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Yahoo News/YouGov poll: 'Dread' tops list of Americans' feelings about 2024 election — but 'optimism' is growing

There are signs that some Americans are starting to feel less negative about another Biden-Trump battle.

(Marco Bello/Reuters, Megan Varner/Getty Images)
(Marco Bello/Reuters, Megan Varner/Getty Images)

President Biden and former President Donald Trump are no doubt delighted about clinching their parties’ 2024 nominations with primary victories in Georgia and elsewhere earlier this week.

But the rest of the country? Not so much.

Instead, the No. 1 feeling that comes to mind for Americans when thinking about a Biden-Trump rematch is “dread,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,636 U.S. adults, which was conducted from March 8-11, offered respondents seven emotions — three positive, three negative, one neutral — and asked them to select any and all that describe their attitude toward the 2024 campaign.

Dread, the most negative option, topped the list (40%), with exhaustion (29%) and depression (21%) making strong showings as well. Delight (8%) was in last place.

In total, a majority of Americans (53%) chose at least one of the negative feelings (dread, exhaustion or depression), while just 40% picked at least one of the positive feelings (optimism, excitement or delight).

For anyone who has been paying attention to the tone and tenor of U.S. politics in recent years, the fact that Americans characterize their prevailing sentiment toward 2024 as one of “great fear, especially in the face of impending evil” shouldn’t come as much of a shock.

Nor should it be particularly surprising that the same number of Americans who chose dread last time Yahoo News and YouGov asked this question (in September 2023) chose it again this month (41% vs. 40%).

Yet there are signs that some Americans are starting to feel less negative about another Biden-Trump battle.

A not-bummer summer?

Since September, exhaustion has fallen by 5 points (from 34% to 29%) while excitement has risen by 4 points (from 15% to 19%) and optimism has risen by 6 (from 25% to 31%) — making the latter the second most-selected emotion on the list.

Even delight has ticked up 3 points (from 5% to 8%).

Where is the change coming from? Unlike most things in U.S. politics, it’s a bipartisan trend. Democrats are 8 points more likely to say they’re optimistic today (37%) than in September (29%), and 7 points more likely to say they’re excited (23% vs. 16%).

Meanwhile, Republicans are 6 points more likely to say they’re optimistic than before (41% vs. 35%) and 7 points more likely to say they’re excited (28% vs. 21%).

Optimism is in fact the top emotion among Republicans now; in September, it was tied with dread.

This might reflect the fact that Republicans are more content with their nominee than Democrats — and the fact that they think Trump has a better chance of winning. Nearly three-quarters of voters who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents (74%) now say they prefer Trump as the nominee over “someone else” (21%) — compared to just 56% of their Democratic and Democratic-leaning counterparts who prefer Biden over someone else (35%).

And while 65% of Democrats think Biden has the best chance of winning in November, a much greater share of Republicans (85%) think Trump is the favorite to win.

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The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,482 U.S. adults interviewed online from March 8 to 11, 2024. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to Nov. 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.8%.