The prospect of a 2024 election rematch between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump has left voters in six battleground states dissatisfied and searching for alternatives, as revealed by recent polls conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.
In these key states, both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are viewed unfavorably by the majority of voters. A significant portion of voters dislike both candidates, and overall enthusiasm for the upcoming election has waned compared to the 2020 contest.
This frustration and disillusionment have led voters to consider other options. When asked about the likely 2024 matchup between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, only 2 percent of respondents expressed support for another candidate. However, when Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s name was presented as an alternative, nearly a quarter of respondents indicated they would choose him.
It’s important to note that the support for Mr. Kennedy may be somewhat inflated, as two-thirds of those expressing support for him had previously mentioned a preference for one of the two major-party candidates.
The polling encompassed registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and the results suggest that Mr. Kennedy is less a firmly established political figure in the minds of voters and more a symbol of their discontent with the choice between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump.
Voters who hold unfavorable views of both major-party candidates, often referred to as “double haters,” played a significant role in the outcomes of recent presidential elections. The number of such voters has more than doubled since four years ago. Mr. Trump now enjoys more support from these voters in five of the six battleground states, with Arizona being the exception. Overall, 42 percent of “double haters” planned to vote for Mr. Trump, while 34 percent favored Mr. Biden, and 24 percent remained undecided.
The disapproval of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump is likely to fuel interest in outsider candidates like Mr. Kennedy, who recently transitioned from the Democratic primary to run as an independent. Cornel West, the liberal professor who switched from the Green Party to mount an independent campaign, is another candidate in the spotlight.
The accessibility of the ballot will present a significant challenge for independent candidates. Qualifying for the general election as a political independent is a costly endeavor, and legal obstacles from major parties may further complicate the process.
The appeal of outsider candidates stems from the widespread unpopularity of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump among voters in the battleground states. A majority of respondents held unfavorable views of both candidates, except for Black voters who had a favorable view of Mr. Biden.
Voters who dislike both major-party candidates but are open to alternative options are central to the potential impact of outsider candidates like Mr. Kennedy. The outcome in tightly contested states could be influenced by the presence of a candidate like Mr. Kennedy. In some states, he appears to benefit Mr. Trump, while in others, he aids Mr. Biden.
In a political landscape marked by polarization and increasing partisanship, third-party and independent candidates often reflect voter dissatisfaction with the choices offered by the major parties rather than genuine interest in outsider candidates. The impact of Mr. Kennedy as an independent candidate remains uncertain, as his support has fluctuated during his campaign. His potential to influence the 2024 election outcome may become clearer as the election season progresses.