A new Emerson College poll finds former Vice President Joe Biden with a solid lead over President Donald Trump, but his support is soft and most respondents say they still expect Trump to win.
After a boost in the early days of the coronavirus crisis, Trump’s approval has been trending steadily downward. In March, Trump was at 46 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove in Emerson’s polling. Today, he’s at 41 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove — a 10-percent swing. Despite the drop, however, Trump is still just six points behind Biden — the same margin as a month ago.
According to Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson College Polling, one of the most significant findings is the lack of enthusiasm for Biden among his supporters. Only 45 percent of Biden backers said they were very or extremely excited to support him in the general election, compared to 64 percent of Trump voters. More than a quarter of Biden’s supporters, 26 percent, said they were not that excited about Biden, while just 15 percent of Trump fans felt the same.
This lack of enthusiasm was particularly strong among voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. And Biden’s overall approval/disapproval is essentially tied at 40 percent, hardly a groundswell of support.
As a result, Kimball told NHJournal, “this election looks eerily similar to 2016, when both candidates were unpopular. That worked for Trump last time, so I expect we’ll see a scorched earth presidential campaign again.”
Voters give Trump his lowest marks on handling the coronavirus issue. Just 39 percent approve, while 51 percent disapprove. The good news for Trump is that, despite the dangers and disruptions of the COVID-19 crisis, more voters (36 percent) still say the economy is their top issue, followed by defeating Donald Trump (21 percent).
And when voters were asked who they thought would win the Trump vs. Biden battle, regardless of who they supported, 57 percent picked Trump.
“While Trump is struggling to handle the coronavirus epidemic, it appears Biden has his own image issues with voters and may need help from former President Obama on the campaign trail to try and transfer the positive image voters have of Obama to Biden,” Kimball said.
The Emerson poll numbers are similar to findings from a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll giving Biden a six-point lead, at 44 to 38 percent. And as in the Emerson poll, Biden’s numbers are less than impressive.
For example, only 43 percent of voters said Biden is a “strong leader” (compared to 45 percent for Trump), and on the “honest and trustworthy” question, Biden only scored 47 to 43 percent. That’s higher than Trump’s abysmal numbers — only 31 percent find him truthful, vs. 64 percent who don’t — but not stellar.
And the Suffolk poll found another potential problem for Biden: His soft support among black voters. While he’s dominated among African-American voters in the primaries, when asked about November, only two-thirds said they would support Biden.
That’s far lower than the 90 percent support Democratic presidential candidates usually garner from the black community. One in four black voters now say they are undecided or would vote for a third-party candidate, according to Suffolk.
And the third-party threat is real, according to Emerson. They found 35 percent who said, regardless of how they plan to vote in November, they would consider voting for an independent or third party candidate. That includes a majority (51 percent) of Bernie Sanders’ primary voters.
“President Trump beat the establishment once, he beat the ‘swamp’ once, he’s going to beat them again in November,” John Pence, senior advisor to the president’s re-election campaign, told NHJournal Tuesday.