Is the Establishment Still Underestimating Trump?     

The mainstream political apparatus appears to be divided into two primary camps leading into the 2024 election. On the one hand there is a general sense on the left – much like in 2016 – that Trump simply can’t win again. While pundits half-heartedly report on Trump’s persistent polling numbers despite a slew of indictments, there’s a real sense that many on the left aren’t taking Trump seriously. 

The Hill recently ran a piece suggesting the only way Trump can win in 2024 is if a third-party candidate takes votes away from Biden – but the two are neck to neck in most polls, with Trump ahead of Biden in others. 

A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll found Trump beating Biden by six points nationally, and a recent Premise poll published by Five Thirty Eight found the same thing. Recent Echelon Insights polls have shown a toss-up, with Trump beating Biden by one point and Biden beating Trump by four points within the past two weeks. Polling shows an extremely tight race, and we know how disastrously polls underestimated Trump support in both 2016 and 2020. 

Now, the far-left author of the book American Fascism is sounding the alarm bells to Democrats that they aren’t taking seriously enough a Trump victory in 2024. Writing for the New Republic, Brynn Tannehill warns “people need to be shaken to their core”, as she calls on Democrats to face the prospect of another Trump presidency. “There’s no way the polls should be close, Tannehill writes. “But they are. Way close. And remember—the pollsters have underestimated Trump twice before.”  

Tannehill is right that polling persistently underestimates Trump, and it is hard to know by how much until after the election. Despite pollsters realizing their errors after the 2016 election delivered Trump a surprise victory, they failed to correct the issue in 2020. Polling was particularly off in states like Ohio, Iowa, and Florida, which showed Trump losing narrowly in 2020 and could not have been more wrong. However not all blame lies in pollsters skewed methods. In 2020, Cloud Research showed Trump voters were twice as likely as Biden voters to say they wouldn’t share their vote choice with the media, which isn’t surprising in the era of cancel culture.    

Regardless of pollster’s inability to accurately capture Trump voters, Biden is not in a strong position going into the next election. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say Biden is too old to run for president again, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, while less than half (47%) say the same about Trump. If that weren’t bad enough, a CNN poll shows two-thirds of Democratic leaners want the Democratic Party to nominate someone else.   

Biden has eroding support among key groups he cannot afford to lose, with a recent New York Times/Siena poll showing Biden’s lead over Trump compared to 2020 has dropped 30 percentage points with Hispanics and 32 points with minorities without a college degree. The poll also shows Biden has lost 16 points with Blacks, 14 points with women, 14 points with voters under 30, and 8 points with Independents compared to 2020 exit polls.  

The economy is a major contributor to Biden’s falling polling numbers, with voters giving Biden an approval rating of just 37% on his handling of the economy and only 30% on his handling of inflation in a new CNN poll. Independents rank Biden even lower, with just 26% approving of his handling of inflation.  

The pandemic which upended every facet of American life, not least of which were voting methods, is in the rear-view mirror. The pandemic was arguably the most traumatizing event since 9/11, and deeply impacted public trust in government institutions. Politicians’ handling of the pandemic did not ingratiate Democrats to many Americans. Polling shows that since the pandemic, trust in government and institutions has dwindled and many Ameicanns look back on Biden’s handling of the pandemic with concern.   

Biden has lost strong support from key Democratic coalitions including women, young people, Independents and voters of color. Four years in the public eye with numerous widely publicized gaffes have not been kind to him, and the ferocious “anyone but Trump” energy from 2020 seems to have dwindled.  

Whether Trump will secure another four years will be impacted by many factors, but it certainly shouldn’t be written off. Trump has some strong advantages leading into 2024, including Americans’ poor perceptions of the economy and significantly higher enthusiasm among Republicans compared to Democrats.  

Manzanita Miller is an associate analyst at Americans for Limited Government Foundation. 

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