Jonathan L. Wharton

Last week’s polling numbers regarding President Joe Biden seeking a second term were abysmal. Even worse, this came after his official announcement that he would run again in 2024, especially since presidential incumbents regularly seek another term. But polls are merely a snapshot of an electorate at that moment and can offer some, but not a complete picture, about a presidency like Biden’s. 

Biden’s Gallup approval numbers have been hovering around 37% for a while. And among unaffiliated voters, he’s currently at 61% disapproval. But what stood out most is that more than half of registered Democrats do not want Biden to run again.

In fact, there’s a generation gap against Biden including among Democrats according to polls. A recent Harvard Youth Poll, for example, has Biden at 38% approval among voters under 30 years old. And no Democratic presidential candidate has won those over 65 years old since Al Gore ran for president decades ago.

But Biden’s age has remained a concern among many voters, especially as he’ll be 86 years old – should he win and remain in office for another full term. And it’s no secret that senior voters are more reliable for voter turnout than younger voters.

Other polls, like the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll indicate that nearly two in three Americans do not want former President Donald Trump in the White House again. Only a quarter of Republicans do not want him as a candidate. 

Among these polls, they’re not indicating anything new. Americans do not want a rematch between Biden and Trump. We hardly support Biden and many find fault with Trump while the majority of us prefer new candidates

American voters are fickle, if and when we turnout for elections. We often need to find a resounding and singular reason to show up. A candidate at the top of the ticket, especially for the presidency, can make an impact. And a candidate’s charisma makes a difference. 

But having a repeat of 2020 disgusts so many voters, which should not be surprising. Having arguably seasoned and older politicos is hardly the answer to engage and increase voter turnout. 

Sadly, we’re seeing polls indicating disinterest in our national government beyond the presidency. Congress approval ratings have remained at 20% for years and the Supreme Court’s approval numbers have worsened to the lowest point at 40%, especially with recent concerns surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas and additional justices’ ethics.  

It’s no secret that I largely gave up on national politics and our national political parties. What takes place (or more like what policies have yet to be resolved) in Washington has become increasingly problematic and hyper-partisan. So many of us as well as our public officials are consumed in partisanship that few policies can be addressed.

So, why poll Americans about next year’s race than confront policy issues? By measuring interest this early it helps candidate name recognition, fundraising and political support. Presidential races have become costly and long-term ventures. 

But early polls can also turnoff many voters, including myself. National polls may estimate interest before the actual election cycle, but it presents challenges. I may listen and read some polls, but I largely tune them out. Quite frankly, it’s too early to poll for 2024 and so much can change between now and next year. 

Instead, I want to see what happens during the primaries and conventions next spring. I also prefer to inspire and witness new political leadership at the state and local levels, hoping that years from now we’ll have some overdue generational leadership changes in Congress, the White House and federal courts.

Jonathan L. Wharton

Jonathan L. Wharton

Jonathan L. Wharton, Ph.D., is an associate professor of political science and urban affairs at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.