Who will win the 2024 presidential election?

 An aide places the presidential seal on Joe Biden's lectern.
An aide places the presidential seal on Joe Biden's lectern.
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The year of America's next presidential election is here, which can only mean one thing: speculation will continue to ramp up about who will be the next person to occupy the White House.

While the campaign season started with a long list of competitors, the field has now narrowed to just two. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have locked up the required delegates to be the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively. While several independent candidates remain in the race as long shots, this means that the United States will have its first presidential election rematch since 1956, an unprecedented battle between the oldest president to take office in Biden, and the first-ever former president convicted of a felony in Trump.

With the election now just 5 months away, pollsters and political scientists are heating up the debate about who will win the 270 electoral votes needed to earn a seat in the Oval Office. Who do the experts believe will be the next president of the United States?

Who do the polls say will win the election?

Biden and Trump traded slight polling leads throughout the primary season. When it comes to actual figures, though, Trump has carried most of the weight in the majority of polls taken this year — a New York Times poll from May 13 of 1,000 Americans showed the former president leading Biden in five of six key battleground states. Biden led Trump only in Wisconsin with a margin of 47% to 45%. While the accuracy of this poll has been questioned, the Trump lead appears to be in line with a May 14 YouGov/Economist poll of 1,586 voters that had Trump leading 42% to 41% and a May 12 Morning Consult poll of 10,243 voters that had him leading 44% to 43%.

But while Trump has had the edge in the polls through most of the election season, a new element was added to the race at the end of May that could cause an unprecedented shift: the former president was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in relation to his hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. Early polling data appears to show that the GOP nominee now being a convicted felon is moderately changing public opinion. A May 31 Reuters/Ipsos poll of 2,256 Americans found that 1 in 10 Republicans and 25% of independents are less likely to vote for Trump following his conviction. This is in line with a June 2 ABC/Ipsos poll of 781 Americans that found 49% of respondents thought Trump should end his campaign as a result of his conviction. It remains to be seen whether or not this will be enough to make a difference in November. Notably, the same Reuters poll found that the conviction made no difference to 56% of Republicans, while 35% of GOP voters said they were more likely to vote for Trump as a result of the conviction. However, the "potential loss of a tenth of his party's voters is more significant for Trump than the stronger backing of more than a third of Republicans," said Reuters, given that many of the 35% of Republicans would likely vote for him anyway.

But even prior to Trump's conviction, an April 16 NBC News/Hart Research poll also confirmed what many in the U.S. likely suspected: Voters are becoming increasingly apathetic about the 2024 election, on both sides of the aisle. The poll found that voters who said they had a "high interest" in the race reached a 20-year low, and that the majority had negative views about both Trump and Biden.

Other polls, still, have shown the two men evenly matched. The same Reuters poll found that Trump's conviction notwithstanding, Biden and Trump were tied at 36%, which is in line with a May 13 YouGov/Yahoo News poll of 1,198 voters that found them tied at 45%.

Post-conviction, there is starting to be a more even split in which candidate is carrying which poll. Out of the 13 most recent head-to-head matchups in FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregate, Trump is leading Biden in six, Biden is leading Trump in four and the men are tied in three. It is likely that these figures will continue to fluctuate as the election inches nearer, and the two candidates are within two points of each other in all 13 polls.

Who do the pundits say will win the election?

While the polls may tell one story, political analysts, pundits and experts can tell another. Many who study politics seem to think that despite Trump leading in most polls throughout the majority of the campaign season, it will ultimately be Biden who will secure a second term in office.

Biden is "seen as a moderate figure who has not transformed a politically polarized country," Fox News' Juan Williams said for The Hill, and this "has contributed to his low approval numbers in 2023." However, Biden's low poll numbers "will be out the door in a one-on-one, 2024 rematch with Trump," Williams said.

"The Democrats have the power to make this year's race into a referendum on Trump rather than Biden," Williams said. "With the stock market up, unemployment down, wages rising, inflation slowing and the U.S. standing tall against Russia and China, Biden has a record to persuade swing voters."

Biden could also win reelection because "the strength of the president's record is only matched by the strength of his party," Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said for MSNBC. Democrats have "won more votes in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party has done in modern American history," Rosenberg said, and in both of the prior two years "prevented the historical down ballot struggle of the party in power and had two remarkably successful elections." He added that polling numbers "[continue] to overly discount Trump's historic baggage and MAGA's repeated electoral failures." Also notable are Trump's aforementioned legal troubles; his sentencing in the hush money case is slated for July 11, just four days before he will be nominated at the Republican National Convention. He is facing possible jail time, meaning that Trump could potentially spend a portion of the remaining campaign behind bars.

The bad news for Trump comes as Biden is continuing to rake in cash, and recently raised a reported $26 million during a fundraiser with former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in March. The president "appears to have gained an edge in part because the Democratic Party apparatus, and its fund-raising might, have quickly unified behind him," The New York Times said. Trump, however, now also has the backing of the Republican National Committee, having installed Trump loyalists throughout in a move that "underscores the swiftness with which Trump’s operation is moving to take over the Republican Party’s operations," Politico said. And one positive that appeared to come for the former president was in the form of financial assistance after his conviction, with the Trump campaign reporting that it raised $141 million in May, bolstered by a $51 million surge immediately after he was found guilty. This represents a marked shift away from the fundraising dominance that Biden has seen in recent months, though the president still maintains a large advantage in his campaign coffers.

Trump "would not win because America is in love with the former president, his policies or the idea of having a strongman run the country," but unease toward Biden could allow him to "be elected president while winning even less than the 46% of the national popular vote he earned in 2016," said Perry Bacon Jr. for The Washington Post. Though like everything conviction-related with Trump, it is hard to make a truly accurate guess on how the public will lean.

And at the end of the day, trying to predict the outcome of the election is nothing but a guess, experts say — especially when it comes to polling. While polls are an "effective way to measure public opinion," this does not mean "that a poll conducted today will accurately capture who will win the presidential election," Philip Bump said for The Washington Post. Beyond this, even public opinion polls conducted prior to the election "will almost certainly show no more than who is more likely to win," Bump said. And polls have been wrong — sometimes considerably — in the past; On Election Day 2016, The New York Times predicted that Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance of beating Trump.

Who else is in play?

The other X-factor in the race is the aforementioned Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Although he entered the race as a Democrat, Kennedy is now running as an independent and polls show that he could potentially play the role of a third party spoiler. This is something that Kennedy himself has rejected, though some in the White House reportedly believe Kennedy "poses a real threat to President Joe Biden's reelection chances," Forbes said. However, while most analysts believe RFK Jr.'s candidacy was most likely to be a problem for Biden, polling shows that it may be Trump who gets the short end of the stick; an NBC News poll from April found that Kennedy would likely siphon more voters away from Trump than Biden, as the aforementioned RMG and New York Times polls that also showed Kennedy pulling more from Trump voters. So while the White House and Democrats are worried about Kennedy, it appears the Trump team may be equally worried, as the former president "may regret RFK Jr.'s campaign," Business Insider said. Notably, in NBC's poll that had Biden winning, the president's margin of victory shrinks to 39% for Biden over 37% for Trump, while Kennedy pulls in 13%, meaning the chance for RFK Jr. to play spoiler is still very much alive. Other candidates also remain in the race, including Cornel West, Marianne Williamson and Jill Stein, but are unlikely to generate a challenge to either Biden or Trump.

Voters will get their first early preview of the general election on June 27, when Biden and Trump will hold a CNN debate in what will be a historically early matchup. A second debate between the two men will be held by ABC News in September.