Polling data about where the race for the Republican nomination stood in previous years at this point (September 3rd of the year prior to the election) reveals mixed results, as Byron York points out. Using a historical polling feature provided by Real Clear Politics, York tweets the GOP nomination polling averages that were recorded on this date in 2015, 2011, and 2007.
Useful feature @RealClearNews includes in national polling average of GOP race, currently showing Trump leading by 39.3 points. On 9/3/15, Trump led by 14.0 points. On 9/3/11, Rick Perry led by 9.8 points. And on 9/3/07, Rudy Giuliani led by 11.7 points. https://t.co/eaWhs7HpRy
— Byron York (@ByronYork) September 3, 2023
Former President Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and was elected president in 2016. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was not the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Former Sen. John McCain was nominated instead, and McCain was defeated in the general election by former President Barack Obama. Former Texas Gov. and Energy Secretary Rick Perry was not the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) was nominated instead, and Romney was defeated in the general election, also by former President Obama.
While an interesting study, historical polling data and trends do not reveal a sure-fire answer about who the 2024 Republican nominee will be or who will be elected president in 2024. For one thing, while political trends and patterns remain somewhat and generally constant, circumstances and candidates change dynamics in each election cycle. For another, the accuracy of polling data in general has credibly been called into question over the past couple of decades. Case in point and using the aforementioned data as a basis: Trump led by 14 points in 2015, a non-incumbent presidential election cycle, and he was elected president; Giuliani led by 11.7 points in 2007, also a non-incumbent presidential election cycle, and he did not seriously contend for the Republican nomination.
The RCP average records former President Trump’s polling lead to currently be 39.3 points. That is a wide margin and, within the context of these data points, could be considered a commanding lead. But Perry in 2011 and Giuliani in 2007 provide a counter-argument to that conclusion.
To take the exercise a step further, Real Clear Politics offers the same historical feature regarding the job approval numbers for the past three incumbent presidents who were in the third year of their respective terms. RCP records the current average job approval polling for President Joe Biden to be at 41.8 percent (54.2 percent disapproval). On September 3rd of 2019, the RCP polling average recorded then President Donald Trump, who did not win reelection in 2020, to be at 42.8 percent approval. On September 3rd of 2011, the RCP polling average recorded then President Barack Obama, who won reelection in 2012, to be at 43.9 percent approval. And on September 3rd of 2003, the RCP polling average recorded then President George W. Bush, who won reelection in 2004, to be at 55.1 percent approval.
The latest job approval polling data published by Rasmussen Reports shows President Biden to be at 46 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval.
The president earned a monthly job approval of 46% in August, up one point from July.
— Rasmussen Reports (@Rasmussen_Poll) September 3, 2023
There is also a larger historical context to consider. Biden, who has been on the national political scene for more than half a century, is an incumbent Democrat president. Only one incumbent Democrat has lost reelection to the presidency in the past full century (excluding presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson who were elected after serving the remainder of their predecessors’ terms), former President Jimmy Carter was defeated by former President Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Whether the polling data currently being published is as inaccurate as it has been in previous presidential elections or more accurate this time around is one of the unknowns of the 2024 election.