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Joe Biden holds 9-point lead over Donald Trump nationally but poll finds soft support for challenger

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a nine-point lead over President Donald Trump as both candidates gear up for nominating conventions in the next two weeks, a new national poll shows. 

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday found that 50 percent of US voters intend to vote for Biden this November, compared with 41 percent backing Trump. 

However, the results show that Biden has failed to create much enthusiasm among the electorate as his positive rating stands at 39 percent – a five point increase from the outlets’ previous poll last month.  

‘This poll is a warning for Democrats and the Biden team that there is still a lot of work to be done,’ Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who worked on the survey told the Wall Street Journal.  

Fifty-eight percent of respondents who said they would vote for Biden indicated that their choice was driven by opposition to Trump rather than support for the challenger.  

On the other side, 74 percent of those backing Trump said their vote was in favor of him rather than against Biden.  

‘In one respect, Biden’s vote looks like Trump’s did in 2016: more a vote against their opponent than support for them,’ Jeff Horwitt, another Democrat who worked on the poll, told WSJ.  

Democrats are hopeful that this week’s nominating convention will help bolster Biden’s popularity among the party by highlighting his strengths as well as his VP pick, Kamala Harris. 

However it’s unclear how much impact this year’s conventions will have for either party as they will be held via Zoom due to coronavirus concerns – stunting the usual lively atmosphere that energizes voters.  

The Republicans are set to hold their convention in the week beginning August 24. Trump fought to keep the event in-person but ultimately folded under pressure from experts who said it wasn’t safe to hold such a large gathering.  

The WSJ/NBC News poll was conducted between August 9 and 12, prior to Biden announcing Harris as his running mate. 

However the poll did include some questions about Harris as it was widely speculated that she would join the ticket. 

It found that the former California attorney general is viewed positively by 39 percent of voters and negatively by 35 percent, with 14 percent saying they have not yet formed an opinion.  

Harris’ popularity was driven by support from women (45 percent) and voters of color (45 percent), offset by low favorability among men (32 percent) and white voters (36 percent). 

Biden has a strong 21-point lead among women – with 57 percent of females saying they will vote for him, compared with 36 percent voting for Trump.  

The challenger is also crushing Trump when it comes to black voters, with 88 percent of support compared with the president’s eight percent. 

The split is less severe among Hispanic voters, with 57 percent supporting Biden and 31 percent for Trump. 

Trump currently has a four-point lead over Biden with men, at 47 percent versus 43 percent. 

Biden is aiming to increase his support among men, in part by placing a $25million advertising buy for National Football League games starting in September and running until the election. 

Biden’s overall nine-point lead matches the advantage Hillary Clinton held over Trump at this point in the 2016 election cycle – a reminder that the numbers could change drastically when people head to the polls in November.  

However, Trump is facing an uphill battle over fallout from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as the economy struggles to recovery. 

The poll found that 53 percent of voters disapprove of Trump’s performance in office and his job approval rating stands at 44 percent – up two points from July.  

‘That seems to me to be short of where he would need to be to win a re-election,’ Bill McInturff, a Republican who helped conduct the poll, told WSJ. ‘It has to improve.’

The newspaper noted that in recent history incumbent presidents with ratings near or above 50 percent have won re-election, while those below that have lost. 

Before he was re-elected in 2012, President Barack Obama’s approval rating stood at 51 percent. Before Obama, President George W Bush’s approval rating was about 50 percent when he was re-elected in 2004.  

In a positive sign, Trump scored 10 points higher than Biden when voters were asked which candidate would be better at handling the economy – the most important issue among those tested – with 48 percent compared with Biden’s 38 percent. 

But Trump scored poorly when it came to questions about the pandemic as 58 percent of people said they disapproved of his response.  

Fifty-three percent of people said Trump didn’t take the threat seriously enough from the start and that he still isn’t handling it well, up from 45 percent who said the same in April.  

Six out of ten respondents said the nation’s response to the outbreak has been successful. As of Sunday more than 5.36 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus and nearly 169,500 have died.   

Trump’s low job approval rating of 44 percent is driven by ongoing double-digit unemployment as a result of the pandemic. 

The unemployment rate reached a record high of 14.7 percent in April and fell to 10.2 percent in July. 

Should it remain at that level into the fall, it would mark only the fourth time since the start of the Great Depression that the US has faced double-digit unemployment during the final four months of a presidential campaign, according to WSJ.  

More than three-quarters of poll respondents rated the economy as fair or poor, up from 68 percent in June and 44 percent in December. 

Ratings of the economy were split down party lines, with almost half of Republicans saying it was excellent or good, compared with four percent of Democrats saying that.    

Nearly 80 percent of voters indicated high levels of interest in the election – up seven points from a survey a month before the 2016 election.   

The WSJ/NBC News poll results are based on responses from 900 registered voters, with a margin of error of 3.27 percentage points.  

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