It's No Fluke: RFK Jr. Is Consistently Polling at 20 Percent Against Biden

2024 Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announces his candidacy / Getty Images
May 19, 2023

When a USA Today poll last month found Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination garnering 14 percent support, President Joe Biden's team scoffed at the challenge. The Biden campaign may not be scoffing now: Three separate polls all found the Kennedy family scion with about 20 percent support among Democrats.

An Emerson College poll last month found Kennedy at 21 percent to Biden's 70 percent. Both a Fox News poll and a Rasmussen Reports poll, meanwhile, found Kennedy at 19 percent to Biden's 62 percent. The only other candidate, self-help author Marianne Williamson, has around 7 percent.

Kennedy's consistent poll numbers could pose a serious headache for Biden. Incumbent presidents rarely see serious competition in the primaries, and when serious challengers do arise, they often cost the incumbent reelection. Kennedy's uncle, Ted Kennedy, challenged then-president Jimmy Carter in 1980. While Carter won the Democratic nomination, he went on to lose overwhelmingly to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan.

Like Carter, Biden is an unpopular incumbent. A majority of Democrats say they don't want the 80-year-old president to run again, the Washington Free Beacon reported, with his approval rating among all Americans recently cratering to near-record lows.

Kennedy has his own baggage, including anti-vaccine activism and vocal support from notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. His surprising strength in the polls nevertheless shows that even Biden's 2020 supporters are "open to other Democrats," Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos said last month.

Establishment Democrats and left-wing publications ridiculed Kennedy's first round of good polling, with former administration official Symone Sanders saying she's "trying not to laugh" and Washington Post staff writer Aaron Blake insisting that Kennedy's threat to Biden is "inflated." Neither Sanders nor Blake appear to have chimed in after the latest poll numbers came out.