President Biden has stated that he will seek re-election in 2024. Nonetheless, some Americans do not believe him, and many do not want him to run for reelection.
Even before Biden’s 2020 election, there was talk about whether he would run for a second term. And according to a Wall Street Journal survey conducted between March 2 and March 7, more over half (52 percent) of registered voters do not believe he will run again in 2024, while only 29 percent believe he will. (Nineteen percent were unsure.) A second Biden run is similarly unpopular. According to a survey done by AP/NORC from January 13-18, 70% of Americans do not want the president to run in 2024. Even Democrats are ambivalent about the proposal. A CNN/SSRS survey conducted between January 10 and February 6 indicated that slightly more than half (51 percent) of registered Democrats and independents who lean Democratic favoured someone other than Biden.
A portion of this may just reflect Americans’ lack of enthusiasm for a rematch of the 2020 election. In the same AP/NORC survey, 72 percent of respondents indicated they did not want former President Donald Trump to seek for reelection. It’s fairly frequent for voters to declare they don’t want first-term presidents to run for reelection, only to back them when they do. In contrast to past first-term presidents, however, the proportion of Americans who oppose Biden’s reelection is notably high. It is also uncommon for voters to believe that an incumbent president will not seek re-election.
There is little doubt that concerns about Biden’s age may be a factor. By 2024, he will be 81 years old, making him the oldest president in United States history. Nonetheless, some voters may believe that Biden, who positioned himself as a “bridge” to a new generation of political leaders, should step aside in favour of a candidate who is neither elderly nor white.
However, it is extremely uncommon for a first-term president to decide not to compete for reelection. Only six presidents have resigned after serving a single full term. Four of these presidents actually occupied the White House for more than four years, succeeding predecessors who had died in office. The last president to voluntarily resign after four years in office was Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.
This explains why voters commonly (and rightfully) believe that presidents will run for reelection. At the conclusion of 1982, a midterm year in which the party of President Ronald Reagan lost seats in Congress, a majority of Americans believed he would run again in 1984. Similarly, a December 1994 Newsweek poll revealed that 85 percent of Americans believed President Bill Clinton would compete for re-election in 1996, despite his party suffering major losses in the midterm elections of that year. A Quinnipiac survey taken in December 2018 revealed that the majority of Americans (81 percent) anticipated Trump would run again in 2020.
Whether voters are satisfied with a first-term president seeking re-election is an open question. A Harris survey conducted in August 1982 revealed that the majority of Americans (56 percent) believed that Reagan should not seek for re-election. In December 1994, 47 percent more Americans said Clinton should not seek reelection than those who believed he should (44 percent). However, it is not always the case that Americans do not want a president to seek for a second term. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2010 indicated that a majority of Americans (47 percent) believe that President Barack Obama should seek reelection (42 percent).
So, in a way, Biden’s case is neither particularly exceptional nor worrying for his fans. The percentage of Americans who do not want him to seek for reelection is significantly higher than it was for Reagan, Clinton, or Obama. However, discontent with a president going for a second term does not tell us much about their ultimate electoral prospects if they do run for a second term. Reagan won by a large majority in 1984, just as Clinton did in 1996, despite voters’ doubts two years prior.
In spite of this, there are a few reasons to believe that Americans may regard the possibility of a second Biden campaign differently than they did prior presidential candidates. In a CNN/SSRS poll conducted earlier this year, 31% of Democrats who wanted the party to select someone else said they didn’t want Biden to be reelected, 35% said he couldn’t beat the Republicans, and 19% believed he was too elderly. Considering that a Suffolk poll of Republican primary participants done in April 2018 revealed that the majority (70 percent) wanted Trump to run again, this level of distrust among voters of the president’s own party is atypically high. In other words, Biden may be concerned by the fact that so many Democrats are concerned about him.
Voters’ concerns regarding Biden’s age have lingered in the background for years. If elected to a second term, he will depart office at the age of 86, about a decade older than Reagan, who held the title of America’s oldest president at age 77. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2020 indicated that 31 percent of Biden supporters were concerned about his age and health. There is evidence that Americans have broad qualms about electing an elderly candidate. A January YouGov poll, for example, indicated that 58 percent of Americans support an upper age restriction for elected politicians.
However, it is possible that something else is occurring: Some Americans may want Biden to step down in favour of another candidate. Perhaps they would prefer a candidate who better reflects the party’s growing diversity, or who has a greater chance of defeating the Republican nominee in 2024. In fact, Biden’s approval ratings are dismal, and his support among young voters, Latino voters, and Black voters has declined significantly. These voters may be frustrated with Biden’s inability to fulfil the grandiose promises he made at the start of his administration. Or they may be frightened that he cannot win.
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