Poll: Trump is tied with Biden for now — but criminal trials and unpopular plans pose risks for 2024

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President Biden and former President Donald Trump are tied at 44% apiece among registered voters heading into the 2024 election year, according to the final Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 2023.

The survey of 1,533 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Dec. 14 to Dec. 18, represents a reality check at a time when the press has been far more focused on Biden’s vulnerabilities than Trump’s. In fact, it is Trump's underlying problems — including his criminal trials and unpopular plans — that may pose the bigger electoral risk in next year’s election, the results suggest.

Former President Donald Trump with a gigantic American flag behind him.
Former President Donald Trump. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

It’s true, for instance, that Biden’s long-standing lead over Trump in the Yahoo News/YouGov poll faded this fall after averaging about 4.5 percentage points between March and August. Yet Trump has not been able to capitalize on Biden’s meager job-approval rating — currently 37% approve, 57% disapprove among all Americans — to expand his appeal and pull ahead.

Instead, Trump’s support among registered voters has remained at 44% or lower.

Last month, when Biden’s support dipped to 42%, that was enough to give Trump a narrow edge (within the margin of error). Now Biden has ticked back up, and the two candidates are again level. While other national polls have shown larger swings, the Yahoo News/YouGov survey portends a very close campaign (consistent with the last two presidential elections) if Biden and Trump face off again in 2024.

Even when voters are offered the choice of “another candidate” in addition to Biden and Trump — an option that 12% select — the two presidents remain tied at 41%, implying that third-party bids are unlikely to upend the fundamental dynamics of the contest.

How Trump’s criminal trials could factor in

What might change the race, however, is a Trump criminal conviction.

Large majorities of Americans continue to say that the charges on which Trump has been indicted — and for which he is likely to stand trial next year — represent “serious crimes,” including “taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them” (63%); “conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election” (66%); and “attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election” (64%). In each case, only about one in five Americans say these are “not serious crimes.”

Asked, then, how they might vote if Trump is “convicted of a serious crime in the coming months,” registered voters say they would prefer Biden by a 7-point margin in that scenario, 46% to 39%. Trump’s support (previously 44%) immediately falls by 5 percentage points.

Among potential Republican primary voters — registered voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents — the decline is even steeper: a full 15 percentage points, from 56% to 41%. Without a criminal conviction, Trump’s primary support is more than double the combined backing of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (15%) and former United Nations ambassador and onetime South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (10%), his two leading challengers for the GOP nomination. With a criminal conviction, DeSantis (21%) and Haley (16%) combine to come within 4 points of Trump.

While neither of these results should be seen as a prediction of what might happen in the event of an actual conviction, they do suggest that such a conviction — something unprecedented in the history of U.S. presidential politics — would at least have the potential to complicate Trump’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Americans are not buying the arguments from Trump’s legal team that all former presidents are immune from federal prosecution for crimes allegedly committed while in office (57% not immune, 21% immune) or that Trump’s trials should take place after the 2024 general election (61% before, 21% after). Even potential Republican primary voters are relatively divided on presidential immunity (42% immune, 32% not immune) and the proper timing of Trump’s trials (37% before Election Day, 42% after Election Day).

Trump’s plans are unlikely boost his support

Another risk for Trump in 2024 is rising voter awareness regarding his plans for a second term.

Recent reporting and remarks from the former president have focused on some of the more unusual policies he intends to implement if reelected. For now, most voters aren’t paying close attention to each candidate’s agenda. But the new Yahoo News/YouGov poll suggests that Trump’s platform might prove to be particularly unpopular once the 2024 campaign gets underway in earnest.

For example, just 19% of Americans favor — and 60% oppose — the idea that Trump might replace tens of thousands of federal workers whose politics don’t align with his. Just 27% favor — and 49% oppose — the idea that Trump might order the Justice Department to investigate and criminally charge [his] political adversaries. Just 29% favor — and 53% oppose — the idea that Trump might send troops into big U.S. cities to enforce public order. Only about a third of Americans want Trump to “appoint a real special prosecutor to go after” Biden and his family (34%) or round up millions of undocumented immigrants and detain them in government camps while they wait to be deported (35%). Even the most popular Trump policy on the list — using the U.S. military to attack drug cartels in Mexico — only reaches 40% support.

In keeping with these numbers, far more Americans say they disapprove (49%) than approve (36%) of Trump’s recent comments about being a “dictator” on “Day One” of his second term — but not “after that” — because “we’re closing the border, and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling.”

Nearly half (48%) say Trump would be “more” of a dictator than previous presidents, while only 18% say he would be less of a dictator, and 23% say he would be about the same. (The poll was taken prior to Trump’s statement that immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country.")

A tale of two vulnerable 'incumbents'

To be sure, Biden — plagued by concerns about his age, the economy and the war in Gaza — remains vulnerable. But the numbers don’t show that Democrats would automatically fare better with a different nominee. When registered voters are given alternative Democrats to choose from, neither California Gov. Gavin Newsom (who trails Trump 41% to 45%) nor Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (who trails Trump 41% to 44%) performs as well as the president.

Likewise, Biden’s support among potential Democratic primary voters (68%) over his actual challengers — self-help author Marianne Williamson (4%) and Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips (3%) — has grown by 4 points since last month, and a majority now say they prefer Biden (51%, up from 46% in November) over “someone else” (35%) for the nomination.

As a semi-incumbent himself, Trump’s position among Republicans is equally commanding: 59% of potential GOP primary voters support him in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup against DeSantis (25%), while a full 70% support him against Haley (19%).

The bottom line is that a 2020 rematch is looking more likely than ever. But while Biden’s weaknesses have been well-publicized ahead of 2024, Trump’s may be underestimated.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,533 U.S. adults interviewed online from Dec. 14 to Dec. 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 Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% 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 2.8%.