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The answers to a recent Rasmussen Poll question are bad news for American democracy

Rasmussen asked, “Who is America’s biggest enemy as 2020 draws to a close — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Trump voters or Biden voters?”

Biden supporters
Biden supporters shown at a Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles, California.
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

I’m leery of the Rasmussen Poll in some ways. In horserace polling they seem to produce results that favor Republican candidates compared to other polls with more solid reputation. But I can’t help passing along a poll they released recently that underscores the degree to which powerful biases, on both sides of the partisan divide, threaten the American experiment in democratic-republican self-government.

To cut to the chase, when Rasmussen asked last weekend:

Who is America’s biggest enemy as 2020 draws to a close — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Trump voters or Biden voters?

The most common answers were:

  • Biden voters: 24 percent.
  • China: also 24 percent.
  • Trump voters: 22 percent.

It’s a dumb question. But the answers are alarming. China, you could say, makes at least some non-partisan sense as the current candidate for America’s biggest enemy.

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But the idea that Biden voters and Trump voters make up two of the top three bodes ill. And it’s actually much worse. As you can imagine, almost everyone who answered “Biden voters” was a Trump supporter, and vice versa for those who felt “America’s biggest enemy” were, collectively “Trump voters” were Democrats.

(If you’re wondering, Russia came in fourth, identified by 10 percent as “America’s biggest enemy,” followed by North Korea at seven percent.)

But the main point is that the collective category that could be called “those who voted differently than I did in the presidential election” is viewed as the “biggest enemy” by a combined 46 percent of respondents.

I won’t belabor it. The reasons why this is not only sad but alarming are obvious. I don’t take a backseat on the depth of my belief that Donald Trump has been a bad and dangerous president. I’m very relieved that his presidency appears to be entering its final 50 days (although, as regular readers of my stuff know, I won’t completely relax until the Electoral College has voted and Congress has accepted the result and Trump has said without wiggle room that he plans to vacate the Oval Office on January 20). But for all that, I swear I never have and never would embrace the word “enemy” to describe those who exercised their right to vote for him.

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So far as I know, this is a novel poll question. But I’d be willing to bet that, in my childhood decade of the 1950s, when Dwight D. (“I like Ike”) Eisenhower beat liberal Democrat Adlai Stevenson twice in a row, very, very few Americans would have given the comparable answer about those who voted the other way. I hope, but without much confidence, that we will soon return to a day when those who vote differently from ourselves are viewed merely as those with whom we have a political disagreement but not our “enemy.”

Rasmussen’s full write-up of that poll question and its answers is viewable here.