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As Democrats coalesce around him as their inevitable nominee, President Biden still narrowly leads former President Donald Trump in a 2024 general-election matchup, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
Yet the results also expose significant vulnerabilities for Biden — including his advanced age and the widespread perception that his running mate, Vice President Kamala Harris, would not be “ready to assume the presidency” if necessary.
The survey of 1,584 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 5 to 8, shortly after Biden announced his reelection bid, comes on the heels of a Washington Post/ABC News poll that showed him trailing Trump by 6 percentage points and suffering the lowest approval rating of his presidency — much to the consternation of Democrats from the White House on down.
But the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll detects no such decline for Biden, suggesting that the Washington Post/ABC News survey may be an outlier.
Biden’s approval rating and 2024 lead hold steady
In contrast to the Washington Post/ABC News poll — which showed Biden’s approval rating underwater by 20 percentage points — Yahoo News and YouGov found that 43% of Americans currently approve of the president’s performance in office while 48% disapprove, a negative margin of just 5 points.
Among registered voters, the gap was even smaller: 47% approve to 50% disapprove. And Biden (45%) continues to cling to a slight edge over both Trump (43%) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (42%) on the question of whom voters would choose if the 2024 election were held today.
Here, each candidate’s numbers are within a single percentage point of the results from the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey, conducted in April, and they nearly match the average across all five Yahoo News/YouGov polls conducted so far this year. They also track with national polling averages showing a statistical stalemate between Biden and Trump and between Biden and DeSantis.
Biden’s approval rating is similar, averaging 42% since the start of 2023 in both Yahoo News/YouGov surveys and the national polling.
Small signs of improvement for the president
Far from collapsing at the official start of his 2024 effort, then, Biden’s job approval and standing against his potential Republican rivals have remained remarkably consistent. If anything, the president has shown some small signs of improvement in recent weeks.
His current disapproval number among all Americans (48%) is his lowest in any Yahoo News/YouGov survey since September 2021, and for the first time a majority (52%) of potential Democratic primary voters — registered voters who identify as Democrats or independents who lean Democratic — say they would rather see Biden as the nominee than “someone else” (34%).
Support for Biden on this measure was mired in the mid-30s or lower for much of 2022, and has ranged in the mid- to upper 40s since December. Now, at 52%, it has never been higher.
Voters worry about Biden’s age — and Harris’s readiness
None of which is to say that Biden is a sure bet for reelection — far from it.
For one thing, anxiety about the president’s age — at 80, he is the oldest person ever to occupy the office — may be growing. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) now say they are at least somewhat concerned about his “health and mental acuity,” up 5 points since February (from 60%). Nearly half (44%) describe themselves as “very” concerned, up from 39% over the same period.
And after hearing that Biden would be “82 at the start of his second term and 86 at the end of it,” a full 64% of Americans flatly say he is “too old for another term as president.”
At 76, Trump isn’t much younger than his successor. Yet just 48% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about Trump’s health and mental acuity, and just 41% think he is too old for a second term (down from 45% in February). The difference here is largely attributable to partisan attitudes. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) are willing to say Biden is too old for another stint in the Oval Office, while just a quarter of Republicans (26%) are willing to say the same about Trump.
As a result, perceptions of Harris — the person who would replace Biden if he were to die or otherwise leave office — will likely carry added weight next fall. The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that so far, Harris’s presence on the ticket isn’t helping to ease worries about Biden’s age. In fact, less than a third of Americans (32%) think she is “ready to assume the presidency,” while nearly half (48%) say she is not, and 20% are unsure. A full 57% of independents, meanwhile, say Harris is not ready (compared with just 22% who say she is ready).
It’s not unusual for vice presidents to have mediocre job numbers; at 40% approve to 46% disapprove, Harris’s mirror Biden’s. But it is striking how unfavorably Harris’s readiness rating compares with her predecessor's. Prior to the 2020 election, 54% of Americans considered Vice President Mike Pence qualified to take over as president, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from August of that year; just 39% did not.
But Democrats prefer Harris to any alternatives
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll did not try to test whether Harris, as the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president, is facing more scrutiny because of her gender and race. But despite numerous recent columns advocating her removal from the ticket, there is little reason to think that actual rank-and-file Democrats are clamoring for such a dramatic move — or that they would prefer any alternative.
Among Democrats, a full 75% approve of the job Harris is doing as VP, and nearly 6 in 10 (59%) say she is ready to assume the presidency; among potential Democratic primary voters, these numbers are even higher (77% and 62%, respectively).
Likewise, a majority of Democrats (57%) think Biden should choose Harris as his 2024 running mate rather than “someone else” (23%). And a plurality of Democratic primary voters would prefer Harris to all nine potential Democratic replacements tested by Yahoo News and YouGov, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (32% vs. 39% for Harris), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (31% vs. 43% for Harris) and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (27% vs. 42% for Harris). The closest “contest” is between Harris (43%) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (40%).
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,584 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 5 to 8, 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%.