In swing states, Donald Trump's advantage is currently five percentage points: 48% would vote for him, and 43% for Joe Biden.
If the former Democrat, now running as an independent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is also on the ballot, Trump's advantage is even greater, rising to eight points: 42% support Trump, 34% support Biden, and 11% support Kennedy.
However, the day when a decision must be made is still far away.
What do the numbers say?
McLaughlin & Associates conducted a survey among 1,600 likely general election voters in 17 election battleground states between 16-21 January.
We found that a vast majority of American voters, 73%, believe that things are going in the wrong direction in the country, while only 27% believe that things are going well.
This is especially true concerning the economy: half of those living in swing states reported that their lives got worse since Joe Biden became president, 33% said their situation had not changed based on their admission, and only 17% reported that their standard of living had improved.
Currently, 45% of voters feel anger or disappointment when they think about the state of the country, and 41% feel concern or fear. Their share has increased by six percentage points since last year. Only 14% feel pride, and their share has gone down by four points since 2023.
The details of the research also reveal that Donald Trump is the "leader of the angry" today.
Among those who feel anger and disappointment, Trump's advantage over Biden is nearly 30 points (in this round, Trump received 60% of the votes, with Biden scoring only 31%).
However, among those who feel concern and fear, the competition is much closer: Biden leads by six points, 48/42. Yet, the proportion of the latter group among American voters is on the rise.
The situation is understandable in many ways. The explosion of inflation, the subsequent economic uncertainty, uncontrolled illegal immigration, the deterioration of public safety in American cities, or the significant increase in the number and risks of armed conflicts raging around the world all increase the concerns and fears of voters.
The world seems increasingly unpredictable. We live in an anxious, uncertain age.
Winning over moderate voters is the path to victory
As the presidential election approaches, those moderate, middle-of-the-road voters, or voters who identify themselves as independent, who are otherwise not interested in politics, become more and more active in the political sense. But in this case, their opinion can be of decisive importance.
In this segment, fears and worries make up the majority: 45% of "moderate" voters feel worried about the state of the country, 39% feel anger and dissatisfaction, and only 16% feel pride.
By mobilizing those in the middle, the so-called "moderate" voters, the proportion and importance of those who are looking for protection and security in an increasingly uncertain world in economic and political terms can further increase.
Winning over these voters is a political challenge for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, faced similar challenges in 2010, before his re-election.
At that time, Hungary was suffering from the consequences of the great global economic crisis of 2008, and voters were angry and desperate.
Then, Orbán's campaign focused on "hearing, seeing, and feeling the economic fears and concerns of Hungarians", and the way out was through the removal of the ruling left-wing government, to achieve a "strong Hungary".
Orbán won the election because, in addition to the angry right-wing voters, he also paid attention to those moderates who were worried, felt insecure, and feared for the future of their families.
A battle of characters ahead
The American presidential election is always a battle of characters.
Voters in battleground states see Joe Biden as a weak leader. According to 74%, he is a weak leader. He is considered too old and many question his mental health (82% of voters).
However, it is also undeniable that many people see him as a kind of "grandparent, grandfather" figure who has seen, experienced, and understands a lot. He understands those who are afraid, afraid for the future of their family and the country.
As the leader of "angry Americans", Donald Trump is undeniably strong, charismatic, and unafraid to fight. However, it is important to whom you are fighting for and why.
You can fight China, the corrupt bureaucracy in Washington, or even the radical left — all of this is far from the everyday life of many.
We could also say that all this is just "politics about politics". Those who are worried and anxious about the future need a strong leader who uses his power to protect them. American families, early risers, decent workers — the backbone of America.
Right now, however, Trump is an advocate for the angry. It will become clear during the campaign whether he will be able to appeal to those who fear for their own or their family's future.
Even a near-equal result with Biden in this group would tip the November elections in Trump's direction.
A strong leader to arise?
Donald Trump now needs productive fights where he can stand up to protect American families from crime, the risk of terrorism, and drug trafficking flowing in through open borders, while also making sure that those who work hard can also make a living, not only the corrupt elite in Washington.
His fight would also consist of preventing the dollar from losing its purchasing power while making sure homes can run on affordable energy.
These are struggles where moderate voters can feel that the strong leader not only defeats his political opponents, but is also useful to them, because he fights for them, protects them, and can create security.
For Trump, fighting such productive conflicts could lead to another victory by winning over moderate voters.
John McLaughlin is CEO of McLaughlin & Associates.
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