Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has little chance of overcoming President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2024 presidential matchup, but the poll numbers haven’t stopped him from trying.
Kennedy—the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy—had been running as a presidential candidate for the 2024 Democratic nomination and had fallen far behind Biden in hypothetical matchups.
On Monday, Kennedy announced that he was pulling out of the Democratic field and will run as an independent. Voters have become increasingly interested in independent candidates given the polarizing state of the two major parties, but third-party candidates rarely perform strongly at the polls and are unlikely to make it to the debate stage.
“I declared independence from the two political parties and the corrupt interests that dominate them, and the entire rigged system of rancor and rage, corruption and lies, that has turned government officials into indentured servants of their corporate bosses,” Kennedy wrote in an opinion piece published Monday in Newsweek. “If left unchecked, they will commoditize our air, water, food, labor, and children, and turn the American Dream into desperation and dust.”
There is limited data on Kennedy’s anticipated performance in the 2024 general election when pitted against Trump and Biden as an independent, but one poll showed some surprising numbers.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll had Trump winning the hypothetical matchup with 40 percent of the vote compared to Biden’s 38 percent and Kennedy’s 14 percent. The poll was conducted October 3-4 and surveyed 1,005 adults of voting age. Of those surveyed, 437 were Democrats, 368 were Republicans and 111 were independents.
Similarly, 14 percent of voters viewed Cornel West—who last week switched from the Green Party to independent—favorably when compared to Biden and Trump as presidential selections, according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll that surveyed 1,256 adults from September 25-28.
Fourteen percent is not enough support to secure the presidency for Kennedy, but the poll numbers were surprising all the same. Third-party candidates rarely garner double-digit support in polls, and political strategists are theorizing how Kennedy could influence the 2024 election even if he doesn’t win.
When Kennedy was running as a Democrat, FiveThirtyEight had him lagging Biden by 53 points in the Democratic primary in a poll by Quinnipiac University.
Republican strategist Mark Weaver told Newsweek that he expects Kennedy to pull more from Biden than from Trump in a hypothetical matchup.
“Although it’s a close call….There are more movable voters in Biden’s camp who would never move towards Trump than the reverse,” Weaver said. “While core Republicans view Kennedy more favorably than core Democrats, that’s a short-term effect due to Kennedy’s heterodox views on a few issues. But those people, in the end, are still likely to vote for Trump.”
However, one poll by American Values 2024—a super PAC geared toward electing Kennedy—found that he was more likely to pull support from Trump. So far, Trump has dominated the Republican polls, but he faces a tougher challenge when pitted against Biden.
The American Values 2024 poll found that Kennedy garnered 19 percent of the vote, with Biden and Trump at 38 percent each. A press release from the organization called Kennedy the “highest-polling independent or 3rd party candidate to enter a presidential election in the modern era.”