Incumbent US President Joe Biden is in quite a lot of trouble—polling shows him further and further behind his presumptive 2024 rival and Former President Donald Trump. In the head-to-head aggregate, the RealClearPolitics average shows him trailing by 2.6 percentage points.
While less than a three-point deficit a year away from election day may not sound irreversibly dire, once we dig deeper, we find even more trouble for President Biden.
First of all, the 2024 presidential election will not be a pure two-way race: more and more people seem to be eager to jump in as so-called ‘third-party candidates,’ even though there are more than three parties involved at this point.
And, what is even worse news for Biden, all of them are coming from the left of the political spectrum.
The first one to declare his run was African American philosopher and political activist Cornel West, who originally threw his hat in the ring as the candidate for the Green Party, a group typically regarded as to the left of the Democrats. Also, the Democratic Party tends to get the vast majority of the black vote in presidential elections, usually around 90 per cent. However, with a major African American figure also on the ballot, some of that support will likely be syphoned away.
It got even worse for Democrats when West decided to leave the Green Party behind and run as an independent. With that, the party recruited their 2016 nominee Jill Stein, who got 1.07 per cent of the popular vote then.
The left side of the aisle was further saturated when Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was also the brother of former US President John F. Kennedy, broke away from the Democratic Party. Known by his initials, RFK Jr. was polling around 15–20 per cent in the Democratic primary polls. In the five-way race, he is currently sitting on a 14.3-per-cent average.
When he announced his independent run, some polls showed him taking more support away from Donald Trump than Joe Biden. During the COVID pandemic, Kennedy publicly shared his scepticism over the newly developed vaccines, something which better aligned him with Republican voters than Democrats. Given that he was able to capture a sizable chunk of the Democratic electorate and he bears the last name of one of the most iconic Democrat Presidents in US history, there was some suspicion of manipulation by the polling firms raised—however, at this point, it is not even worth analysing the sampling and questionnaire of those odd polls. That is because, as it stands now,
Joe Biden is trailing Donald Trump by six percentage points in the RCP aggregate in polls that take all five major candidates into account.
While there have been multiple instances of major surveys overestimating Republican candidates in some races of the 2022 midterm election, the nationwide polling aggregate by RealClearPolitics proved to be remarkably accurate. On election day, it showed the GOP up by 2.5 points in the generic ballot in the House of Representative elections, and they ended up winning by 2.8 points. No Republican ever lost the election if they won the popular vote (that has only happened to Democrats so far, a total of five times in US history), so if the RCP average holds, Republicans are likely to take a major victory in 2024.
On top of all that, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who recently announced his departure from the Democratic Party, also expressed interest in an independent or third-party run.
What’s more, these polls underestimated Donald Trump’s performance in the last two elections he took part in. In 2016, he was behind 3.2 points Hillary Clinton on election day, and lost the popular vote by 2.1 (while winning the electoral college); and in 2020, he was trailing Joe Biden by 7.2 points, and ended up losing by 4.5.
Weeks away from the election, Trump was under-polled by even wider margins. At this point into his first term, Biden had a 10.2-point lead over him—which is a ridiculous result, by the way, and a clear indication of systematic suppression of President Trump’s support by the media at the time. Even Senator McCain lost by ‘only’ 7.2 percentage points in 2008, when he was up against the young, charismatic Barack Obama’s historic campaign to be the first black President, in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis which happened under an incumbent Republican President.
Joe Biden Has a Negative 21-Point Approval Rating on the Economy
Joe Biden’s net approval rating is currently sitting at negative 14.7 points, with only 40.7 per cent of voters approving of his job as President, while 55.4 per cent are disapproving. That is problematic to begin with (at this point into his term, Donald Trump enjoyed the support of 43.5 per cent of the electorate). However, if we break down his performance by key issues, there is even more bad news coming the current administration’s way.
On the economy, perhaps the most important issue of them all, Joe Biden is under water by 21.3 points, with only 38.1 per cent of the voters agreeing with his policies, while nearly 60 per cent (!) of voters disagree.
On immigration, his net approval is negative 29.8 points; on crime, it’s negative 20.8 points, and on foreign policy, it’s negative 21.2 points, all lower than his overall approval rating. The only issue President Biden is scoring better than his overall performance is the Russo-Ukrainian war, where he is down by ‘only’ 12.5 points.
No wonder that some in Biden’s own Democratic Party, such as former Obama advisor David Axelrod or Representative Dean Philips from Minnesota, have expressed doubts about his chances in the next year’s election, or about whether or not he should even run for re-election.
At the time of the 2024 election, Joe Biden will be 81 years old,
and he tends to show his age by his frequent gaffes and public displays of confusion. Donald Trump is also an elderly person—he’ll be 78 when he runs next year—however, voters tend to perceive him to be much younger than Joe Biden, as suggested by additional polling data.