New Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows why Biden-Trump rematch is still neck and neck

Right now, neither candidate is strong enough to capitalize on his opponent's flaws.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the Oct. 22, 2020, presidential debate in Nashville.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the Oct. 22, 2020, presidential debate in Nashville. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Patrick Semansky/AP, Julio Cortez/AP)

For President Biden’s supporters, it must seem like a slam dunk: The guy with decades of experience, a long list of policy achievements and an ever-improving economic record versus … the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted instigator of the first major attack on the U.S Capitol since 1814.

The same goes for fans of former President Donald Trump: Obviously the candidate who cracked down on the border and oversaw a booming pre-pandemic economy should be clobbering his 81-year-old successor.

Yet according to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Trump and Biden are tied at 45% apiece among registered voters — just like last month, when they were tied at 44%, and (statistically speaking) just like every month before that, stretching back to September of last year.

So why isn’t Biden beating Trump? And why isn’t Trump beating Biden? How can 2024 be such a stalemate?

Part of the reason is polarization. Nearly all Americans have sorted themselves onto Team Republican or Team Democrat, and the animus they feel toward the opposing side — a dynamic known as negative partisanship — has never been stronger.

But the new Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 1,794 U.S. adults, which was conducted from May 10 to 13, also suggests another explanation: Right now, neither Biden nor Trump is a strong enough candidate to capitalize on his opponent’s flaws.

Consider Biden’s numbers. Americans now disapprove (57%) rather than approve (38%) of his performance as president by a 19-point margin. According to FiveThirtyEight’s national averages, no other modern incumbent has been so far “underwater” at this stage of his presidency — including Trump (-7.4 points), Jimmy Carter (-8.8 points) and George H.W. Bush (-11.1 points), all of whom failed to win reelection.

Asked to compare the candidates on specific issues, Americans think Biden would do a worse job than Trump handling nearly all of them. The current president trails his Republican rival by 10 or more points on the economy (36% to 48%), inflation (35% to 45%) and immigration (36% to 48%). Biden also lags behind Trump on crime (37% to 44%), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (34% to 40%) and campus protests (36% to 39%).

Trump’s advantages on these issues are slightly narrower among registered voters — but usually just by a point or two.

Meanwhile, there’s only one area where Biden leads Trump — abortion — and even then, his advantage is slim (41% to 36%).

Making matters worse, more Americans say “things were better back when Donald Trump was president” (43%) than say things are “better today with Joe Biden as president” (34%). Similarly, 44% say things in their own lives were better five years ago, while just 24% say they are better today. A quarter (25%) say things in their lives are about the same.

If Trump were a more typical challenger, he would likely be exploiting these vulnerabilities to build a small but sustained lead in the national polls. But Trump is not typical — so he can’t seem to get past the 45% mark, either.

For instance: Biden’s favorability rating is poor (39%) but Trump’s is just as bad (41%). (The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.7%.) A full 55% and 57% of Americans have unfavorable opinions of the two candidates, respectively.

And Trump’s legal troubles aren’t improving his image. A majority of Americans (52%) now believe, for the first time, that the former president “falsif[ied] business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star” — the charge at the center of his ongoing criminal trial in Manhattan. Just 22% say the opposite.

A similar majority of Americans say that they would approve (51%) rather than disapprove (36%) of Trump being sentenced to prison if found guilty.

And just 39% say they would vote for Trump if he is “convicted of a serious crime in the coming months” — while Biden’s backing ticks up 1 point in that scenario, to 46%, giving him a 7-point lead.

Trump has run for president twice before, and he has never received more than 47% of the vote. The numbers above suggest it will be harder, not easier, to expand his vote share this time around.

To test what messages are getting through to voters — and potentially persuading them — Yahoo News and YouGov asked respondents to say whether they agree or disagree with seven statements adapted from verbatim quotes by Biden and Trump. The statements didn’t identify who said what, paraphrasing only for clarity and to conceal the identity of the speaker.

Despite the fact that joblessness is extremely low, inflation has fallen from 9.1% to 3.4%, a long-predicted recession is looking increasingly unlikely and people (of all ages and income levels) are making, spending and accumulating more money than before the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are not buying Biden’s attempts to claim credit.

Just 29% agree, for instance, that “Biden inherited an economy that was on the brink, but it’s now the “envy of the world"; 53% disagree. Likewise, a mere 35% agree that “under Biden, wages keep going up and inflation has dropped from 9% to 3% — the lowest in the world and trending lower”; 46% disagree.

In fact, only about two-thirds of current Biden supporters (65% to 69%) agree with these statements — while a far greater share of Trump supporters (84% to 89%) disagree. That asymmetry — mixed feelings on the left versus near-unanimous opposition on the right — largely explains why Biden’s economic message is falling flat.

The problem for Trump, however — the reason he hasn’t capitalized — is that his own messages don’t have any crossover appeal. Only 45% of Americans agree that “in some ways, the U.S is a Third World country. We’re a Third World country at our borders, and we’re a Third World country at our elections.” And just 45% agree that “under Biden, we have a three-year inflation rate of almost 50%. Under Trump, we had no inflation.” (For the record, fact-checkers have characterized both of those statements as false.)

Trump’s 45% should sound familiar; it precisely matches his share of the vote in a head-to-head matchup with Biden.

In contrast, a full 50% of Americans (and 53% of registered voters) agree with Biden that “Donald Trump's campaign is about him, not America. He's willing to sacrifice our democracy to put himself in power.” Few, if any, of them are likely to vote for Trump in November.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,794 U.S. adults interviewed online from May 10 to 13, 2024. 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 2.7%.