The Road to the General Election

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll

Biden Competitive with Trump, Haley… Biden Opens Up Lead if Trump is Convicted

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump remain in a statistical tie among registered voters nationally. Since August of 2023, the widest gap separating the two men has been three percentage points. However, if Trump is convicted of a crime, Biden opens a six-percentage point lead against his rival. Should Nikki Haley win the GOP nomination, the contest would still be a tight battle. The 2024 presidential contest unfolds amid an American populace concerned with preserving democracy, fighting inflation, and addressing immigration.

2024 Presidential Election
If November's general election for president were held today, whom would you support if the candidates are:
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Registered Voters. Interviews conducted January 29th through February 1st, 2024, n=1,441 MOE +/- 3.6 percentage points. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
  • Biden (48%) and Trump (47%) are competitive among registered voters nationally. Independents break for Trump: 50% to 42% for Biden. Among those with an unfavorable view of Biden and Trump, Biden (43%) holds a 4-percentage point edge against Trump (39%). 18% of these voters are undecided.

  • If Trump were convicted on criminal charges, Biden (51%) opens a six-percentage point lead over Trump (45%) among registered voters. The gap closes among independents, with 47% supporting Trump, and 45% backing Biden. Nearly one in ten Republicans (9%) would support Biden.

  • Biden (46%) also runs competitively against Haley (45%) among registered voters. Haley receives near-majority support (50%) among independents compared with 38% for Biden.

  • Although Biden’s approval rating is only 40% nationally, he is buoyed by the support of voters who somewhat disapprove of the job he is doing as president. He receives the support of 38% of these voters against Trump and 27% against Haley.

  • Preserving democracy (29%), inflation (24%), and immigration (22%) are the top three issues that come to Americans’ minds when thinking about their vote this November. A plurality of Democrats (44%) cites preserving democracy as their number-one voting issue while Republicans (44%) most mention immigration. Preserving democracy (33%) is the most mentioned issue among independents.

"The picture going forward in the likely matchup between Biden and Trump remains unchanged with one major exception," says Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. "Right now, a Trump conviction would change the equation in Biden’s favor."

Digging Deeper into Immigration

Driven by Republicans (60%) and independents (44%), a plurality of Americans (41%) think increasing security at the United States-Mexico border to reduce illegal crossings should be the top immigration priority. 28% of Americans, including a plurality of Democrats (44%), believe “dreamers” should be the priority. 15% mention taking in refugees while an additional 14% say deporting those who entered the country illegally should be the top priority for immigration.

57% of Americans, including 84% of Democrats and 55% of independents, think America’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation. 42% of residents, including 72% of Republicans, assert that, if the U.S. is too open, America will lose its identity. When the Pew Research Center asked this question in 2021, 66% of residents nationally thought America’s openness was paramount to the identity of the U.S. while 32% reported that the U.S. risks its identity with increased openness.

More than four in ten Americans (41%) report that the Republican Party will do a better job at handling the issue of immigration. 29% say the Democrats are better equipped to do so. 10% of residents say both the Republicans and Democrats are on par to address immigration. A notable one in five Americans (20%) reports neither party can handle the issue, an increase from 13% in November 2022.

Independents are more than twice as likely to choose the Republicans (38%) rather than the Democrats (17%) when it comes to handling the issue of immigration. However, more than three in ten independents (31%) think neither party can adequately address the issue.

Americans Divide Over Support to Ukraine

34% of Americans think the United States is sending too much support to Ukraine. 33% report just the right amount of aid has been allocated, and 30% believe more support is needed. When asked about the issue a year ago, 32% said the U.S. was sending too much assistance, and 42% of Americans thought the level of support was on target. 25% said the U.S. was not providing enough assistance to Ukraine.

Democrats (47%) are more likely than Republicans (17%) and independents (26%) to call for increased assistance to Ukraine. A majority of Republicans (56%) say the U.S. is already providing too much aid.

Biden’s Job Approval Rating, Favorability Remains Upside Down

53% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Biden, and 40% a favorable view of him. Biden’s favorable rating is unchanged from December. His favorable rating mirrors his approval rating (54% disapprove to 40% approve). Americans are more than twice as likely to strongly disapprove of Biden’s job performance (42%) than to strongly approve (20%).

Biden’s Score on Immigration Further Sinks; Economic Rating Still Underwater

29% of Americans approve of how President Biden is handling immigration, a decline from July 2021 when 38% gave the president a positive rating on the issue. 60% disapprove of his handling of immigration, up from 49% previously. 12% currently are unsure. 90% of Republicans, 66% of independents, and even 30% of Democrats disapprove of Biden’s approach to immigration.

Biden’s rating on the economy is still upside down. 41% approve of how Biden is tackling the economy, up slightly from 38% last March. 54% disapprove, and 6% are unsure. While more than three in four Democrats (78%) approve, most Republicans (91%) and a majority of independents (58%) disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy.

Trump’s Favorable Rating Still Upside Down; Most Perceive Wrongdoing in His Actions

Perceptions of Trump remain relatively consistent. 55% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the former president, and 40% have a favorable one, similar to December.

However, nearly three in four Republicans and Republican leaning independents (74%) are not very concerned or not concerned at all that Trump is too extreme for the general election. 59% say the same about Haley.

There has also been little change in Americans’ perceptions surrounding the legality and ethics of Trump’s actions. 73% of Americans say Trump has done something wrong. Included here are 48% who think the former president has done something illegal and 25% who believe Trump has done something unethical but not illegal. 25% report Trump has done nothing wrong.

Most Democrats (84%) and a plurality of independents (46%) assert that Trump has broken the law while a majority of Republicans (55%) report he has done nothing wrong.

Driven by Democrats (91%) and independents (65%), nearly two in three Americans (65%) say that Trump should not receive immunity for actions he took while President. 31% of Republicans agree. However, 34% of the American public report Trump should receive immunity. 68% of Republicans have this view.

A majority of Americans (54%) think the investigations into Trump’s actions have been fair and aimed at finding out if the former president broke the law. 45% say the inquiries are unfair and are a means of impeding his 2024 presidential campaign. Independents divide on the issue.

Most Americans Blame Elected Officials, Not the System, for Congressional Dysfunction

72% of Americans, compared with 69% in November, say the political system can work; it’s the members of Congress that are the problem. 24% disagree and believe the political system is broken. Bipartisan agreement exists.

It’s not surprising, then, that Americans continue to have low opinions of congresspeople on both sides of the aisle. 26% of adults, including the same proportion of registered voters, approve of the job the Republicans in Congress are doing while 63% of Americans disapprove. Democrats fare better but are still in the proverbial doghouse. 38% of residents, including 39% of voters, approve of how the Democrats in Congress are performing in their post while 52% of Americans disapprove.