Election years are always touch and go as far as polling data. Recent years in politics have shown data as less than reliable, but it’s still the best information that many political pundits have to make predictions on which way an election will swing. Hundreds of factors can influence a poll’s data, and unexpected results often cause the media to pull up short.

Biden’s Presidency 

Biden has seen significant variation in his polling dating over the three and a half years of his presidency. In the beginning, he polled fairly high for a president in a deeply divided America, with his approval rating hovering in the mid-50’s for the first several months of his presidency.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

It’s understandable as to why, too. In the first months of Biden’s presidency, he was working at fulfilling many of the promises that he made to constituents during his election campaign, as well as working with his administration to pull the United States out of the pandemic. 

The Positive Press was Short-Lived

Unfortunate for Biden, the positive press was short-lived. Factors outside of his control, including massive inflation, the war in Ukraine, and the war in Israel all combined to create a toxic atmosphere for the Biden administration, with his approval ratings dipping down into the mid-30’s by the end of 2023. 

Source: Wikimedia/David Lienemann

This dip in approval came even as the Biden administration racked up a significant number of legislative wins, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the first significant gun legislation to pass Congress in more than twenty years. The administration has been rated as one of the most successful of the modern era by independent evaluation, though that success hasn’t made its way down to public opinion. 

Biden’s Reelection Campaign

In spite of the low approval rating and the opinion of pollsters and pundits, though, Biden has moved full steam ahead with his reelection campaign. He handily won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, though for those who understand the way American national politics works, this was little surprise.

Source: Wikimedia/Michael Stokes

It’s even less surprising when considering the man who has won enough delegates to secure the nomination for President from the Republican National Convention. Former President Donald Trump, despite the circumstances of his leaving office, still has a tight grip on the Republican Party, and is using it to drive through a third campaign for president.

Multiple Controversial Candidates

Biden is not the only candidate who has been embroiled in controversy. While Biden’s controversy surrounds, largely, his handling of the economy and global events such as the war between Israel and Palestine, Donald Trump’s controversies are much more personal.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore from Peoria

Trump is currently at the center of four different legal battles in four different jurisdictions across the country. One of the cases is a federal investigation into his role in the tragic attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the other three are state cases about various illegal activities that Trump has been accused of participating in. 

Making Trump More Popular

To the ordinary citizen, these controversies might serve to make Trump a less appealing candidate than another conservative individual with less political and legal baggage. Trump supporters are not average Republicans, though, and Trump’s legal battles have only served to make him that much more popular with his base.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

This has created a fairly contentious political atmosphere in America. A significant majority of people didn’t want to see another Trump and Biden match up after the chaos of 2020, and many of those people think that neither Trump or Biden is qualified to be president again, at all. 

Ripe for a Third Party

This contention over who deserves to be the next president has left a field wide open for third party candidates to try and make a name for themselves. The two-party system in America strongly discourages third-party candidates from making a bid for major offices such as the presidency, but now appears to be a time of change in American politics. 

Source: Wikimedia/Bill Clark (Roll Call)

This has led to some unusual names throwing their hat into the ring for President. On the Republican side, this was names such as Chris Christie and Nikki Haley, and on the Democratic side, this has been names like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

RFK Jr. is running as an independent, though he has been heavily campaigning towards the liberal and Democratic side of the aisle. His run has not been without controversy, given his beliefs in anti-vax sentiment as well as support for cryptocurrency.

Source: Wikimedia/ETownHall

Even RFK’s own family has been uncertain about his run for president. RFK’s controversial superbowl ad drew widespread criticism from the general public as well as the rest of the Kennedy family, though he hasn’t stepped down from his campaign for president since. 

A Threat to the Conservatives

And though RFK has been aiming to caucus with the Democrats, recent polling reveals that his candidacy may, in fact, be more of a threat to the conservative side of the aisle.

Source: Wikimedia/Daniel Schwen

The latest polling from NBC News shows that, in a head-to-head contest, Donald Trump leads Biden by 2%. But when third-party candidates are included in the data, Biden begins to pull ahead, leading with 39% of the vote compared to Donald Trump’s 37%. 

Pulling More From Republicans

In this polling. RFK Jr. pulled 13% of the vote, while other third-party candidates took the other 5% of the vote for themselves.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

And according to this polling data, 15% of respondents who picked Trump in the head-to-head match up picked Kennedy instead, in the five-way race proposition. By comparison, Biden lost just 7% of his support when Kennedy and the other third-party candidates were included in the race.

Republicans Generally Approve of Kennedy

The polling also revealed that Republicans generally approve of Kennedy, with 40% of the vote expressing a positive opinion about him, compared to just 15% who have a negative view of the candidate. This is the polar opposite to Democratic voters, with only 16% of the Democratic vote viewing Kennedy favorably.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore from Surprise

Democratic pollster Jeff Horwit conducted the survey along with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, and regarding the results, said, “At this stage, [Kennedy’s] appeal looks to be more with Trump than Biden voters.”

Polling Data Can Be Skewed

This doesn’t mean that Biden will definitively win over Trump, though. As with all data, polling results can be skewed based on the specific questions that were asked and how they were presented, and it is still early in the election season. 

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore from Surprise

In fact, the NBC polling data is completely at odds with other polling data that has been released by other organizations so far. Other polls asking the same question have shown that a bigger third-party vote would hurt Biden more than it would hurt Trump, leading the Biden campaign to make a concerted effort to appeal more to Kennedy voters on the campaign trail.

A Harbinger for the Future

Many political pundits have theorized that data like that in the NBC poll could be a harbinger for things that are yet to come. While American politics changes day to day, and hour to hour in some cases, it’s especially true in an election year and it’s difficult to predict which way the tide will turn. 

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

If the data in the NBC poll is accurate, it could be an indication that news organizations who have been rallying against Biden have been on the wrong side the entire time. While Biden might be old, he’s far from the least qualified man to be president, and with other options on the table, it appears that he might just rise to the top. 

Trump in Trouble

All of this is merely theory, of course, and pollsters will continue to keep a close eye on the data as the weeks and months go on, approaching the election. 

Source: Wikimedia/Official White House photo

However, it seems that the Republicans may have more to worry about than previously believed. Donald Trump’s legal battles are only the tip of the iceberg with the controversial Republican, and it seems that when given other options, more and more Republicans are choosing to exit the Trump train before it finally sinks.