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Latest Presidential Polls: Does An RFK Jr. Independent Run Hurt Trump Or Biden?

  Former Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. threw a wrench in the 2024 presidential race earlier this month when he announced he wou...

 Former Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. threw a wrench in the 2024 presidential race earlier this month when he announced he would run as an independent. With President Joe Biden caught and former President Donald Trump stuck in a statistical polling tie, a looming question remains: who loses votes to RFK Jr.? 

Three of the most recent polls take the question into consideration, but voters will likely be disappointed to find that the answer is murky. Two of the polls appear to show that Trump is hurt the most by RFK Jr.’s independent bid, while the third poll indicates that RFK Jr. takes more vital independent votes away from Biden than from Trump. 

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released on Monday found that in a four-way race between Biden, Trump, and the two independents — RFK Jr. and Cornel West — Biden and Trump are tied at 37% while Trump loses more voters to RFK Jr. than Biden does. Among the 1,000 registered voters surveyed by USA Today, 13% said they support RFK Jr., who drew potential Republican voters away from Trump by a 2-1 margin. Leftist political activist Cornel West took votes away from Biden, but sitting at 4% in the poll, West’s effect on Biden was minimal. 

The USA Today/Suffolk poll found that RFK Jr.’s independent run cost Trump what would have been a narrow lead. 

A Messenger/HarrisX poll released on Tuesday similarly found that Trump loses ground when an RFK Jr. independent run is factored in, but according to this poll, the difference isn’t enough to take away Trump’s polling lead. According to the Messenger/HarrisX poll, Trump leads Biden 45% to 41%, but when the independent candidates are added into the mix, Trump drops to 38% and Biden falls to 35% while RFK Jr. again takes 13% of the support. While Trump’s overall support dropped seven points because of RFK Jr., his lead over Biden only suffered a one-point drop. 

Dritan Nesho, CEO and chief pollster at HarrisX, said that “RFK Jr. pulls equal numbers of 2020 Trump and Biden voters,” but it’s the all-important independent voters that should worry the Trump campaign. Nesho said RFK Jr. won “the lion’s share of undecided Independents, hurting Trump more than Biden in the process and thus making the horserace closer.” 

That comment might revive bad memories for the Republican Party whose candidate George H.W. Bush lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 thanks to an independent run by conservative businessman Ross Perot. But the Trump campaign likely isn’t sweating an RFK Jr. independent run yet. The findings from HarrisX are put into question by a Harvard/Harris poll, which shows that RFK Jr. leads Biden among independent voters while Trump takes the most of the independent vote. 

The Harvard/Harris survey of over 2,000 registered voters, conducted on October 18 and 19, showed a much bleaker outcome for Biden than it did for Trump when factoring in RFK Jr.’s independent bid. Trump, sitting at 39%, leads a four-way race over Biden (31%), RFK Jr. (18%), and Cornel West (3%) while 9% said they were unsure, according to the poll. Meanwhile, among those who remained undecided, 41% lean toward Trump, 34% lean toward Biden, and 21% lean toward RFK Jr.  


The RFK Jr. shakeup caused a stir between the Trump and DeSantis campaigns after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the independent candidate would hurt Trump’s chances more than they would hurt his own chances if he were the nominee. 

“RFK Jr. will be a vessel for anti-lockdown and anti-Fauci voters if Trump is the nominee,” DeSantis told a group of New Hampshire voters during a campaign stop earlier this week. “If I’m the nominee, they all go to me because I stood up against Fauci, I’m going to clean out the CDC … it’s a big part of my platform. With Trump, though, he created Fauci, he elevated Fauci; he never fired him.” 

The Trump campaign responded to DeSantis’ comments with chief spokesman Steven Cheung, telling the Messenger that “Ron DeSantis is a dumbass to have that type of uninformed take.” 

Trump holds a massive lead in the GOP primary, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, sitting at 59.1% to DeSantis’ 12.6%. The RCP average also shows Trump currently leading Biden by less than one percentage point. 

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