If the former American president Donald Trump were again his party’s nominee, and the 2024 U.S. elections were held today, he’d likely win. Nearly all U.S. national polls in recent weeks show Trump with a slim lead over Joe Biden—anywhere from 1 to 5 percentage points—with a few polls showing Biden narrowly defeating Trump.

Remarkably, Trump’s advantage is despite 91 felony counts against him from four separate cases, including two accusing him of trying to subvert Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the economic indicators that historically predict an incumbent American president’s re-election chances largely favor Biden: The U.S. unemployment rate has been at record lows for much of his first term; U.S. GDP growth is the highest among all advanced economies; and U.S. workers’ wages are now rising, even when adjusted for inflation. Inflation itself, which hit levels unseen in 40 years during the pandemic, has been falling for months. So why are all these polls showing Trump ahead of Biden?

David A. Hopkins is an associate professor of political science at Boston College. To Hopkins, a few key factors account for Trump’s apparent edge.

Biden simply isn’t appealing to a lot of young Americans, for one, while many voters are still upset about price increases in recent years—and still blaming the president for them. But there are broader trends behind the numbers, too. The country’s political parties are increasingly divided by educational class; those with a college degree are more and more likely to vote for Democrats, while those without one are more and more likely to vote Republican. And that trend is growing among Blacks and Latinos, bringing greater support for the Republican Party with it. More broadly, Americans are unhappy about the state of their country, feeling it’s heading in the wrong direction. That sentiment is driving rising support for the populist right in the U.S., Hopkins says, as it is worldwide. This early, none of these dynamics, or the polls reflecting them, mean Trump will come away with the American presidency in 2024; but as Hopkins sees it, they almost certainly mean another very close election—whose outcome will swing according to dramatic global forces.

Michael Bluhm: Despite all indictments he’s facing, Donald Trump still has a commanding lead in the race for Republican presidential nomination—about 60 percent of Republicans say they’ll vote for him, while his closest competitors are barely above 10 percent. Why don’t the charges against him, and the seriousness of his alleged crimes, seem to have had any negative impact on his support?

The White House

David A. Hopkins: Republicans don’t see the charges against him as legitimate or disqualifying. If you’re a Republican voter, consuming Republican media, and listening to other Republican politicians, the message you get is that these cases are all part of a partisan exercise: The indictments are politically motivated attacks by liberal prosecutors, and you shouldn’t waver in your support for Trump. If anything, you should rally around him even more.

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