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In a sign of growing concern about President Biden’s chances of winning reelection, a majority of potential Democratic primary voters (54%) now say they would like to see “another Democrat” enter the race to challenge him for their party’s 2024 nomination, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
Only 28% say they would not like a new Democratic candidate to primary the president.
The survey of 1,584 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13, found that former President Donald Trump (44%) leads Biden (42%) among registered voters for the first time in months. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) — including 4 in 10 Democrats (39%) — now say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the president’s “health and mental acuity,” up from 48% in June 2020.
Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history, will turn 81 next week.
Perhaps reflecting anxieties around Biden’s age, the desire for a new Democratic challenger is much greater among potential Democratic primary voters ages 18 to 44 (64%) than among those 45 or older (46%).
Biden slips among Democrats as Trump holds steady among Republicans
At this point, the odds that Biden will draw a high-profile primary opponent are vanishingly slim. Some filing deadlines have already passed; others are fast approaching. Party leaders and resources almost always fall in line behind an incumbent president, and Biden is no exception. Any new challenger would be shunned, risking his or her future in Democratic politics.
It’s also true that Biden (64%) still leads his two declared primary challengers — self-help author Marianne Williamson (4%) and Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (4%) — by a wide margin, and potential Democratic primary voters who say they prefer Biden as the party’s 2024 presidential nominee (46%) continue to outnumber those who say they’d prefer “someone else” (39%).
Yet support for Biden versus someone else has fallen by 4 points since October after steadily rising from the low 30s early last year to 50% or higher on six of the past seven Yahoo News/YouGov surveys — a reversal that underscores widespread alarm among Democrats that the president is starting his reelection run as an underdog to Trump, a polarizing figure who has been criminally indicted four times this year.
Asked “how big a problem” Biden’s age is “when it comes to his fitness for the presidency,” nearly three-quarters of potential Democratic primary voters (73%) say it’s either a small problem (48%) or a big one (25%).
Trump, meanwhile, maintains his large lead among the potential Republican primary electorate, with majority support (56%) versus “someone else” (34%) and a similar share of the hypothetical vote (54%) against the full field of declared GOP candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (15%) and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (10%).
Unlike other recent polls showing Haley ahead of Biden in key swing states, the new Yahoo News/YouGov survey found the South Carolinian (37%) trailing the president (39%) nationally — albeit with more voters saying they’re “not sure” (14%) than in a Biden-Trump matchup (9%), and more saying they would not vote (11% vs. 5%).
Possible bright spots for Biden
To test the deeper dynamics influencing perceptions of age and competence, Yahoo News and YouGov asked respondents how much they “have heard in the media” about various political stories “over the last few years.”
Unfortunately for Biden, less than a quarter of Americans have “heard a lot” about his signature legislative achievements: “Congress passing a law that will enable Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices” (23%); “Congress passing infrastructure investments in 2021” (20%); “Congress passing climate and clean energy investments in 2022” (18%); and “Congress passing a gun safety law in 2022” (14%).
It’s not particularly surprising, then, that just a quarter of Americans (24%) think Biden has accomplished “a lot” as president.
But after asking how much respondents had heard about various stories, Yahoo News and YouGov also asked them to rate the importance of the same stories “when thinking of how you will vote in 2024.”
More than twice as many Americans consider Biden’s key victories on Capitol Hill to be “very important” for 2024 — including legislation on prescription drugs (52%), gun safety (40%) and climate (37%) — than say they’ve heard “a lot” about them, suggesting a possible opportunity for his reelection campaign to break through and alter assumptions about how much the president has (or hasn’t) accomplished in office.
Similarly, more Americans have heard a lot about (69%) — and consider very important (43%) — the fact that Trump is “facing four criminal trials in 2024” than say the same about Biden’s gaffes, stumbles or public naps. And voters are divided over which is a bigger problem when it comes to their “fitness” for the presidency: Biden’s age (44%) or Trump’s criminal charges (44%).
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,584 U.S. adults interviewed online from Nov. 9 to 13, 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 Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% 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 2.8%.