Is Joe Biden right that MAGA Republicans are in the minority in the party?

With less than a week to go until the midterm elections, President Joe Biden has delivered a major speech on what he sees as a threat to American democracy, criticizing Holocaust deniers for their “corrosive” and “destructive” views.

In a televised address from Washington’s Union Station, he took aim at former President Donald Trump and the “big lie, that the 2020 election was stolen”.

Trying to find a message of unity, the incumbent Democratic president downplayed the extent of what he called “MAGA Republicans” – in reference to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” – within the GOP. But is the faction as small as he suggests?

US President Joe Biden has claimed that MAGA Republicans are only a minority of the GOP, despite polls and other numbers that seem to show otherwise. Pictured, Biden speaks during a Democratic National Committee event at the Columbus Club in Union Station, Washington, DC on November 2, 2022.
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Requirement

In a speech on Nov. 2, 2022, Biden said, “[Trump] abused his power and put loyalty to himself before loyalty to the Constitution. And he made a big lie an article of faith in the MAGA Republican Party, the minority of this party.”

Facts

Biden has been making this claim about the makeup of the Republican Party for some time now.

In a notable speech before Pennsylvania Independence Hall in September 2022, the president said, “Not all Republicans, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not all Republicans embrace their extreme ideology.”

Whether this still rings true today is up for debate. Many polls have attempted to calculate the size of the Republican Party’s MAGA wing based on support for former President Trump.

After Biden’s speech in Philadelphia in September, CNN highlighted numerous polls that showed Trump was still popular among party members and the dominant force in the GOP.

It is nevertheless difficult to define MAGA from a political point of view. There are a range of ideas about immigration, manufacturing, taxation, border control, and LGBTQIA+ rights that can characterize a MAGA Republican.

However, denial or doubt about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results seems to be the most consistent belief uniting pro-Trump Republicans who could reasonably be called MAGA.

Judging by the president’s speech, both in tone and content, it was the Republicans he ranked as MAGA. Although he mentioned concerns about future voting rights, denying elections seemed to be the principle by which Biden made this judgment.

“You know, American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refused to accept the results of the 2020 election,” he said.

“If he refuses to accept the will of the people, if he refuses to accept the fact that he has lost, he has abused his power and is putting loyalty to himself before loyalty to the Constitution.

“And he turned a big lie into an article of faith in the MAGA Republican Party, the minority in that party.”

Moreover, election denial is tacitly tied to support for Trump and the MAGA agenda, given that Trump is the main promoter of the denial conspiracy.

Therefore, while not a perfect categorization, the belief that the 2020 election was stolen (despite clear evidence to the contrary) would seem to capture the majority of MAGA Republicans.

With that as our common thread, it certainly makes Biden’s assertion that these Republicans constitute a GOP minority at the very least questionable.

Polls have consistently shown that around 70% of Republicans say they don’t believe Biden was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, according to a review of the data by Poynter; according to some surveys, the proportion is closer to 80%.

A YouGov poll for The Economist conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 1 found that 55% of Republicans believe the election was “stolen” from Trump. Only a quarter disagreed with the statement, with the remaining respondents undecided.

Of course, political polls are vulnerable to selection and representation bias and do not necessarily translate into action at the ballot box. However, contemporary data showing that randomly sampled Republican voters believe the 2020 results were fraudulent argues convincingly against Biden’s “minority” claim.

For further proof, we can look to Congress and the midterm elections to see how many “MAGA Republicans” seem to make up the GOP.

As has been well reported in recent days (and as Biden quoted), there could be as many as 300 “deniers” on the ballot this year. This includes those who completely reject the result to those who question the outcome of the election.

Although this number appears to have been revised to 291, according to a Washington Post tracker, he still accounts for more than half of the total 552 Republican candidates running.

An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that of those 552 Republican candidates, 199 completely denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election while another 61 raised questions without outright saying the election was stolen.

Thus, 260 (still more than half of the total candidates) more or less questioned the validity of the results, despite clear evidence that the election results were legitimate.

Another 122 either didn’t comment or avoided answering the question, according to FiveThirtyEight. One might reasonably assume that at least some of these candidates could move into a no-election stance if pushed.

While the majority of Republican senators have certified the 2020 election results (which might be who Biden is referring to here), many of them are defending the midterm seats.

There are also three Republican senators – Ted Cruz, Joshua Hawley and Cynthia Lummis – who opposed certification of the results and are not on the ballot this year.

To what extent one could characterize these three senators as MAGA is debatable, but it is certainly more consistent with this view than less.

As explained earlier, this is an imprecise definition based on statements made by politicians, who could just as easily backtrack or revise their views in the future. Nor is it the only parameter by which one could categorize a “MAGA Republican”.

Another way to quantify MAGA is support for Trump in the 2024 Republican primary. He has yet to declare his candidacy, although he is strongly tipped to run.

A national average from Race to the WH polls places Trump as the undisputed leader, at 50.3%. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who supports Trump but cannot be clearly classified in the MAGA category, is second at 27.2%. Pence, Trump’s former vice president, is third with 8.2%. And the fourth is Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former president, at 5%.

Trump alone has majority support. His son Trump Jr., who can be confidently classified as MAGA, adds another 5% on average, according to the tracker. So among likely Republican primary voters, polls suggest MAGA is in the majority.

The 45th president also has majority support for 2024 in the Republican primary elections according to the RealClearPolitics average.

Overall, then, Biden’s assertion that MAGA Republicans are the minority is flawed.

Not only do a sizable number of GOP members polled position themselves both with Trump and the belief that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate, but a majority of GOP midterm candidates also question the outcome.

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment.

decision

Fake

Fake.

Biden’s use of MAGA is ill-defined and has no standardized definition.

However, using the denial of the 2020 presidential election result as a measure that unites MAGA supporters within the Republican Party, there is a clear majority.

Additionally, taking Trump’s backing in the 2024 primary as another proxy for MAGA, the former president has majority support, according to poll trackers. It further shows that MAGA Republicans are not a minority.

We therefore qualify Biden’s assertion as false.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Checking Team

About Therese Williams

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