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Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the final presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 22, 2020. Jim Bourg / Getty Images file

Early Biden vs. Trump polls signal ‘very competitive’ 2024 general election

Analysis: Two recent national polls show Biden and Trump within the margin of error in hypothetical rematch.

By and

The 2024 general election is still more than 600 days away, President Joe Biden hasn’t yet announced his intentions (though it’s more than likely he runs) and the Republican presidential field is far from set.

But the very, very early general-election polls signal that 2024 is shaping up to be another close contest.

Especially if it’s a rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

A national Washington Post/ABC News poll from last month showed Trump leading Biden by 3 points among registered voters, 48%-45%, within the poll’s margin of error. (In Sept. 2022, the same poll had Trump up 2 points, 48%-46%).

In addition, a national poll from Quinnipiac University in February found Biden ahead of Trump by 2 points, 48%-46%, while it had Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leading Biden by 1 point, 47%-46% — all within the margin of error. 

An important note: In 2020, Biden won the popular vote over Trump by 4.5 percentage points, with closer contests in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which ultimately decided the election. Experts believe that, due to the GOP’s recent advantage in the Electoral College, the 2024 Democratic nominee might need to win the popular vote by more than 5 points to get to 270 electoral votes needed to keep the White House. 

“At this stage, I think it is fair to say it will be a very competitive election if Biden and Trump are the two nominees,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic half of the NBC News poll (which has yet to poll the 2024 horserace).  

“Having two candidates in a rematch who have been in public life for decades is just not a normal occurrence, so I’m not sure there is any great historical precedent in the modern era,” Horwitt added. 

GOP pollster Bill McInturff, the Republican half of the NBC News poll, agrees. “I don’t think the public would be happy at all with a Biden-Trump election. But odds are — given the straight-ticket voting and Electoral College — it would be very competitive.”  

Of course, there are several caveats about looking at polls measuring a general election that’s still 600-plus days away. 

It’s early. A lot can happen. We don’t know who the nominees are. The national presidential polls have been wrong. And general-election surveys a year out tend to be mostly a referendum on the current incumbent and not a choice between to the two parties, McInturff says. 

But given the results of 2012, 2016 and 2020, it’s probably a safe approach to brace for a close race.

CORRECTION (Mach 10, 2023, 12:40 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Biden had led Trump by 2 points in the Sept. 2022 Washington Post/ABC poll. That result was among all adults. Among registered voters, it was Trump leading with 48% and Biden with 46%. The numbers in the story and the graphic have been changed to reflect the results among registered voters.