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Trump pulls even with Biden in Yahoo News/YouGov poll

Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)

In last month’s Yahoo News/YouGov poll, President Biden led former President Donald Trump by a solid margin (47% to 41%) in a hypothetical Election Day matchup between the 2024 Democratic and Republican frontrunners.

Before that, Biden had led Trump in every Yahoo News/YouGov poll since February, and in 10 of the 11 Yahoo News/YouGov polls conducted this year.

But over the last few weeks of summer, Biden’s consistent advantage has evaporated amid growing concerns about his age and fitness for another term — as well as a long-shot impeachment push by House Republicans.

Meanwhile, Trump appears to be gaining momentum despite the 91 criminal charges lodged against him since the start of 2023.

Trump and Biden are suddenly tied

According to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 1,636 U.S. adults, which was in the field from Sept. 14 to 18, Biden and Trump would now tie at 44% apiece among registered voters if the 2024 election were held today. Another 7% remain undecided, while 4% say they would not vote.

A lot can (and will) change between now and November 2024. That said, polls are snapshots of current public opinion, and the fact that the incumbent president has suddenly lost his edge over a rival he defeated by 4.5 percentage points in 2020 — and who now faces four separate criminal trials — is one of several warning signs for Biden in the new Yahoo News/YouGov survey:

  • Approval rating: After more than a year of job approval numbers at or just over 40%, Biden’s rating has slipped to 38% approve, 56% disapprove. That’s a significant decline from percentages that peaked at 43% and 44% in April and May, and the worst result for the president since his previous low of 35% approve, 56% disapprove in August 2022.

  • The economy: Despite improving data — the job market is roaring; GDP is growing; overall inflation trending downward; a much-predicted recession hasn’t materialized — just 34% of Americans approve of how Biden is handling the economy. Less than a quarter (23%) describe the current state of the U.S. economy as excellent or good (down a point from 24% in July), while 75% describe it as fair or poor (up from 71%). And only 16% say the economy is getting better (down from 18%), while 56% say it is getting worse (up from 54%).

  • ‘Fitness’ for the presidency: A larger number of Americans now consider Trump “fit to serve another term as president” (39%) than say the same about Biden (27%). Trump’s fitness number is up 5 points (from 34%) since August.

  • Age: When it comes to fitness for office, more Americans see Biden’s age — he is 80 now and would be 86 at the end of a second term — as a problem (52% say it is a big problem, and 77% a small or big problem) than see Trump’s criminal charges as a problem (47% big problem, 64% small or big problem).

  • ‘Corruption’: Finally, in the wake of the indictment of Biden’s son Hunter on a gun charge — and House Republicans’ decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president — the gap between Trump and Biden on the issue of corruption seems to be shrinking. Nearly half of Americans (47%) now think Biden and his family are corrupt, up from 45% in August and 42% in October 2022. Asked last month which family was “more corrupt,” 46% said the Trumps and 36% said the Bidens. Those numbers are now closer: 41% and 38%, respectively.

Understanding why the numbers changed

To be fair, Biden is still doing well with his own party. His current 79% approval rating among Democrats is on the lower end of a 79% to 81% range registered on recent surveys, though slightly better than his range among Democrats (75% to 79%) during the first quarter of 2023. A full 53% of potential Democratic primary voters — that is, registered voters who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents — prefer the president over “someone else” (35%) as the nominee. (Last month, 50% preferred Biden.) And nearly all Democrats continue to support Biden (90%) over Trump (3%).

Instead, the biggest shifts — for both Biden and Trump — have come among Republicans. Here, Biden’s approval rating has cratered in recent months, falling from 18% in April to 16% in May, 11% in June, 8% in July, 7% in August and just 4% on the current survey. At the same time, Trump’s 2024 general-election support among Republican voters (91%) is higher than ever, up from 84% just last month.

Such numbers suggest that the growing sense of Trump as the GOP’s inevitable 2024 nominee may be causing previously wary Republicans to set aside their concerns and coalesce around him.

Indeed, Trump has never looked stronger among potential GOP primary voters. Better than six in 10 (61%) now prefer Trump over “someone else” (29%) for the nomination, up seven points from August (54%) and 11 points from his previous 2023 average (50%). When pitted against nine other declared Republican candidates, Trump now earns 59% of the primary vote, an increase of 13 points from his 2023 average (46%).

Head-to-head against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (22%), Trump is performing even better, with a full 65% of the vote. Meanwhile, DeSantis earns just 13% against the full GOP primary field — 46 points behind Trump. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley receive a mere 5% each.

One way Trump could still stumble

When it comes to the broader electorate, Trump is hardly out of the woods. Most Americans believe the former president should be found guilty on at least some criminal charges (54%); even more say he should not be allowed to serve another term if convicted of a serious crime (58%).

Yet while independents, who tend to swing elections one way or the other, tend to agree with these views — 49% say the former and 54% say the latter — they also prefer Trump (45%) over Biden (36%) on the hypothetical 2024 ballot.

That’s a 9-point lead for Trump among independents. Last month, Trump led Biden by five (42% to 37%).

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,636 U.S. adults interviewed online from Sept. 14 to 18, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.