Three-quarters of voters say they’re concerned about President Joe Biden’s age and mental fitness, while nearly two-thirds have concerns about the multiple trials former President Donald Trump faces, a new national NBC News poll finds, casting a gloomy shadow over the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
The poll also shows Trump expanding his national lead in the Republican presidential nominating contest to more than 40 points over his nearest competition, and it has Biden and Trump deadlocked in a hypothetical rematch more than a year before the general election.
Yet what also stands out in the poll are the warning signs for Biden beyond his age — including an all-time high disapproval of his job performance, fewer than 4 in 10 voters approving of his handling of the economy and lagging interest in the election among key parts of the Democratic base.
“This survey is a startling flashing red light for an incumbent party,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the poll with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt and his team at Hart Research Associates.
But Trump and Republicans have their own challenges — such as the GOP front-runner’s overall unpopularity with the general electorate, as well as how Trump galvanizes the political opposition, including those who have reservations about Biden.
“Yes, the numbers for Biden aren’t where he needs them to be,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster. “But the lens for most voters is still through Donald Trump first.”
The NBC News poll — conducted Sept. 15-19 — comes a month after the latest indictment of Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, days before Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate (which Trump won’t attend), and as Biden faces only nominal opposition for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Yet according to the poll, a combined 74% of registered voters say they have major concerns (59%) or moderate concerns (15%) that Biden, at age 80, doesn’t have the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term.
According to the poll, 62% have either major concerns (52%) or moderate concerns (10%) about Trump facing different criminal and civil trials for alleged wrongdoing, including for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Another 60% have major concerns (45%) or moderate concerns (15%) about Biden’s possible awareness or involvement in the business dealings of his son, Hunter, including alleged financial wrongdoing and corruption.
And 47% have either major concerns (34%) or moderate concerns (13%) about Trump, at age 77, not having the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term.
“I know that he’s 80. I know that 80-year-olds are perfectly capable. I worry more about Biden’s physical health. He seems a little bit feeble and this job does take a toll,” said Mary Lyon, 53, a Democrat from Tucson, Arizona.
Kevin Chester, an Arizona Republican who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said he will not vote for Trump in 2024 if he’s the GOP nominee because “nothing will get done. He will litigate the past. It will be tit for tat.”
“I would vote third party in protest if it was Trump versus Biden,” Chester added.
Trump’s lead grows in GOP race
Despite facing several indictments, having his mugshot released in August and skipping the first Republican debate, Trump now leads the Republican presidential contest by more than 40 points, according to the poll.
He’s the first-choice pick of 59% of national Republican primary voters, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gets support from 16% — followed by former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley at 7% and former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 4% each.
In June’s NBC News survey, Trump was ahead of DeSantis by 29 points, 51% to 22%.
The former president’s gains have come from men, seniors and moderate Republican primary voters.
At the same time, the poll finds that the share of GOP primary voters who believe Trump should continue to be the Republican Party’s leader has increased, from 49% in June to 58% now.
A combined 86% of Republican primary voters say they’re either very satisfied (42%) or fairly satisfied (44%) with the choice of GOP candidates for president.
Biden’s disapproval rating reaches new high
Meanwhile, Biden’s job rating among registered voters stands at 41% approve and 56% disapprove — the highest disapproval rating of his presidency.
Deeper inside those numbers, Biden is underwater among voters between the ages of 18 and 34 (46% of them approve of his job performance), all women (46%), Latinos (43%) and independents (36%).
What’s more, the NBC News poll finds 37% of voters approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, and 41% approve of his handling of foreign policy.
Only 28% of all voters say they’re satisfied with the state of the economy (down from 48% who said this at the beginning of Biden’s presidency in April 2021), though 55% say they’re satisfied with their own financial situation. Still, that 55% figure is tied for a record low on this poll question dating back to 1994.
And on top of all of those numbers, nearly 6 in 10 Democratic primary voters — 59% — say they want a Democratic candidate to challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024, even though a major intraparty challenger hasn’t emerged.
Biden is tied with Trump — but trails Haley by 5 points
Looking ahead to the 2024 general election, the NBC News poll shows Biden and Trump tied in a hypothetical contest among registered voters, 46% to 46%.
In June, Biden held a 4-point lead over Trump, 49% to 45%.
According to the new poll, Biden is ahead of Trump among Black voters (76% to 14%), voters between the ages of 18 and 34 (57% to 34%), whites with college degrees (56% to 34%), Latinos (51% to 39%) and women (51% to 41%).
Trump is ahead among rural voters (67% to 31%), men (51% to 40%) white voters (51% to 41%) and whites without college degree (63% to 32%).
Among independents, Biden gets 42%, while Trump gets 35%.
Notably, Biden leads Trump by 18 points among those who “somewhat disapprove” of the president’s job performance (49% to 31%). And nearly 1 in 5 registered voters who say they have concerns about Biden’s age still vote for him over Trump.
In other hypothetical matchups, Biden holds a 1-point lead over DeSantis, 46% to 45%, well within the poll’s margin of error.
And the president trails Haley by 5 points, 46% to 41%. Haley overperforms Trump and DeSantis among independents and college-educated voters, though nearly 30% of all voters say they aren’t familiar with her.
“She is serving as the functional generic Republican candidate,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster, of Haley.
In a multi-candidate field including third parties, Trump gets 39% from registered voters, Biden gets 36%, an unnamed Libertarian Party nominee gets 5%, an unnamed No Labels candidate gets 5% and an unnamed Green Party candidate gets 4%.
And 67% of all voters say they have high interest in the 2024 elections — registering either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale of interest — which is lower than this same point in time before the 2020 election (when 72% had high interest), but higher than this point in time in the 2016 cycle (64%). Voter turnout was significantly higher in 2020 than in 2016.
A greater share of Republican voters (75%) than Democratic voters (68%) have high interest in the upcoming election, while key parts of the Democratic base — younger voters, Black voters and Latino voters — have lower interest than at this same point in past election cycles.
Other key findings in the poll
Biden’s net favorability rating (39% positive, 49% negative) is higher than Trump’s (35% positive, 54% negative) and Vice President Kamala Harris’ (31% positive, 51% negative).
In the Biden vs. Trump hypothetical matchup, a majority of Biden voters (58%) say their vote is more against Trump than for Biden, while a majority of Trump voters (57%) say their vote is more for Trump than against Biden.
Voting preference for next year’s congressional elections is essentially tied, with 46% of voters preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 45% who prefer Republicans to be in charge — virtually unchanged from June.
And asked about the House Republican impeachment inquiry into Biden, a majority of voters — 56% — oppose Congress holding impeachment hearings to remove Biden from office, while 39% back the hearings.
The national NBC News poll was conducted Sept. 15-19 of 1,000 registered voters — including 848 contacted by cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The margin of error for the 321 Republican primary voters in the survey is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.