. In the poll, 44% of them say Biden "deserves reelection," while 56% say he shouldn't run again.

"In some ways, I think he's doing the best he can with the mess that Trump left behind," said Aaron Shissler, 36, a left-leaning independent from Pocatello, Idaho. "But in other ways, I just don't think he does enough. I think he takes a lot of half-measures." 

If Biden did run, "it would create a definite risk of a Republican victory," he said.

Biden gets credit from Democratic voters for having significant government experience (92%), for having major policy knowledge and expertise (86%), and for focusing on unifying the country (85%). But one of his lowest ratings was for being an effective communicator and campaigner (65%). Sixty percent predict he could win the 2024 election.

Women are more pessimistic than men about Biden's prospects, and younger voters are more pessimistic than older ones. Among Democratic voters under 35, 53% say he could win re-election.

In contrast, an overwhelming 82% of Republicans predict Trump could win the next election. 

Nine of 10 Republican voters rate Trump as a leader who "is willing to use all the tools at his disposal to get things done"; 87% say he fights for the people he represents; 86% say he fights against "woke corporations and cancel culture." One of his lowest ratings was for being "focused on bringing the country together and finding compromise" (70%).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks before he signs a record $109.9 billion state budget on June, 2, 2022.

A divide over the nation's top issues 

The biggest problem facing the country today?

Republican voters say it's inflation, followed by immigration. Democratic voters say it's gun violence, followed by climate change. Indeed, among the top five issues for voters in each party, the only ones that are cited by both are inflation and political extremism or polarization.

"I would hope in this day and age that (Republicans) would come together as a party with the Democrats," said Tantall, the stay-at-home mom from Michigan. "I keep saying this to all my friends and family: These people, I feel like they forgot who they're working for – 'We the people, by the people, for the people.' And I feel like that's been lost somewhere."