Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s third-party candidacy would hurt Donald Trump more than Joe Biden in the 2024 election, according to a new poll.
In a three-way race, Biden leads Trump by 7 points, the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll found.
Biden would receive 44% of the vote, Trump gets 37% and Kennedy gets 16%. But if Kennedy is factored out, Biden wins by just 3%.
“Although it’s always tricky to assess the impact of a third-party candidate, right now Kennedy alters the equation in Biden’s favor,” Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said.
"What this does speak to, however, is that about one in six voters are looking for another option, especially independents," Miringoff said.
In a two-way race, Trump leads Biden by independents by six points. But in a three-way with Kennedy, the independent vote is split roughly three ways between Trump (34%), Biden (33%), and Kennedy (29%.)
With Kennedy, Biden loses 5% of Democrats while Trump loses twice as many Republicans (10%.)
The news that Kennedy will run as an independent has led many to question whether he might spoil the 2024 race, and if so, whether he would throw it to Trump or Biden.
There are points on either side. Despite hailing from one of the most famous Democratic families in American politics, Kennedy's skepticism of vaccines and pharmaceutical giants led some on the right to embrace him during the COVID pandemic.
Meanwhile, his anti-vaccine brand is anathema to most Democrats, who identify closely with the establishment and abhor "conspiracy theorists."
At the same time, many Democrats are hungry for a Biden alternative, and the Kennedy name evokes powerful nostalgia for many liberals.
Kennedy's critics on the right note that Kennedy retains many standard progressive viewpoints. Kennedy seemed certain to lose some of his new fans when he endorsed reparations for slavery this week.
“Communities that were specifically targeted for destruction need to be specifically targeted for repair,” he wrote.
Kennedy is not the only third-party candidate who is seen as a potential spoiler. Cornel West, a hard-left socialist, is also running as an independent after flirting with a Green Party bid. It doesn't seem likely that West will draw many votes from Trump.
Biden's handling of the war in Israel has angered and alienated many progressives who support Palestine, although it remains to be seen whether this will impact the election.