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NPR poll: Democrats fear fascism, and Republicans worry about a lack of values

The fear factor is real in America, but Democrats and Republicans are scared for the country's future for different reasons, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

They also believe very differently about what children who will inherit that future should be taught.

Looking at this year's presidential election, the survey also found big shifts with key voter groups, along generational, racial and educational lines.

It also explored how third-party candidates and so-called "double haters" — who have unfavorable ratings of both President Biden and former President Donald Trump — could affect the race.

Finally, it finds a jump in Republicans now believing Trump has done something unethical, as he continues to contend with dozens of criminal charges and legal troubles.

Fascism and extremism vs. a lack of values and becoming weak

Democrats overwhelmingly said teaching children to treat others as you would want to be treated, the "Golden Rule," is the most important value to teach children. That was followed farther back by "education being the key to success" and "be happy and follow your dreams."

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Democrats are most concerned about a rise in extremism and fascism, topping everything else by a wide margin.

Republicans, on the other hand, said instilling children with faith in God, teaching them that hard work and discipline pay off, and to abide by the "Golden Rule" were most important.

Their biggest concerns for the country were a lack of values and becoming weak as a nation.

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Trump's trials have worn down Republicans, as more of them are viewing the former president as having done something wrong

Fewer than half of respondents said they're following Trump's New York hush money trial closely, but with the Republican primary over and Trump's continued legal troubles, a majority of Republicans now say they believe Trump has done something wrong, whether that's something unethical or illegal.

The number of Republicans saying Trump has done something unethical has jumped 12 points since February, from 34% to 46%. Still, only 8% of Republicans think he's done something illegal, compared to almost half of respondents overall (47%).

A whopping 77% overall think Trump has done something illegal or at least unethical, and a majority believes the investigations into his conduct are fair.

There are big shifts since 2020 along age, race and educational lines

When looking at the presidential election, Biden and Trump remain in a virtual tie among registered voters, with 50% for Biden and 48% for Trump. Among people who say they are "definitely voting" in November, Biden's lead expands out to 5 points, 52%-47%. The survey shows Biden is doing better with groups that say they're likely or definitely voting — older voters and college-educated whites, in particular.

That may seem like the same old story — two well-known candidates who were expected to be in a close race are now in a close race. But the top line numbers mask important shifts taking place by age, race and education.

Here are some key findings:

Age

  • Trump won voters older than 45 in 2020, according to exit polls, but Biden is winning them now, including having a 12-point lead with the oldest voters. That's unusual because older voters have traditionally leaned Republican.

  • Biden won voters under 45 by double-digits in 2020, but Trump and Biden are now tied with the group. Biden is particularly struggling with the youngest voters — he's up just 2 points with Gen Z/Millennials, who are 18 to 43 years old. In 2020, though, he won 18- to 29-year-olds by 24 points, and those 30 to 44 by 6 points. 

  • Respondents aged 18 to 29 give Biden just a 31% approval rating, 10 points lower than his overall rating of 41%.


Race and education

  • Biden won nonwhite voters by 45 points in 2020, but his lead with them now is half that.

  • He is doing better with white voters than he did in 2020 by a few points, and that's mostly attributed to college-educated whites.

  • Biden won college-educated white women by 9 points in 2020. This survey has him ahead by 17 with them.

  • Trump won college-educated white men by 3 points in 2020, but now Biden is ahead by 10 points with them.

"Double haters" are core to RFK Jr.'s support

Polls have been unclear about which candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has the potential to pull support from more. This survey shows him taking a bit more from Biden than from Trump.

Biden's 2-point lead with all adults and 5-point lead with registered voters evaporates when RFK Jr. and others are considered. RFK Jr. takes in 11% of the vote, which is about how much he's been registering on average in previous Marist polls and other surveys.

It's no secret that there's a lot of cynicism and disaffection among many voters. Highlighting the country's partisanship, respondents said both men essentially represent equal threats to democracy, and majorities say they dislike both.

In this survey, 56% have an unfavorable view of Trump, and 54% have an unfavorable opinion of Biden. That's the well from which RFK Jr. is drawing.

In a matchup between Biden, Trump and RFK Jr., RFK Jr. gets 31% with those who have an unfavorable rating of both Trump and Biden, the "double haters." Another 31% of the "double haters," when faced with this choice, chose Trump and only 20% side with Biden.

That's a major warning sign for Biden because in 2020, Biden did well with "double haters," according to Democratic pollsters. When it's just Biden against Trump, the two men are statistically tied with the group, 46% for Trump, 45% for Biden.

Among the other groups RFK Jr. gets his most support: independent women (22%), independents overall (17%), those in the West (15%), parents with children under 18 (14%), white women with college degrees (14%), those under 45 (13%) and Gen Z/Millennials.


The survey of 1,199 adults was conducted April 22-25 by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 3.6 percentage points.

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