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Public Interest in Presidential Election Reaches New Low

By Adeline Von Drehle
Published On: Last updated 04/22/2024, 02:10 PM EDT

Public interest in the presidential election is at a 20-year low, as the majority of people disapprove of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as candidates.

According to a recent NBC poll, 64% of registered voters say they have a high level of interest in November’s election. This is lower than what the same NBC polls showed in April of 2008 (74%), 2016 (67%), and 2020 (77%) for presidential contests.

The question dates to the 2008 election cycle. The lowest level of election interest during a presidential cycle was clocked in March 2012 at 59%, but it quickly rose in the next survey. This year, interest has been low and relatively flat for months, according to the poll. 

Public Opinion Strategist Bill McInturff co-conducted the NBC poll, noting that high level of interest in an election is always reflected in voter turnout come November. “It makes it very hard for us to predict turnout this far in advance of November, but every signal is turnout will be a lower percentage of eligible voters than in 2020,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Americans who identify with neither major political party are the most apathetic about the 2024 matchup. The poll shows 70% of self-identified Republicans saying they have high interest in the coming election, compared with 65% of Democrats who say the same. Independents are another story, however, as just under half report a high level of interest in the proceedings. Perhaps the most instructive finding is that young voters are really turned off: Only 36% of voters aged 18-34 rate themselves highly interested in the election.

The low interest levels likely have to do with the unpopularity of Biden and Trump. Polling shows 52% of voters with negative feelings toward Biden, and 53% of voters with negative feelings toward his predecessor. The most popular independent candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has a less severe disapproval rating at 32%. Trump has a 1-point lead in a 5-way race including Kennedy and third-party candidates Cornel West and Jill Stein, according to the RCP Average.

Pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates joined McInturff in conducting the survey. He summed the situation up by saying, “Americans don’t agree on much these days, but nothing unites the country more than voters’ desire to tune this election out.”

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