R.F.K. Jr. Is 2024’s X Factor, New Polls Show, Fueled by Young Voters and Social Media

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is polling stronger than any third-party candidate has in decades, pulling in roughly 10 percent of registered voters across the battleground states as he saps support from both President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump, a new series of polls has found.

The overall results in the Biden versus Trump contest were virtually unchanged when Mr. Kennedy was included in the polls conducted by The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer. But beneath the surface of that seeming stability, the surveys revealed how Mr. Kennedy, powered by social media and younger voters, has emerged as an unpredictable X factor in what would otherwise be a 2020 rematch.

With less than six months until the election, the faction of the electorate giving Mr. Kennedy early support exposes some of the vulnerabilities inside the president’s Democratic coalition. Mr. Biden dropped all the way to 33 percent in a five-candidate race, an alarmingly low share of the vote for an incumbent president. The series of polls focused on what are expected to be the most contested states this fall: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Two of the groups that Mr. Kennedy performed strongest with in the surveys — voters under 30 (18 percent support) and Latinos (14 percent) — have traditionally been strong Democratic constituencies, unnerving some party strategists. Mr. Biden is also winning only half of Black voters in the multicandidate race.

Mr. Kennedy is clearly getting a boost from the rise of social media and the ability to communicate his message directly to voters. Among the roughly one in six voters who said they consumed most of their news from social media, Mr. Kennedy was getting 16 percent of the vote, nearly equal to Mr. Biden’s 18 percent.

Among crucial independent voters, Mr. Kennedy was pulling in 16 percent support. But his supporters say they are far less committed to him than backers of Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump, and less likely to vote at all.

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