The upcoming 2024 presidential race in the United States is set to make history in various ways. Notably, it could mark the fifth instance of a former president seeking re-election, as well as only the seventh presidential rematch in the nation’s history.
The most striking aspects of this race are the legal and ethical controversies surrounding the candidates, with former President Donald Trump facing multiple indictments and impeachments and President Joe Biden scrutinized for his son’s business dealings.
Public Perception: Trump vs Biden
According to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, a substantial majority of Americans believe that former President Trump has done something wrong.
In fact, three-quarters of Americans perceive wrongdoing on Trump’s part, with 49% believing he has committed something illegal and 26% considering his actions unethical but not illegal.
In contrast, President Biden faces a smaller but significant portion of the population’s skepticism regarding his involvement in his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
Approximately 38% of respondents believe that the president has engaged in illegal activities, while 25% perceive his actions as unethical but not necessarily illegal.
Republicans on Biden
As expected, these opinions are divided along party lines. A striking nine in ten Republicans believe that President Biden has engaged in wrongdoing related to his son’s business dealings, as do seven in ten independents.
In contrast, only one in three Democrats share this belief. Conversely, almost all Democrats (97%) perceive wrongdoing regarding Trump’s actions, alongside three-quarters of independents. Roughly half of Republicans share this belief, showing a clear partisan divide.
Interestingly, two-thirds of Republicans who prefer Trump as their candidate would still want him to be president even if he is convicted of a crime. This demonstrates a substantial base of support, but it could potentially impact his chances of re-election.
Independents play a pivotal role in elections, and their response to a potential conviction could significantly influence Trump’s re-election prospects. While half of all adults in this group prefer Trump, and only one-third of those who favor him would still want him as president if he were convicted of a crime.
In a hypothetical 2024 matchup, Biden and Trump are in a dead heat, with 49% of registered voters supporting Biden and 47% for Trump. These numbers have remained relatively stable since August.
Such early polling matchups are typically not definitive, as voters have yet to become familiar with primary candidates. However, the outcome remains hypothetical until the GOP officially nominates a candidate.
Despite his legal troubles, Donald Trump remains the most popular GOP primary candidate, with a favorable rating of 74% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the only other candidate with a majority favorability rating, but he lags behind Trump at 58%.
Enthusiasm among supporters is a key factor. The poll shows that 43% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would be “very satisfied” with Trump as their nominee, compared to 30% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who would feel the same about Biden.
However, a significant portion of both candidates’ voters are unsatisfied with their candidacy.
Both Trump and Biden have net-negative favorability ratings, with Trump’s being worse at negative 19 percentage points. Biden’s rating stands at negative 7 percentage points. A significant portion of registered voters (26%) would prefer to see neither candidate elected in 2024.
Given the number of voters who have reservations about both Biden and Trump, there has been interest in the potential for a third-party candidate. However, the poll suggests that even with third-party candidates in the mix, a Biden-Trump race would remain competitive, with Biden holding 40% support and Trump at 39%.
Personality Issues and Age
Some voters, like Art Frasca, a Republican from Michigan, have reservations about Trump’s personality, even though they voted for him in the past. Frasca said, “I think Trump, if he had a Congress that would work with him, things might get done,” and “I think people will hinder him just because of his personality. And I don’t think we can afford that.”
Julie Tyndall from North Carolina, who identifies as “left-leaning,” voted for Biden in 2020 but has reservations about him running again. She feels, “Biden is just too old to be running again,” and “I wouldn’t have expected my great-grandfather to be President, because he started slipping, and it seems like Biden’s slipping too.”
Tyndall also expresses frustration with both political parties for their perceived inability to work together for the benefit of the country. She said both political parties “never tend to do anything that’s actually beneficial to the country,” and “They just keep fighting each other, and that’s all they care about.”
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