Meet the ‘double haters’ who could decide the election

Many voters express resignation, dismay and anger over being asked to choose between President Biden and Donald Trump again in November.

HUDSON, Wis. - Ask voters here in far western Wisconsin what they think of their two main presidential choices in November - the same two choices they had four years ago - and the answers, even tinged with Midwest nice, come out hard and blunt.

“Absolute trash.”

“Three hundred-and-some-odd-million people and that’s all we can get?”


“Both options suck. And it’s going to, I think, boil down to what sucks less.”

With Election Day less than five months away, voters here in Hudson are increasingly preoccupied with just which option - President Biden, 81, or former president Donald Trump, 78 - is “the evil we’ve got to vote for,” in the words of Gregory Wold, 57, a retired corrections department employee from North Hudson, Wis.

During the 2020 election, Hudson - a city nestled on the banks of the St. Croix River that separates Wisconsin from Minnesota - favored Trump over Biden by a slim 155 votes. Almost twice as many Hudson voters, 308, voted for someone else - a rare move in a closely contested race.

Now, these and other “double haters” - voters who are dissatisfied with both major party choices - are again pondering the same two options, and again are coming up largely disappointed.


“I am praying nightly that there comes somebody else and I think we have a lot of time for that youngster to step up, but I am hoping to God that those aren’t the only two choices come Election Day,” said Sue Daniels, 64, a homemaker in Hudson who said she begrudgingly voted for Trump in 2020 and is now truly undecided.

Both men are too old, Daniels said - she doesn’t think Biden, in particular, “is making any decisions on his own” - and she believes former first lady Michelle Obama “would be a better idea than Biden any day of the week.”

“I really am so sick of the two of them,” she said. “And I really wish there was some more - different blood, younger blood. If it comes down to the two of them only to vote for, it would be Trump, but honest to God, we just need better people.”

In more than 60 interviews here over several days last month, people expressed sentiments ranging from resignation and dismay to disbelief and anger over an election in which both the Democratic and Republican parties have served up the same two deeply unpopular candidates.

These double haters are likely to prove a critical voting bloc in November. They are a group that could help determine the outcome in a close election, especially in critical swing states like Wisconsin, and one that has become the focus of considerable attention and outreach from both campaigns.

They are more likely to be younger, Hispanic or Black, and women living in larger cities or with no religious affiliation, according to a Washington Post-Schar School Deciders poll in six key states focused on the voters who will probably decide the 2024 presidential election.

But voters opposed to both candidates are not monolithic. Some mildly dislike both candidates, but have made peace with voting for the one they prefer. Others deeply disdain Biden and Trump, and seem incredulous that they find themselves choosing between “the lesser of two evils” - a phrase more than a half-dozen voters used in describing their Election Day calculus. And others plan to not vote or to opt for a third-party candidate, be it independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or someone else.

There is also the matter of the potential impact of Trump’s New York conviction on 34 counts of felony business fraud in connection with paying hush-money to an adult film actress ahead of the 2016 election. A New York Times-Siena College poll following Trump’s conviction found a slight decline in Trump’s advantage over Biden, though a national poll by Monmouth University showed no clear shift.

But the Times-Siena poll found that double haters were especially likely to abandon Trump, who lost more than one-fifth of those who previously supported him. Roughly half of this group said they now preferred Biden, while the other half said they remain undecided.

Here in Hudson, voters repeatedly mentioned both Biden’s and Trump’s ages as a concern, though many described the issue as more acute for Biden than for Trump. Otherwise, many voters cited either Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war or the economy as reasons they were loath to support him, while they said their reluctance toward Trump largely stems from issues of character and behavior.

‘Do you want Stalin or Hitler?’

Standing behind the counter at an antiques shop in downtown Hudson, Kimberly Nelson, 55, of River Falls, Wis., described herself as a Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020 but now feels “very sad - angry - that our two choices are like, ‘Do you want Stalin or Hitler? Which one? Which one?’”

She said she views both Biden and Trump as “very narcissistic, very God particle,” and that she blames Biden for “the genocide” in Gaza, while she views Trump as an “embarrassing” leader who is “not really aware of anyone other than himself.”


“Either one of those guys are horrible - I don’t know what to do,” Nelson said. “I guess I have to vote for Biden, but I don’t like him either. But I’m terrified of Trump even more.”

Her daughter, Lily Nelson, 30, a fellow antiques dealer and Democrat from River Falls, said she wished “there was a more liberal option” - someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) - and despite similar misgivings as her mom on Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza War, she nonetheless plans to vote for him in November.

“We don’t really have many options,” she said. “All we can do is vote.”

Lily’s fiancé, Steven Slama, 32, a musician who owns a landscaping business in River Falls, said he made the mistake of not voting in 2016. Now Slama, a Democrat, said the choice in November “is terrible - it’s like the worst choice ever” - but he, too, plans to vote for Biden.

Slama said he actually likes a lot about Biden’s presidency - his push for student debt relief, his ending of the Afghanistan war, his support for the National Labor Relations Board and workers’ rights. But he compared Biden to former president Lyndon B. Johnson, a “very good” leader until the Vietnam War - or, in Biden’s case, the Israel-Gaza War.

Still, Slama said he dislikes Trump more - from the Supreme Court justices Trump appointed who helped overturn Roe v. Wade to “the fact that he basically tried to overthrow democracy by having a whole false-elector scheme, and January 6 and all.”


Kate Bee, 41, a small-business owner from Stillwater, Minn., who was shopping at a hardware store in Hudson, said her political affiliation “depends on the day” but she’s “mostly Democrat” who voted for Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“But I didn’t like it,” she added, saying she thought Sanders was “robbed of the candidacy.”

She likened the upcoming election to the 2004 “South Park” episode that satirized the presidential race between Democrat John F. Kerry and Republican George W. Bush by portraying an election at South Park Elementary between a “giant douche” and a “turd sandwich.”

“The douche and the turd sandwich - that’s what I feel like it is,” Bee said. “Which is less bad? Trump is worse, because he is seemingly on a rampage to divide the country, whereas Biden just has no voice. I would actually love a candidate that truly seems to care about the people and the country and not corporations. Neither of the two really do that.”

Bee said she is open to “any strong independent candidates” but suspects she’ll “probably wind up voting for Biden.”

Hudson’s status as a ground zero of sorts for double haters was mirrored in the state as a whole: Biden beat Trump by less than 21,000 votes in Wisconsin, while nearly 57,000 voters cast ballots for someone else.


Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia also had winning margins far smaller than the vote for alternate candidates. All of those states could have swung the other way if more voters who went to the trouble of casting ballots for other candidates had been drawn to either Trump or Biden.

The Post-Schar School poll surveyed 3,513 registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These six states narrowly voted for Biden in 2020, but five of them backed Trump in 2016. The poll also focused on a group characterized as “Deciders” - voters with sporadic turnout or who are uncommitted to Trump or Biden.

Nearly 1 in 5 voters in these states are double haters (18 percent), saying they would be unhappy if either Trump or Biden wins the presidency in November. That rises to nearly 3 in 10 among the Deciders group (28 percent). Just 5 percent of Deciders would be at least satisfied with both, while 36 percent would feel positive only with Trump and 30 percent only with Biden.

According the Post-Schar School poll, most double haters in key states - both Deciders and non-Deciders - say they’re unlikely to vote for Trump or Biden in November; 53 percent say they will probably or definitely vote for Kennedy, while 25 percent say the same for Biden and 18 percent for Trump. That pattern could hurt Biden more than Trump - when asked which major party they lean toward, 55 percent of double haters lean Democratic while 45 percent lean Republican.

“When you look at double haters, at least in our target states, they are predominantly Democrat by party affiliation and predominantly Democrat by partisan behavior,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Trump campaign pollster. To say that Biden is winning double haters is kind of a misnomer, because the fact of the matter is that half or more of these voters are Democrats to begin with.”

‘They have both disappointed me’

In Hudson, roughly an equal number of those interviewed leaned toward Trump or Biden in the end. Jim Seifert, 63, an independent from Hudson who voted for Trump in 2020, said he thinks “not very much” of either major-party candidate, and would “rather not” vote for Trump again.

“He’s just caustic,” said Seifert, as he pushed his shopping cart in County Market, looking for spices to pickle northern trout. “He’s just - everything that comes out of his mouth, even though it’s a lot of things that are well intended. He’s just a rough leader.”

But gesturing at the groceries in his cart, he explained why he doesn’t want to vote for Biden: “As soon as I pay this, I’ll get pissed off again - with inflation,” said Seifert, who is about to retire.


So, Seifert concluded, “I’m gonna hold my nose and vote for Trump.”

Donna Bonneprise, 57, a Republican from North Hudson, similarly said she is unhappy with both choices.

“I wish I had another selection,” Bonneprise said. “They have both disappointed me and now I have no choice other than one that’s disappointed me in the past.”

She blames Biden for the “bad” economy, but said there is plenty she dislikes about Trump, as well: “His personality,” she explained. “I don’t like the way he handled himself. I like the way he handled the economy. I mean, I think he was good for America. But don’t like him as a person.”

Still, Bonneprise said she plans to vote for Trump. “Unfortunately,” she added. “It’s sad. I mean, they don’t give us much of a choice.”

And double haters of all political persuasions routinely mention both men’s’ age when explaining their reticence in choosing Biden or Trump in November.

Tim Miller, 39, of Glenwood City, Wis., is an independent and self-employed contractor who spoke while loading a work supplies into the back of his truck.

“Looking at it from a boss’s viewpoint: Would I hire them to come work for me? Honestly, at a certain age you retire, and I get that this is a little bit different circumstance, but I feel like they should,” said Miller, who added that he is “leaning Trump.”

“There’s got to be better options than these two guys,” he said. “They could be in the nursing home tomorrow.”

Randy Devendorf, 75, of Hudson, is a retired biologist and Democrat who said he is “enthusiastic” to vote for Biden “in a sense that I don’t want to see Trump win.”

“It’s just two old guys,” Devendorf said. “I’m sorry my generation is not willing to pass on the torch, if you want to know the truth. I wish there was a more inspiring option.”

Skepticism toward their candidates, however, has not stopped the Biden or Trump campaigns from targeting double hater voters, and both operations say they have reason for optimism.

Molly Murphy, president of Impact Research and a pollster for the Biden campaign, said double haters “hate Trump and they dislike Biden, which are very different things … They have much stronger feelings about Donald Trump and they more than anything do not want Donald Trump to be president.”

The challenge for the Biden campaign is to persuade voters who are generally not paying much attention to the 2024 race.

“You don’t necessarily have to agree with Joe Biden on much of anything, but if you care about the stakes of our democracy, if you care about rule of law, if you care about America’s place in the world, then you are going to side with Joe Biden,” said Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden campaign, explaining a message he thinks is effective with these voters.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, said when these voters dislike Biden - after age concerns - it’s almost always for policy reasons, whereas they dislike Trump for his tweets and other personality-based concerns. Their challenge is to close the gap between concerns about Trump’s personality and his job approval, which is often much higher.

“We approach messaging by focusing on the comparison of job approval and the difference in performance,” Fabrizio said. “When you look at these voters, they are likely to say that they think Donald Trump is better able to handle the economy or inflation or immigration or crime.”

Double haters are, by their very nature, late deciders - they dislike their choices, dislike the political process and only tune in at the last minute. Outreach through paid targeting and a robust presence in communities is critical, both campaigns say.

The Biden campaign has 48 offices in Wisconsin - including in more than 30 counties that Trump won four years ago - and more than 110 staff on the ground in the state, a campaign staffer said. A Trump campaign staffer, meanwhile, said their operation has “dozens of offices” in the state. The Biden campaign also has an office in Hudson - and while the Trump campaign claimed it had one, too, it repeatedly declined to provide a physical address.

But some voters may nonetheless prove beyond their grasp. Mathilda Leeson, 22, works at a bookstore in downtown Hudson and voted for Biden in 2020. But Leeson, who says she is an independent, said this cycle she is likely voting for a third-party candidate - probably a socialist.

For Leeson, who said she has never “had faith in the two-party system,” the Israel-Gaza war soured her on Biden.

“I feel like morally I cannot support anyone who supports genocide,” she said. “I know that with the other option, Donald Trump, he probably doesn’t have policies that are much better. But with the current state of things, like I just - I just can’t support it in any way.”

Still, Leeson added, while she feels despair in the two-party system, she remains hopeful. “But despair overall or discouragement overall? Absolutely not, no.”

Scott Clement, Emily Guskin and Dan Keating contributed to this report.