Poll: 'Dread' tops list of Americans' feelings about 2024 election

Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images, Evan Vucci/AP
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What’s the No. 1 feeling that comes to mind for Americans when thinking about the upcoming presidential election?

Dread, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,636 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Sept. 14 to 18, offered respondents seven emotions — three positive, three negative, one neutral — and asked them to select any and all that reflect their attitude toward the 2024 campaign.

Dread, the most negative option, topped the list (41%), followed by exhaustion (34%), optimism (25%), depression (21%), indifference (17%), excitement (15%) and delight (5%).

A deep sense of unease

In total, a majority of Americans (56%) chose at least one of the three negative feelings (dread, exhaustion or depression), while less than a third (32%) picked at least one of the three positive feelings (optimism, excitement or delight).

For anyone who has been paying attention to the tone and tenor of U.S. politics in recent years, the fact that Americans characterize their prevailing sentiment toward 2024 as one of “great fear, especially in the face of impending evil” probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

But all the same, it’s a striking reminder of just how unusual — and how extreme — November 2024 promises to be: a potential rematch between two elderly presidents whom most Americans don’t even want to run again, with the specter of criminal trials and partisan impeachment proceedings shadowing the entire race.

President Biden and former President Donald Trump have yet to secure their respective parties’ nominations, but they are already framing 2024 in existential terms.

“[Biden] is totally corrupt and the worst president in the history of our country,” Trump said last Friday in Washington, D.C. “We would be in World War II [sic] very quickly if we’re going to be relying on this man.”

“Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy,” Biden snapped back at a New York fundraiser on Monday.

As if in response, a full 36% of Americans — a number that includes a staggering 75% of voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents — now think another Biden term would be “the worst thing that could happen” to America.

And the numbers are nearly identical on the flip side, with 34% of Americans and 74% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters saying it would be the worst thing that could happen to America if Trump were to regain the Oval Office.

A decade of dysfunction

Where partisans largely agree, however, is on the overall trajectory of U.S. politics. Nearly 3 in 4 (72%) say America’s political climate has gotten worse over the last decade; just 7% say it has gotten better.

Among the groups most inclined to say U.S. politics have recently gone downhill are white Americans (80%), 2020 Trump voters (86%) and senior citizens (91%). Among the groups least inclined to say U.S. politics have recently gone downhill are 18- to 29-year-olds (47%) and Black Americans (54%).

Conversely, Republicans are more likely to express optimism (35%) and excitement (21%) about the 2024 election than Democrats (29% and 16%) — presumably because their party has an opportunity to take back the White House.

The good news is that despite their dread, just 15% of Americans say they “avoid talking, reading or thinking” about the 2024 election — while most claim to be just as interested (46%) or more interested (32%) in 2024 than in previous presidential elections at this stage.

Among registered voters, that interest translates into partisans and learners on both sides rating their chances of actually voting in 2024 as either more likely than in prior elections (37% for both Republicans and Democrats) or just as likely (57% for Democrats, 59% for Republicans).


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,636 U.S. adults interviewed online from Sept. 14-18, 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 March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% 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 2.7%.