Electoral analysts, myself included, like to cover our behinds. We use words like “may” and “could” to make sure we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves – especially when examining polls of a potential 2024 general election matchup between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
But the truth is that Trump has a small but clear advantage over Biden right now. This makes Biden just the second president since scientific polling began to trail in his reelection bid at this point in the campaign.
Take a look at recent national surveys from CBS News/YouGov, CNN/SSRS, Fox News, Marquette University Law School and Quinnipiac University. All five are high-quality polls that meet CNN standards for publication.
All five give Trump an advantage of 2 to 4 points over Biden among registered or likely voters. On their own, none of these data points mean too much. Trump’s lead in all of them is within the margin of error. Averaged together, though, they paint a picture of an incumbent with a real problem.
Over the past 80 years, incumbents have, on average, led their eventual challengers by a little more than 10 points about a year out from the election. This includes nearly every incumbent for whom we have polling since Franklin Roosevelt in 1943.
It includes Barack Obama against Mitt Romney in November 2011. This is notable because a number of Democrats have tried to dismiss the current data showing Biden in trouble by saying that Obama had been behind at this point, too. That simply isn’t true.
In fact, the lone incumbent to be behind in the polls at this point is the man Biden succeeded and is likely to face again: Trump, who trailed Biden by about 10 points in November 2019.