White House says those not ‘in majority’ are ‘extreme’
The White House previewed President Joe Biden’s prime-time address about threats to democracy ahead of the midterm elections with a defense of his definition of extremism.
Biden is expected to argue that the wing of the Republican Party most closely associated with former President Donald Trump constitutes a threat to democracy. But he has faced questions about how he differentiates “ultra-MAGA” Republicans from the rest of the party or basically views them as the same.
“When you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then you know, that is extreme,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at Thursday’s briefing. “That is an extreme way of thinking.”
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Majorities have in the past opposed many positions now widely held by voters in 2022. In 1996, 68% told Gallup they opposed gay marriage to only 27% who supported it.
That year, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act by strong bipartisan majorities. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, voted for this federal gay marriage ban. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed it into law. Biden changed his position on same-sex marriage while vice president in 2012, as public opinion on the issue shifted.
“They want a nationwide ban on abortion,” Jean-Pierre said of the extreme wing of the Republican Party. “They want to give tax cuts to billionaires and corporations while raising taxes on middle-class Americans. They are threatening political violence, and they are attacking our democracy.”
It’s true that some of those positions fail to attract majority support in public polling, including some of the most sweeping anti-abortion legislation now permissible under the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
But Gallup found a majority of people identifying as “pro-life” in 2009, and pluralities last did so in 2019. The “pro-choice” position only enjoyed a 49% to 47% edge in May 2021, though this spiked to 55% to 39% the following year as the draft Dobbs opinion leaked to the press.
Still, 50% polled by Gallup at that time said abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances. Just 35% favored its legality under any circumstances, as would be the case under a federal abortion rights statute endorsed by the White House. Another 13% said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
Abortion only being legal under certain circumstances has been the plurality position in every Gallup poll on the question since 1994 and has been the majority position several times, as recently as 2019 and peaking at 61%.
Plurality support has fluctuated between abortion being legal under any circumstances or legal only in a few circumstances over the years, though the first position has never received more than 35% in Gallup polling dating back to 1994.
A majority of people have disapproved of Biden’s job performance as president for over a year, according to most polls. The latest RealClearPolitics polling average shows 54.8% disapprove of Biden compared to 42% who approve.
The best recent poll for Biden in the average is Rasmussen. It still shows him underwater by 10 points, with 54% disapproving to 44% approving. A Reuters poll around the same time showed Biden with 38% approval to 58% disapproval.
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Biden broke 60% disapproval in multiple polls during June and July. Majorities ranging from 61% to 81% say the country is on the wrong track under Biden, with the current RealClearPolitics average showing 23.2% picking right direction to 69.9% choosing wrong track.
The president has said there are “traditional” conservative Republicans he respects, though the White House has named few besides Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited out of office and ineligible to seek reelection this year.