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Few Americans are excited about a Biden-Trump rematch, Post-ABC poll finds

Most say they would feel dissatisfied or angry if either wins the general election

Then-President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate on the campus of Belmont University on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Nashville. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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President Biden and former president Donald Trump may have each drawn a record number of votes in 2020, but at this early stage in the 2024 election cycle, Americans show little enthusiasm for a rematch between the two well-known yet unpopular leaders, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Neither Biden nor Trump generates broad excitement within their own party, and most Americans overall say they would feel dissatisfied or angry if either wins the general election.

Biden, who has said he intends to seek reelection, has no current opposition for the Democratic nomination. Trump is likely to face at least several challengers in his bid to lead his party for a third consecutive election.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the Post-ABC poll finds 58 percent say they would prefer someone other than Biden as their nominee in 2024 — almost double the 31 percent who support Biden. That is statistically unchanged since last September.

Read full Post-ABC poll results

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 49 percent say they prefer someone other than Trump as their nominee in 2024, compared with 44 percent who favor the former president. That too is statistically unchanged from last September.

More than 6 in 10 Americans (62 percent) say they would be “dissatisfied” or “angry” if Biden were reelected in 2024, while 56 percent say the same about the prospect of Trump returning to the White House for a second time.

Slightly more than one-third (36 percent) say they would be “enthusiastic” or “satisfied but not enthusiastic” if Biden were reelected while 43 percent say the same about a possible Trump victory in 2024. But negative sentiment is also notable. More than one-third (36 percent) say they would be angry if Trump wins while 30 percent say that about a Biden victory. Fewer than 2 in 10 are enthusiastic about Trump (17 percent), and just 7 percent are enthusiastic about Biden.

In a hypothetical matchup between Biden and Trump, 48 percent of registered voters today say they would favor Trump to 45 percent who say Biden, a gap within the poll’s margin of error. About 9 in 10 Democrats back Biden and about the same share of Republicans back Trump. Among independents, 50 percent favor Trump to 41 percent for Biden.

One striking aspect of the findings is the degree to which neither the midterm elections, in which Republicans fell well short of their expectations and Biden had the best midterm for a new president in many decades, nor ongoing classified documents investigations have done little to change overall perceptions of the two men among the public.

Many Republican elected officials blame Trump for the failure of the party to capture control of the Senate or win more competitive governor’s races and a larger House majority, primarily because of his support for flawed candidates and their embrace of his ideas. Trump’s continued false claims about a stolen election in 2020 also put him into the forefront of the 2022 campaign debate and helped turn the election away from a pure referendum on Biden.

As a result, Trump will face competition for the Republican nomination, with a growing number of party officials and strategists saying it is time to move past him and his presidency and look to the future with fresh leadership. But the poll shows little significant damage to his image among the broader public, as mixed as it might be.

For Biden, Democratic successes in the midterm elections have not translated into more popular support for his presidency. The election outcome tamped down talk of possible challenges for the nomination but has not improved his overall image.

As Biden prepares to deliver his State of the Union address, his standing with the American people is very similar to where it was on the eve of the midterm elections. Overall, 42 percent approve of his handling of the presidency while 53 percent disapprove, including 42 percent who disapprove strongly.

Similarly, his ratings on the economy are almost identical to where they were in early November, with 37 percent approving and 58 percent disapproving. About the same percentage (38 percent) say they approve of how he is handling the situation involving Russia and Ukraine, with 48 percent disapproving.

Financially, more Americans say they are not as well off since Biden became president than those who say they are better off (41 percent to 16 percent). Another 42 percent say their financial situation is about the same under Biden as it was before he was sworn in. The percent who say they are not as well off has increased slightly over the past year as people have dealt with rising prices and is now at the highest level since Post-ABC polling first asked the question in 1986 under President Ronald Reagan.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have frequently pointed to positive economic indicators, as they did on Friday with a stronger-than-expected monthly jobs report, as well as the legislative steps they have taken to try to ease Americans’ suffering over the past couple of years amid a pandemic and soaring inflation. But there has also been some worry during Biden’s first term that such efforts do not break through with enough Americans, who continue to report widespread concern about inflation.

On the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, where there was a huge influx of migrants last year, the public is more negative on Biden today than last year. The new poll finds 28 percent saying they approve of Biden’s handling of the situation while 59 percent disapprove. In June, 33 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved.

The administration has moved in recent weeks to shift its policy in an effort to deal with the problems at the border.

Biden and Trump are both under investigation by special counsels for possession of classified documents after leaving office — in Biden’s case after leaving the vice presidency. Trump resisted turning over documents requested by the National Archives and Records Administration and eventually the Justice Department obtained a warrant to conduct a search at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Hundreds of classified documents were ultimately identified and retrieved.

Analysis: How timing and scale varied in the classified document discoveries

Biden’s classified documents were first discovered at the Penn Biden Center think tank by one of his personal attorneys and voluntarily reported to officials at the archives, who alerted the Justice Department. Additional documents were later found at his home in Delaware. This past week, the FBI conducted a search of his beach property in Delaware but no more documents were discovered.

Americans see the two cases differently. About half (48 percent) say Biden acted wrongly but not intentionally, while 27 percent say he acted intentionally and illegally and 16 percent say he did not do anything wrong. In comparison, 45 percent say Trump acted intentionally and illegally in the way he conducted himself, while 29 percent say he acted wrongly but not intentionally and 20 percent say he did nothing wrong.

Read Post-ABC poll crosstabs by group

Democrats see a bigger distinction between the two cases, with 79 percent saying Trump did something illegal but just 5 percent saying Biden did something illegal. Among Republicans, 49 percent say Biden acted illegally and 16 percent say Trump acted illegally.

The 2024 election is not necessarily in the forefront of the minds of many people at this point. The Republican nomination contest is starting slowly and it may take months before that race is fully engaged. But early perceptions about the two leading candidates underscore both the divisions with the country and the appetite — or lack thereof — for a repeat of 2020.

Independents have a negative reaction to the prospect of either Biden or Trump winning in 2024, with 66 percent saying that about Biden and 57 percent saying that about Trump. Nearly 3 in 10 independents say they would be dissatisfied or angry with either Biden or Trump.

Both Trump and Biden hold lukewarm support within their own parties. One-third of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (33 percent) would be “enthusiastic” if Trump won another term as president; while a still-smaller 16 percent of Democrats say they feel enthusiastic about a second Biden term.

In the GOP, Trump is weakest among higher-income Republicans and those with college degrees, with two-thirds of each group wanting the party to nominate someone other than Trump. Most “very conservative” Republicans prefer Trump while majorities of “somewhat conservative” and moderate or liberal Republicans want someone else. Republican White evangelicals are roughly split over who the GOP should nominate in 2024: 49 percent prefer someone else, 46 percent prefer Trump.

Biden is weakest among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents under 40 years old, 69 percent of whom say the party should nominate someone else. Black Democrats narrowly prefer nominating Biden (47 percent) over someone else (41 percent), while 64 percent of White Democrats want someone other than Biden.

Both Trump and Biden elicit widespread anger from the opposing party. About 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would be “angry” if Biden was reelected, while 7 in 10 Democratic-leaning adults say they would be angry if Trump won.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Jan. 27-Feb. 1 among a random national sample of 1,003 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Error margins are larger among subgroups, including four points among 895 registered voters and 5.5 points each among 410 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 456 Republican leaners.

Scott Clement contributed to this report.