In the landscape of potential 2024 presidential matchups, analysts cautiously navigate predictions, especially regarding a contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
However, current data indicates a slight but distinct advantage for Trump over Biden, an unusual scenario in a historical context.
Polls show Trump’s narrow lead among registered voters
This trend is evident in five high-quality national polls (CBS News/YouGov, CNN/SSRS, Fox News, Marquette University Law School, and Quinnipiac University), indicating a 2 to 4-point lead for Trump among registered or likely voters.
While these leads fall within the margin of error, collectively, they suggest an incumbent president facing significant challenges.
Historical trends: Incumbent leads and Trump’s 2019 exception
Historically, incumbents usually hold a lead of over 10 points around a year before elections. This was true for nearly all incumbents since Franklin Roosevelt in 1943, including Barack Obama against Mitt Romney in 2011.
Contrary to some claims, Obama was not trailing at this point in his reelection campaign. The exception to this pattern was Trump, who in November 2019 lagged about 10 points behind Biden.
Trump’s notable lead in 2023 polls, a shift from past election dynamics
Trump’s current edge is noteworthy as he never held such a lead in any national poll adhering to CNN’s standards throughout the 2020 cycle.
This year has seen 17 surveys where Trump outperforms Biden, a shift from the previous election dynamics. Swing states like Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, crucial in determining the presidency, also show Trump leading in polls, unlike in 2020.
Biden’s struggle against Trump, possible sign of internal division
Biden’s current struggle against Trump, whom he defeated in the last election, raises questions.
While some might attribute this to internal Democratic divisions, particularly Biden’s challenges with the party’s left wing, poll numbers don’t entirely support this.
For instance, Biden holds overwhelming leads among very liberal voters in recent polls, even outperforming his 2020 numbers.
Biden’s support among moderates declines significantly
However, Biden’s support among moderates has significantly diminished. The decline, roughly a 15-point swing from 2020, is evident across multiple polls.
This trend suggests that ideological shifts might not fully explain the movement away from Biden.
Economic issues, where Biden trails Trump, could be a factor, though Trump also held an advantage in this area by the end of the 2020 campaign.
Concerns about Biden’s age impacts voter perceptions in crucial states
A possibly more significant aspect is concerns about Biden’s age. Recent polls show a substantial majority in important states believe Biden is too old for an effective presidency, a perception that has doubled since 2020.
Biden is currently the oldest serving president, which contributes to these views.
While Trump is also of advanced age, fewer voters express concerns about his age. Biden’s challenge is to shift this perception towards Trump.
Unpredictable presidential election landscape
If successful, it could alter the polling landscape, potentially leading to Trump becoming the first president since Grover Cleveland to win non-consecutive terms.
This scenario underscores the dynamic and unpredictable nature of presidential elections, especially with unique factors like age playing a significant role.