The Big Change Between the 2020 and 2024 Races: Biden Is Unpopular

A debate in 2020, when Mr. Biden was more popular than Mr. Trump.Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

Let’s just say it: Joe Biden should be expected to win this election. He’s an incumbent president running for re-election with a reasonably healthy economy against an unpopular opponent accused of multiple federal crimes.

And yet President Biden is not winning, at least not now. Polls show him trailing in states worth well over 270 electoral votes, and this morning he lags Donald J. Trump in our newest New York Times/Siena College national poll by five percentage points among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent.

That’s the largest lead Mr. Trump has ever had in a Times/Siena national poll. In fact, it’s the largest lead Mr. Trump has held in a Times/Siena or Times/CBS poll since first running for president in 2015.

Why is President Biden losing? There are many possible reasons, including his age, the war in Gaza, the border and lingering concerns over inflation. But ultimately, they add up to something very simple: Mr. Biden is very unpopular. He’s so unpopular that he’s now even less popular than Mr. Trump, who remains every bit as unpopular as he was four years ago.

President Biden’s unpopularity has flipped the expected dynamic of this election. It has turned what looked like a seemingly predictable rematch into a race with no resemblance to the 2020 election, when Mr. Biden was a broadly appealing candidate who was acceptable to the ideologically diverse group of voters who disapproved of Mr. Trump.

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